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Strauss-Kahn to Argue He's Diplomatically Immune from Hotel Housekeeper's Lawsuit

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Though criminal sexual assault charges were dismissed against Dominique Strauss-Kahn last summer, the disgraced former head of the International Monetary Fund will be facing his accuser in another court.

The first substantial hearing in the suit filed by the Sofitel housekeeper last year against Strauss-Kahn is set for Wednesday — when defense lawyers will ask a Bronx County supreme court judge to dismiss the lawsuit because they say diplomatic immunity shields Strauss-Kahn from any civil liability in New York.

The hearing will not visit any of the substantive allegations the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, has made in her lawsuit against Strauss-Kahn — including that he forced her to perform oral sex on him and also tried to rape her.  

The argument Wednesday will focus on a complicated web of international laws that govern when public officials are insulated from civil liability in their host countries.

Strauss-Kahn had asserted diplomatic immunity when he was arrested last May, police said, but he resigned from his position a few days later. The IMF has maintained that Strauss-Kahn was in New York on personal business.  

To win on the diplomatic immunity issue, Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers have to persuade the court that Strauss-Kahn enjoyed absolute immunity –even for personal conduct not done under the auspices of the IMF – and that he was immune from civil liability when he was served with the complaint, which was after he had already resigned.
 
In legal papers filed last fall, Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers argue he enjoyed absolute immunity for all conduct — even personal — during his trip to New York last May under customary international law as embodied in the “Specialized Agencies Convention,” a 1947 United Nations agreement.  

The defense’s theory is that the agreement granted absolute immunity to the heads of “specialized agencies,” and the agreement expressly designates the IMF as a specialized agency.

However, the U.S. never signed that agreement.

But Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers contend the agreement is so commonly accepted, it falls into the category of “customary international law,” a principle U.S. courts have recognized to mean the legal norm around the world.

Diallo’s lawyers reject this reading of the customary international law, and argue the articles that created the IMF provided only for limited immunity – protection from liability only when conduct is done on IMF business.
 
There is no dispute that Strauss’s stay at the hotel was unrelated to his official duties as IMF head. Diallo’s lawyers also point to federal statutes that helped codify some of the IMF’s articles – the International Organizations Immunities Act and the Bretton Woods Agreement — and argue that those statutes also only provide for limited immunity.

As for the issue of whether Strauss-Kahn can invoke diplomatic immunity after his resignation, his lawyers argue their client enjoyed immunity when he was served with Diallo’s complaint because he was not permitted to leave the United States by court order.

Strauss-Kahn’s lawyer was served with the complaint on August 8, 2011, while he was still under house arrest in a swanky townhouse in Tribeca. They contend that international law extends immunity after a resignation if circumstances prevent the former official from leaving the host country.

The Manhattan District Attorney dropped the case last August, after disclosing to the judge that they no longer believed Diallo’s account of the alleged attack was credible.  Diallo has continued to insist that her allegations were truthful.

Strauss-Kahn’s defense lawyers declined to comment. Diallo’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Comments [4]

Ruth from Brooklyn, NY

Is there any justice in this world? What a low-life.

Mar. 28 2012 02:27 PM
rj from New jersey

He was just busted again in France, this diplomatic immunity is a great cover to commit heinous crimes against women. He even looks like a low life scum, and I realize that is not enough to prosecute this jerk.

Mar. 28 2012 12:14 PM

After watching the debacle currently unfolding in the Michael Pena rape case, I no longer believe any woman can get a fair hearing for a claim of rape in America.

In that case, the woman testified in court she had been raped, DNA evidence backed her story, and there were even eye witnesses backing her story. The man was caught in the act by police. And STILL the jury doesn't believe what is obviously the simple truth: that she was, as she claims, raped.

What hope, then, is there for any woman who has been raped to be believed? What more could a jury possibly ask for? I guess juries don't believe a woman has been raped unless they witness it personally?

I don't know whether Strauss-Kahn attempted to rape Diallo, although I believe he probably did. But I do know that women are held to an impossible standard in trying to be believed. That is not justice.

Mar. 28 2012 09:18 AM
Shannon from New York

"The hearing will not visit any of the substantive allegations the maid, Nafissatou Diallo, has made in her lawsuit against Strauss-Kahn — including that he forced her to perform oral sex on him and also tried to rape her."

Forced oral sex IS rape.

Mar. 27 2012 08:04 PM

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