The South Sudan government said it is “disappointed” and regrets the allegation of rape against a South Sudanese career diplomat with the country’s permanent mission to the United Nations in New York.
Charles Dickens Imene Oliha, 46, is accused of raping a woman in New York City but has not been charged. New York police confirm they took Oliha in for questioning on Sunday, then released him after he claimed diplomatic immunity.
The 24-year-old alleged victim told police she was walking her dog around noon when the Sudanese diplomat followed her inside their shared apartment building in Manhattan and forced his way into her apartment. The woman says he raped her twice.
Mayiik Ayii Deng, South Sudan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation told South Sudan In Focus he was shocked to learn one of his diplomats was accused of rape and said his ministry is paying close attention to the case.
“We are governed by the Geneva convention and all the declarations, the UN declarations, and you are as a diplomat supposed to respect the host country’s laws. You respect all the laws," Deng said.
"When this situation happens, we just have to look into it and be fair and just about it,” said Deng, adding, “Rape is a very serious issue that needs to be handled very carefully with presumption that the person is innocent until proven guilty.”
“The diplomat in question is a midlevel diplomat, is not a new person and he is aware of the all the principles and guidelines that are supposed to be observed. Hopefully [in] the next day or two we will give you more details of what the ministry and the country is doing,” Deng told VOA.
Deng did not say whether the South Sudan government has recalled Oliha, or whether the government would waive his diplomatic immunity if requested to do so by the U.S. State Department, which has not said if Oliha has left the country or an immunity revocation was sought.
The New York Post reported the diplomat may have fled the US. “No sounds came from inside Oliha’s apartment Tuesday when the Post repeatedly knocked and there was no light visible from behind a red curtain fluttering in a window,” the Post reported.
In an email response to the Post, the State Department said it was aware of the incident adding, “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.”
United Nations spokesperson Stefan Dujarric told reporters in its Tuesday briefing, “We're aware of this. We've seen the press reports. I think any alleged rape or sexual assault needs to be fully investigated," he said, adding "This is a particular issue between the member state and the US Government, but we'll keep an eye on it.”