Nepalese women alleged rape by Saudi diplomat
The two veiled Nepalese women, who told police they were raped by a Saudi official, sit in a vehicle outside Nepal's embassy in New Delhi Reuters

Saudi Arabia's first secretary to the Ambassador in India, Majed Hassan Ashoor, who has been accused by two Nepalese women of rape, confinement and torture among others crimes, has left India. The incident is believed to have taken place in the National Capital Region (NCR) of the country.

The Indian government's spokesperson in the External Affairs Ministry (MEA) Vikas Swarup, on Wednesday 16 September confirmed the first secretary's departure from Indian soil. "We have learnt that the first secretary Majed Hassan Ashoor who was allegedly accused of raping two Nepalese women has left India," an MEA press statement said.

The first secretary, being a diplomat, is governed by the provision of the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations which gives diplomats immunity from arrest, criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits in the countries where they are posted. The MEA had apparently asked the Saudi authorities to waive the diplomat's immunity so he could be investigated. The Saudi government refused and withdrew their diplomat before India could declare him persona non grata (an unwelcome person) and expel him.

The case came to light on 9 September when a woman fled the house of Ashoor and informed an NGO about the plight of these two women. The local police in Gurgaon situated in NCR, on a tip-off from the NGO, rescued the two women from the diplomat's Gurgaon home. The women alleged they had been repeatedly gangraped, tortured, starved and kept confined for over three months after which a first information report (FIR) had been filed by them.

In an interview to Indian daily Hindustan Times, the woman who alerted the NGO about the plight of the two women said she was employed by the Saudi diplomat as a cook and she too had been starved and confined at the house. She is an Indian national from Darjeeling in the eastern part of India and was brought to Gurgaon by an agent.

The local police in Gurgaon on Wednesday claimed that the agent, identified as Anwar who arranges jobs related to domestic helps, had brought the two Nepali women as well as the cook to the capital of India from Saudi Arabia where they were trafficked as domestic helps from Nepal. The police went on to say that Anwar too could slip out of the country to evade arrest and there was little the police could do given they had not got a chance to question the Saudi diplomat.

According to the Guardian, the police in Nepal have made several arrests in similar cases of trafficking and say they are trying to trace a key agent who may have trafficked hundreds of women from the poor south Asian state to India and the Gulf. One of the two women in the mentioned incident was reported to have lost her home in the earthquake that hit Nepal in April this year.

Last week the three countries got involved in a major diplomatic row when allegations of abuse and sexual slavery surfaced against the diplomat. Deep Upadhayay, Nepal ambassador to India in an interview to Asian News International (ANI) said, "This is a very sensitive crime and victims should get justice. The Nepal government is very serious about this case. If there is a crime, then criminal should be punished."

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit the middle eastern state sometime in the next few months. The situation could worsen if activists and the Nepalese government build pressure on the Indian government with regard to the case.