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UN diplomat accused of NYC rape freed over diplomatic immunity, cops say

United Nations building in New York City. (Pixabay/Released)
August 23, 2022

A South Sudanese diplomat to the United Nations was accused of raping his Manhattan neighbor but was released from police custody without charges due to his diplomatic immunity, according to a police report this week.

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Charles Dickens Imene Oliha, of the South Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, allegedly forced his way into a neighboring woman’s apartment around noon on Sunday and raped her, according to an NYPD report obtained by The New York Post on Monday. Police then took Oliha into custody for questioning.

Once Oliha told detectives from the NYPD’s Special Victims Unit that he was a diplomat, the report said authorities determined he had diplomatic immunity and released him without charging him.

Diplomatic immunity is a concept of international relations that holds that certain government officials will not be subject to the jurisdiction of local courts for their official and often personal activities in another country. The U.S. provides varying degrees of diplomatic immunities to foreign diplomats, their families and diplomatic staff.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson told American Military News, “We are aware of the incident referenced involving a diplomat accredited to the United Nations.

“We take these allegations seriously, and we are working closely with the New York Police Department and the Mayor’s Office of International Affairs, as we do in all legal and criminal cases involving foreign diplomats assigned to Permanent Missions and Observer Offices at the UN,” the spokesperson added. “We do not comment on the specifics of ongoing investigations.”

The U.S. recognizes broad diplomatic immunities largely on the basis that reciprocal immunity protects U.S. diplomats in their own work in foreign countries.

“It is important that law enforcement and judicial authorities of the United States always treat foreign diplomatic and consular personnel with respect and with due regard for the privileges and immunities to which they are entitled under international law,” a 2018 U.S. State Department guide on diplomatic immunity states. “Any failure to do so has the potential of casting
doubt on the commitment of the United States to carry out its international obligations or of negatively.”

The State Department guide does state that “appropriate caution should not become a total ‘hands off’ attitude in connection with criminal law enforcement actions involving diplomats. Foreign diplomats who violate traffic laws should be cited. Allegations of serious crimes should be fully investigated, promptly reported to the U.S. Department of State, and procedurally developed to the maximum permissible extent.”

According to the New York Daily News, New York City Mayor Eric Adams said, “Sexual assault of any kind should never be tolerated.”

“There is an active investigation underway,” Adams continued. “Depending on the results, we will take all appropriate actions.”

Cecilia Adeng, the deputy permanent representative for the embassy of South Sudan, Cecilia Adeng, told The New York Post on Monday that the embassy is not aware of the allegations against Oliha.

“I tried calling him just now before I called you, but he didn’t answer,” she said of Oliha.

She said her boss is currently away from the office and that the embassy would have more to say when her boss returns.

“He’s going to be coming in. So I will have a conversation with him and then get back to you,” she said of her boss. “And of course, this is not something that’s tolerable at all. So we’ll be reporting to our headquarters and seeing what’s going on.”