On Sunday, 46-year-old Charles Dickens Imene Oliha, a diplomat for the United Nations' Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in South Sudan, is reported to have raped a woman in Fort George, New York. The victim called the police after the attack at 11 p.m., resulting in Oliha's detention. Oliha was, however, released just a few hours later.
The victim, Oliha's neighbor in upper Manhattan, claimed the diplomat had made a pass at her while she was walking a friend's dog. She rejected his advances, but he persisted. Oliha allegedly told the victim he was going to follow her upstairs to her apartment on Wadsworth Terrace, and she replied "No, you're not."
When the victim opened her door, Oliha reportedly forced his way into her apartment. Inside, he is claimed to have twice raped the victim.
The victim told authorities she had gone into shock after the noontime attack and tried to sleep after the attack. Only after a friend suggested that she should report the alleged rape did she contact police. Afterward, she was taken to Columbia University Medical Center for medical attention.
Upon his arrest, Oliha told the NYPD he had diplomatic immunity. Detectives from the Special Victims Unit released him without charge upon verifying his status around 5 a.m. on Monday morning.
Reporters attempted to contact Oliha for comment, but the only people present at his New York residence were reportedly his female relatives. Oliha is married and has four children.
The U.N. told the Daily Mail that this "particular case involves a member of the Permanent Mission of South Sudan who is not a staff member of the United Nations. ... This is a bilateral issue between South Sudan and the US authorities."
A spokesman for the U.S. State Department told Fox News: "We take these allegations seriously, and we are working closely with the New York Police Department and the Mayor's Office of International Affairs, as we do in all legal and criminal cases involving foreign diplomats assigned to Permanent Missions and Observer Offices at the UN."
South Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation issued a release on August 23 indicating that, pending the conclusions of an ongoing investigation into the facts of the case, their administration "will urgently take appropriate measures to address it."
It is presently unclear whether Oliha has fled the country, in which case he may face extradition.
Oliha's country of origin faces a rape scandal all its own. The U.N. issued a report earlier this year revealing that women in South Sudan face a "hellish existence." A 2017 study found that across much of South Sudan, 65% of women and girls experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime — one of the highest rates in the world.
In addition to the role that rape allegedly plays as a tactic in the region's geopolitical conflicts, some scholarship suggests there is also a socio-cultural element at play. Alicia Luedke, writing for the London School of Economics' Conflict Research Programme, noted that sexual violence in South Sudan is "connected to the local political economy of bridewealth in the country, which treats females as property, undermining their sexual agency and control over their own bodies."