Strauss-Kahn: lawyers seek diplomatic immunity in Bronx court


Attorneys for Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Amit Mehta, left, William Taylor, center, and Hugh Campbell listen in court today during the Strauss-Kahn vs. Nafissatou Diallo trial at New York State Supreme Court in the Bronx.



NEW YORK -- Even for a Bronx judge, there’s a level of chutzpah here not seen in quite some time.

In a last-ditch effort to prevent a civil trial for rape here, lawyers for Dominique Strauss-Kahn have argued that their client, as a former head of the International Monetary Fund, enjoys diplomatic immunity under customary international law, according to Bloomberg News.

Judge Douglas McKeon has said he will not rule immediately on the motion, according to The Associated Press.

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Strauss-Kahn, who in a different case was charged Monday in France with “aggravated pimping in an organized group,” was arrested in May on rape charges after Nafissatou Diallo, a maid at a Manhattan hotel, said he had sexually assaulted her.

The charges were dropped last year after prosecutors cited inconsistencies in Diallo’s statements. However Diallo brought a civil case in August when the criminal charges were dismissed.

Sarah Cleveland, professor of human and constitutional rights at Columbia Law School, was quoted as saying that the chances that Strauss-Kahn’s latest argument would prevent a trial were “slim to nil.”

Cleveland told Bloomberg that the heads of specialized international organizations like the IMF are granted immunity under a 1947 UN treaty to which the US is not a party.

“So he has the challenge of proving that absolute immunity for the heads of specialized international organizations is a rule of customary international law. And that’s a tough row to hoe,” she was quoted as saying.

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Customary international law is unwritten law accepted by certain courts as binding when similar statutes are shown to be in force in many states. Local jurisdictions such as Bronx County in New York typically do not apply it.

Strauss-Kahn did not assert diplomatic immunity at the time of his arrest last year.