Two Nepalese women were rescued on 9 September 2015 by the Indian police from a Saudi diplomat’s flat in Gurgaon, India. The rescued victims – aged 44 years and 20 years – were, according to the media, held against their will in the Saudi diplomat’s residence for months, denied food and water, beaten and repeatedly raped. According to investigations by the Indian police, the Saudi diplomat had imprisoned and repeatedly raped the maids who worked in his home. Findings of the medical tests, performed twice in India, establish a credible case against the Saudi diplomat and the reports provide strong proof of the brutality that the two had to suffer. The accused diplomat was called back home by the Saudi government to Saudi Arabia on 17 September, 2015, under the shield of diplomatic immunity.
We believe that, if the alleged facts are correct, the case is a serious violation of human rights, for which the government of Saudi Arabia bears main responsibility, since the diplomat was in the service of the Saudi government. The case would also constitute a violation of Saudi Arabia’s obligation to ensure that its diplomats respect the local laws in India. Diplomatic immunities must be upheld but they should not be abused to protect officials who are guilty of violations of human rights.
The Saudi government should allow the accused diplomat to be questioned by the Indian authorities and should either lift the immunity and allow prosecution in India or investigate the matter in good faith in Saudi Arabia under full transparency to Nepal, India and other interested parties. The victims must be paid appropriate compensation. The Nepalese and Indian governments, which both have legal interests and legal responsibilities in the matter, should cooperate in order to ensure justice for the two women.
We further believe that the situation of migrant workers, not least domestic workers, deserves increased attention both from governments and from international civil society.
Said Mahmoudi, Professor of International Law
Pål Wrange, Professor of International Law
Katak Malla, Lecturer in International Law
Martin Ratcovich, Doctoral Student in International Law