Strauss-Kahn's lawyers claim diplomatic immunity in sex case
Lawyers for Dominic Strauss-Kahn have told a US court to dismiss a hotel maid's lawsuit alleging sexual assault against him, saying the former IMF chief enjoyed diplomatic immunity at the time.
Bronx state Supreme Court Justice Douglas McKeon heard arguments yesterday from lawyers of Strauss-Kahn and hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo during an over two-hour hearing.
McKeon did not immediately rule and said he will "expeditiously issue a decision" on whether the lawsuit could continue.
Amit Mehta, one of the lawyers for Strauss-Kahn, told McKeon that Strauss-Kahn enjoyed the same kind of diplomatic immunity which is given to the United Nations chief or to a diplomat from any country.
Mehta said as head of the IMF, Strauss-Kahn enjoyed "absolute immunity" at the time of the incident, urging McKeon that the case "must be dismissed."
Mehta argued that Strauss-Kahn enjoyed protections under the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Specialized Agencies, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1947.
While the US did not sign that accord, Mehta said provisions of the convention have the status of "customary international law."
"The fact that the US is not a signatory to the convention does not mean it should not apply," Mehta told the court, adding that Strauss-Kahn's status as the head of an international organisation with special affiliations with the United Nations protects him from lawsuits.
Diallo's lawyer Douglas Wigdor countered that Strauss-Kahn cannot himself claim diplomatic immunity and it should be accorded to him either through the IMF or the US State Department.
Strauss-Kahn "cannot invoke immunity on his own behalf. He needs to establish it, and the only way he can get it is if he gets something from the IMF or the State Department, which he has failed to do."
Wigdor said Strauss-Kahn had not claimed diplomatic immunity in the criminal case against him. He said diplomatic immunity should not be used to protect individuals who have been accused of wrongdoing.
"Immunity is only provided for official actions," Wigdor said. "Absolute immunity does not apply to all situations." McKeon asked Mehta why Strauss-Kahn had not claimed diplomatic immunity in the criminal case to which Mehta replied his client had just wanted to prove his innocence. Neither Strauss-Kahn nor Diallo were present in the court for the hearing.