A New York State judge is considering whether to grant a motion of diplomatic immunity in a civil case filed against former International Monetary Fund Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn. A hotel maid who alleges he sexually assaulted her.
Bronx Supreme Court Judge Douglas McKeon heard arguments Wednesday by Strauss-Kahn lawyers that he is entitled to immunity by virtue of his former position, as well as international custom and law. Attorney Amit Mehta made the assertion even though the United States did not sign a 1947 United Nations agreement that granted such immunity to the heads of specialized international agencies.
“Mr. Strauss-Kahn enjoyed the same kind of diplomatic immunity in process and suit that other high-ranking officials and diplomats enjoy and who are resident in this country - people like the Secretary General of the United Nations, the Russian Consul,” the attorney noted.
A criminal case against Strauss-Kahn was dismissed last year because of questions about the veracity of his accuser, Nafissatou Diallo. She worked as a hotel maid who accused him of sexual assault last May. Diallo has now filed a civil suit. Her lawyers argue that the defense motion is a desperate attempt to delay her day in court. They say diplomatic immunity is meant to protect institutions, not individuals, noting that neither the IMF nor the U.S. State Department invoked it on Strauss-Kahn’s behalf.
“If he had immunity, then why didn’t his lawyers say a single word about his immunity during the criminal case," attorney Kenneth Thompson argued. "It does not make sense.”
The hearing in New York comes amid fresh legal troubles for Dominique Strauss-Kahn in his native France. He is facing charges there that he helped procure prostitutes for sexual orgies. His lawyers refer to them as soirees that are not illegal under French law. Attorney Richard Malka says his client strongly denies the pimping charge.
“Supposing even that he had known the status of the women in question, we have to remember that the fact of having relations with an escort would not be an infraction of French law and would be question of an entirely legitimate private matter between consenting adults,” he said.
Diallo’s attorneys say the proceedings in France will have no bearing on the civil case in New York. Judge McKeon says he will try to expedite his decision about Strauss-Kahn’s immunity.