Indian authorities have asked the Saudi government to cooperate after one of the Gulf kingdom’s senior diplomats was accused of repeatedly raping and abusing two domestic servants in his luxury apartment in Gurgaon.
However, given the fact the accused has diplomatic immunity and the Saudi embassy has vehemently denied the charges, a fair trial seems unlikely.
The women, 30 and 50, had come to work with the diplomat after a devastating earthquake hit Nepal earlier this year. They claim they were held captive by his family and starved. Not only were they physically and sexually abused by the official, sometimes seven or eight men would come to his apartment, taking turns in raping them, they allege.
Although the man has not been arrested – yet – he has been booked on rape charges.
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Indian authorities cannot detain the accused for investigation unless the Saudi government decides to waive his immunity under the Vienna Convention On Diplomatic Relations – but considering the Gulf state’s past record, it seems highly improbable that it would happen.
Case in point: In 2004, British police accused Prince Turki al-Faisal, the then Saudi ambassador to Britain, of blocking an investigation into claims that a diplomat molested an 11-year-old girl. The Saudi government refused to waive his immunity privileges, citing an “internal inquiry” into the matter.
But Saudi Arabia’s likely refusal to help with the case should not deter the Indian government from pushing for accountability. A good time to pursue this case on a bilateral level would be the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia.
“It’s an exquisitely delicate diplomatic situation to be able to sort this out,” Financial Times quoted Arundhati Ghose, India’s former ambassador to the United Nations, as saying.
For a country that has seen hundreds of protests against rape in the past three years, resulting in tougher, new laws to deal with physical and sexual violence against women, the latest case involving the Saudi diplomat and the two Nepali maids is surely a test of the Indian government’s true stance on the issue while walking on political tightrope.