Viewers of crime dramas could be forgiven for believing the oft-repeated but inaccurate assertion that diplomats in foreign countries have immunity from the prosecution of all crimes. They do not only those crimes committed in the dispensing of their official duties. A diplomat cannot, for example, commit murder and then claim they have diplomatic immunity.
The limits to that immunity are often good news for justice. Case in point: the recent revelations of the conduct of Bangladeshi diplomat Mohammed Shaheldul Islam, a deputy consul general working in New York. He was arraigned in a Queens courtroom for labor trafficking and assault, among other charges. He was ordered to surrender his passport and could face fifteen years in prison if convicted.
According to the charges filed by the Queens District Attorney, Islam essentially held a fellow Bangladeshi as a slave between 2012 and 2016, holding his passport, threatening his family in Bangladesh, and verbally and physically abusing him for any perceived disobedience. He was offered no pay despite working 18 hours per day. The name of the servant is Mohammed Amin, who was brought to the United States to work for the diplomat in his household. That arrangement is not unusual, but after Amin arrived, the abuse began.
During 2014, a similar case of alleged abuse received widespread attention. That case involved allegations of an Indian diplomat forcing household help to work long hours for little pay. According to prosecutors, after reading about the case Islam took steps to attempt to conceal the situation and make it appear that Amir was being paid more than he was, whose actual income consisted only of tips from guests.