Advocates worry the outcry could silence further prosecutions.
“Everybody in the advocacy community hopes this doesn’t set us back,” said Avaloy Lanning, the head of anti-trafficking program at the nonprofit Safe Horizon. “All of us are applauding the federal government for taking this stand, it was quite courageous and precedent-setting, and sends the message that we care about victims in these cases.”
Nations provide immunity to diplomats so they can engage in their jobs without fear of detainment or prosecution under a vastly different judicial system. The type of immunity depends on the level of an international worker’s job. When prosecutors wish to prosecute a diplomat with immunity, the State Department requests a waiver, and if the country refuses, the diplomat is deported, a department official said.
The State Department says it records mistreatment allegations made against diplomats and international workers in a database, but a spokeswoman would not say how many names were in the database or who was listed.
“We have taken unprecedented steps both to advise domestic workers of their rights in this country, and to impress upon diplomats that they are obligated to abide by our laws,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki. “And when abuses do occur, we have done everything in our power to get victims out of harm’s way and bring their abusers to justice.”