The State Department said Tuesday that it had wrapped up an intensive legal review to see if Dominique Strauss-Kahn might qualify for diplomatic immunity from charges of sexual assault.
It looks like the head of the International Monetary Fund is out of luck.
“Our understanding is that immunity in this particular case, and, with IMF officials....would only involve their official capacity and carrying out their duties in an official role,” State Department spokesman Marc Toner said during a daily briefing.
According to New York police, Strauss-Kahn was arrested on charges of sexual assault after he attacked a maid at the Sofitel hotel in Manhattan on Saturday.
John B. Bellinger III, who served as State Department legal adviser during the Bush administration, explained in an interview that there is a U.N. convention on privileges and immunities for international agencies that most countries have ratified. It gives the heads of U.N. agencies broad immunity in the countries where they are based.
But the U.S. government never became a party to that treaty. Employees of international agencies are covered by a U.S. statute that gives only limited immunity.
“Under U.S. law, Mr. Strauss-Kahn enjoys immunity only for acts performed in his official capacity, so he would have to argue that his alleged actions in his hotel room were official acts. The U.S. is not party to the treaty which gives the head of the IMF and certain other UN agencies nearly absolute immunity in many other countries,” said Bellinger, who is now a partner at Arnold & Porter.