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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,'' State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. "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.''
An Italian consular official in San Francisco who did not have immunity was arrested on charges of abusing his Brazilian servant in 2011, pleaded guilty to lesser charges this year and was sentenced to probation and fined $13,000.
U.S. officials also arrested Taiwan's envoy in Kansas City, Missouri, in 2011, on charges of trafficking maids from the Philippines. The government there at first demanded the woman's release claiming she had immunity, but eventually relented and she was jailed and deported.
"The rule of the day has always been to intimidate these victims into going away,'' said Martina Vandenberg, a lawyer who runs a nonprofit that offers legal help to trafficking victims. She said the Khobragade case shows the U.S. is willing to prosecute, and won't let diplomatic immunity "mean impunity,'' she said.
Last year, the Republic of Mauritius waived immunity for its ambassador to the United States, who was charged and fined $5,000 for failing to properly pay a