UN slavery unit: Investigate death of Ethiopian in Lebanon

NA Post | April 4th, 2012

UN urges Lebanon to investigate Ethiopian maid’s death

By the BBC

The UN special rapporteur on slavery has urged the Lebanese government to carry out a full investigation into the death of an Ethiopian domestic worker.

Alem Dechasa, 33, killed herself on 14 March, a few days after she was filmed being beaten by men and dragged into a car in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

Gulnara Shahinian said the “cruel” images reminded her of the many migrant workers she met in Lebanon last year.

She urged the country to uncover the truth about such rights violations.

Last month, eight civil society groups called on the Lebanese authorities to reform restrictive visa regulations and adopt a labour law on domestic work to address high levels of abuse and deaths among migrant workers.

‘End impunity’

On 8 March, the Lebanese television network LBCI released a video filmed on 24 February by an anonymous bystander in which a man physically abuses Ms Alem outside the Ethiopian consulate in Beirut.

As she tries to resist, he and another man drag her into a car.

LBCI later identified the man beating her as the brother of the head of the recruiting agency that brought her to Lebanon.

He alleged that his brother’s agency had been trying to return her to Ethiopia because she had mental health problems.

Police later found Ms Alem and took her to a detention centre.

Following a request by the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center, they transferred her to the Deir al-Saleeb psychiatric hospital two days later, but did not arrest those alleged to have carried out the beatings.

Ms Alem killed herself at the hospital on the morning of 14 March.

After the beating video was circulated, the labour and justice ministries began investigations, but their outcomes have not been made public.

On Tuesday, Ms Shahinian issued a statement strongly urging the Lebanese authorities to investigate the circumstances leading to Ms Alem’s death and make public their findings.

“There are a number of reports circulating about the human rights violations Alem Dechasa experienced as a migrant domestic worker in Lebanon and the facts surrounding her death,” she said.

“States are under an obligation to ensure the realisation of the right to truth about violations in order to end impunity and promote and protect human rights and provide redress to victims and their families.”