Photo: The United Nations Complex in NYC. Photo via Outlook - Photo: 2017

Sudanese Diplomat at the UN Accused of Sexual Harassment

By J Nastranis

NEW YORK (IDN) – Geneva-based UN Watch, a non-governmental human rights organization, has called for the removal of the Sudanese diplomat Hassan Salih, who in May was elected vice-chair of the UN committee that oversees the work of 4,500 human rights NGOs.

Salih grabbed a 23-year-old woman’s buttocks and breast while dancing at Third Avenue’s Bar None around 2:25 a.m., the New York Post reported. While police were interviewing him and the woman, he tried to escape. The police chased and handcuffed Salih and put him in a police cruiser, according to media reports. But Salih invoked diplomatic immunity, and was allowed to go free after police confirmed his credentials as a diplomat at the United Nations.

Salih is listed on the website of the Sudanese Mission to the UN as a ‘second officer’ – a mid-level position requiring at least five years of experience.

Diplomats are given immunity from the host nation’s laws as prescribed by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. According to the treaty, which has been ratified by 191 countries, including the United States, “diplomats must not be liable to any form of arrest or detention.” Article 29 of the treaty states that diplomats are immune from civil or criminal prosecution.

The document also stipulates that family members of diplomats living in the host country are given the same protections as the diplomats themselves. Host countries are legally permitted to declare diplomats persona non grata, which would give the foreign emissaries a window of time to prepare to leave their post and return home. If a diplomat refuses to leave despite being declared persona non grata, the host country is entitled to strip him or her of diplomatic immunity.

A local newspaper reported: “Last month (in September), the daughter of a foreign diplomat staffed at the German Embassy stabbed a schoolmate twice in the shoulder with scissors at a preppy international school in Washington, DC. The young girl avoided prosecution because of her father’s diplomatic immunity.”

The New York Daily reported: “In January, a Sudanese diplomat was arrested for grinding on a woman in a Manhattan subway. Cops charged Mohammad Abdalla Ali with sexual abuse and forcible touching after he rubbed against the woman on a northbound No. 4 as it left Grand Central on Jan. 9. Similarly, Ali was freed once he proved his role provided diplomatic immunity.”

Reacting to the case involving the Sudanese diplomat Salih, Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, said on October 10: “If a man accused of sexual assault should be allowed to continue overseeing hundreds of human rights groups that defend the rights of women, this will cast a shadow upon the reputation of the UN as a whole. ” He added: “It’s the fox guarding the chickens.” And urged UN Secretary–General António Guterres to “remove” him from the UN post.

Replying to a question in a noon briefing, Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, said: ” . . . The NGO chair is elected by Member States. It’s up to those Member States who make up the committee to make a decision based on what happened.”

He added: “We clearly stand firmly against any sort of harassment or of illegal or bad behaviour. This is now an issue between the United States and the Government of Sudan.”

Dujarric continued: “I think, as a matter of practice, we would expect anyone who has the privilege of immunity to obey the rules and the regulations and the laws and the customs of the country in which they work. And I do want to make it clear that this person (Hassan Salih) is not a UN employee or UN staffer as it’s been said in some of the press coverage.”

The Sudan Tribune reported from Khartoum that Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said it was “investigating the arrest of a diplomat at Sudan’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations for allegedly groping a woman at a bar in Manhattan, New York.”

In a statement extended to the Sudan Tribune, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Gharib Allah Khidir said: “some media outlets and social media reported accusations of violating the proper conduct against a diplomat at Sudan’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York”.

He pointed out that the Foreign Ministry has immediately contacted the Mission to clarify the facts and conduct an investigation with the diplomat according to the relevant law and regulations. Khidir stressed the Foreign Ministry “deals seriously with any accusations of violations of the code of professional conduct and public service ethics”. [IDN-InDepthNews – 11 October 2017]

Photo: The United Nations Complex in NYC. Photo via Outlook

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate

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