Diplomat from South Sudan accused of rape released due to diplomatic immunity

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Tuesday, August 23, 2022
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A man accused of raping his neighbor inside an NYC apartment building invoked his diplomatic immunity. Kemberly Richardson has more.

FORT GEORGE, Manhattan (WABC) -- A man accused of raping his neighbor inside an Upper Manhattan building invoked his diplomatic immunity and was released without charges.

The alleged incident happened around midnight Sunday at building in Fort George, where police said a woman reported being followed into her apartment and raped two separate times around midnight Sunday.

The victim was taken to Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center for evaluation.

Authorities said the accused rapist is 46-year-old Charles Oliha, who is a Minister of Foreign Affairs from South Sudan.

He was taken into custody, and the NYPD Intelligence Bureau later confirmed he had full diplomatic immunity.

After consulting with the department's lawyers, Oliha was released from custody just after 5 a.m. with no charges filed.

A City Hall spokesperson said the investigation is ongoing.

"Sexual assault of any kind should never be tolerated," the spokesperson said. "There is an active investigation underway. Depending on the results, we will take all appropriate actions."

Oliha did not answer the door Tuesday at the apartment he shares with his wife and children, but experts say the State Department could ask South Sudan for a waiver of immunity.

"This is crazy, it reeks of a separate standard of justice," said attorney Dmitriy Shakhnevich, an adjunct assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "In order for foreign officials to operate effectively in the United States, they have to be allowed this enormous level of immunity and this enormous ability to act, effectively, unaccounted for."

Even if that request is denied, there are other options.

"He may be sent home," Shakhnevich said. "That may be the real, most effective outlet for the United States. But a lot of folks won't be happy with that result, for obvious reasons."

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