Seven months after the end of the initial court proceedings against Dominique Strauss-Khan (DSK), the French politician and former president of the International Monetary Fund, his alleged victim Nafissatou Diallo is suing him in a civil trial, which began last Wednesday at the Bronx Supreme Court.
Using a segment of the 1947 U.N. Convention, which gives diplomatic immunity to the leaders of international organizations, the defense attorney argued in front of the court that DSK could not be sued. Amit Metha, the defense attorney, told the press that this case “must be dismissed.”
However, some observers are asking if diplomatic immunity is a way for international leaders to go above the law–or is it rather a way to protect the organizations that they represent?
“Dominique Strauss-Kahn thinks he’s above the law. His claim of immunity is completely baseless, ” said Kenneth Thompson, one of Diallo’s attorneys. In a published report, Thompson added, “Dominique Strauss-Kahn will have to come into this courthouse and be held accountable.”
The admissibility of his immunity plea rests in the hands of Bronx Supreme Court Judge Douglas McKeon.
In an interview with the French press, the judge said, “This is the first time that one of my trials gets more [of the] people’s attention in Europe than in New York.”
Well known in the Bronx community, McKeon said in the same interview, “It is important to represent the community that you know and live with,” causing people to ask if that point will benefit Diallo.
On May 14 of last year, DSK was arrested at John F. Kennedy Airport on his way to France. He was accused of sexually assaulting Diallo at the Sofitel hotel in New York, where she had worked as a maid for years. At the time, DSK was leading the International Monetary Fund and was reportedly in a good position with his presumptive run for the French presidency.
After the story broke about his alleged assault on the maid cleaning his room, he was compelled to resign from the IMF and suspend his run for the highest office in France.
While Diallo is now going through “enormous pain and emotional distress,” according to Thompson, DSK has been charged with involvement in a prostitution ring by a French court in Lille. DSK is accused of taking part in a series of parties where wealthy and powerful men paid to have sex with women. However, DSK defended himself, saying he did not know that the women who were taking part in these sexual encounters were prostitutes.
In two to three weeks, McKeon will make his decision about hearing the case.
According to Douglas Wigdor, another one of Diallo’s lawyers, DSK’s attorneys’ immunity defense will “deny Ms. Diallo’s right to a trial in this case and delay these proceedings.”
If McKeon indeed accepts the diplomatic immunity argument, the lawsuit against DSK will not be carried any further, at least not in this case.