I.M.F. Chief’s Arrest Throws French Politics Into Disarray/ NYT

UPDATE:  I was reminded that a fellow named Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor (formerly of Blackwater/Xe) shot two Pakistanis on motorcyces to death in February.  President Obama claimed he was “our diplomat”and insisted Pakistan grant him immunity under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic immunity of 1961.  Davis had a car full of weapons, disguises and other questionable material when arrested in Pakistan.

But the French head of the IMF, a UN agency, has been granted no immunity while over here.  Wasn’t even given bail.  Is sitting in a cell at Riker’s Island’s notorious jail.  Hello?

From the NY Times and every other major world outlet:

For months, France has been buzzing with speculation that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the popular chief of the International Monetary Fund, would quit his job in Washington to take on President Nicolas Sarkozy in next year’s presidential elections. But on Sunday, French politicians and media met news of his arrest in New York for alleged sexual aggression with stunned disbelief and expressions of national humiliation.  The incident threw Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s political party, the Socialists…

The head of France’s Christian Democratic party, Christine Boutin, went further, suggesting that amid the atmosphere of France’s presidential campaign, Mr. Strauss-Kahn may have been set up.   “I really believe that somebody set a trap for Dominique Strauss-Kahn to fall into,” she told French television. “That he could be taken in like that seems astounding, so he must have been trapped.” 

Of great interest, IMF staff have diplomatic immunity.  There is discussion of how much immunity they receive:  for only official acts or for everything?  From the OpinioJuris site:

… the Secretary General and Assistant Secretaries General of the UN, senior OAS officials get the same privileges and immunities as diplomats, meaning that they are absolutely immune in almost all cases from criminal arrest or civil suit.  And, at least some members of the IMF get this treatment as well.  The IMF is a specialized agency of the United Nations and the United Nations and the United States have a long-standing “Headquarters Agreement” that governs U.S. treatment of UN representatives and personnel. Article 15 of that agreement provides that:

“principal resident representatives of members of a specialized agency and such resident members of the staffs of representatives of a specialized agency as may be agreed upon between the principal executive officer of the specialized agency, the Government of the United States and the Government of the Member concerned, shall whether residing inside or outside the headquarters district, be entitled in the territory of the United States to the same privileges and immunities, subject to corresponding conditions and obligations, as it accords to diplomatic envoys accredited to it.”

Thus, if DSK were a “principal resident representative” (PRR) of the IMF, he might actually be immune from arrest entirely…

The fact that Strauss-Kahn was arrested so quickly, despite tricky legal matters of diplomatic immunity and a potential international incident, in NYC, home to the United Nations, where police are used to handling such delicate matters delicately, suggests that police may have received their marching orders from a higher authority, possibly even before the incident occurred.  The fact that the story made the headlines within hours also suggests the incident was handled outside usual diplomatic protocols.  

UPDATE:  From a later NY Times piece:

Well before Mr. Strauss-Kahn’s arrest there had been reports that Mr. Sarkozy was gathering information to discredit Mr. Strauss-Kahn should he run for president. In a famous incident, reported by the news magazine Le Point, Mr. Strauss-Kahn confronted Mr. Sarkozy in the men’s room at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Pittsburgh in September 2009, saying: “I’ve had more than enough of this continued gossip about my private life and about supposed dossiers and photos that could come out against me. I know that this is coming from the Élysée. Tell your guys to stop or I’ll go to the courts.”

UPDATE:  DSK placed on suicide watch, under 24/7 surveillance. 

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