By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - A senior Caribbean diplomat has accused the New York City Police Department of "flagrant violation" of the rules of diplomatic immunity and privileges by aggressively arresting the ambassador of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The New York police countered by saying that the envoy from the tiny island nation refused to identify himself after pushing past a security barrier intended to protect Israel's diplomatic headquarters in New York City from attack.
In a letter to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, Delano Bart, ambassador of St. Kitts and Nevis and chairman of the U.N. caucus of the Caribbean nations group, known as CARICOM, said the incident occurred on Wednesday after St. Vincent's envoy, Camillo Gonsalves, stepped out of his car.
Bart said in the letter, which was obtained by Reuters on Friday, that Gonsalves walked past a police barrier to take the elevator to his office.
"On his way to the elevator, he was shouted at and confronted by a police officer, who rudely questioned his action and then grabbed him by the neck and shoulder, displaying undue physical harassment against the ambassador," Bart wrote.
He described the police officer's treatment of Gonsalves as "provocative and uncivilized" and a "very serious and flagrant violation of obligations under the United Nations Headquarters Agreement and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations."
Under those agreements, the United States commits to recognizing diplomatic immunity from arrest and prosecution for accredited foreign diplomats.
The New York Police Department presented a different version of events.
Paul Browne, an NYPD spokesman, said Gonsalves stepped out of his car in front of a double police barrier in front of the building where his office is located. The Israeli mission and consulate are housed in the same building.
Gonsalves moved the barriers and walked through, ignoring orders from a police officer not to move the barriers and to stop, Browne said. Gonsalves refused to stop or to identify himself. He was arrested for disorderly conduct and handcuffed near the elevators inside the building.
"He was subsequently identified and released at the scene," Browne said.
Neither Gonsalves nor the U.S. mission had an immediate response to requests for comment.
The police ramped up security at Israel's diplomatic headquarters in New York this month after a deadly attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse, France. The police did the same for synagogues and other Jewish institutions across the city.
(Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Stacey Joyce)