Daily Star staff, Tuesday, December 15, 2009
BEIRUT: A Lebanese woman was sentenced by a Batroun court to 15 days in prison this week after being found guilty of beating a Filipino maid working in her home. The accused, who has been identified only by her initials F.S., was also asked to pay a court fine of $34 and a further $7,200 in compensation to Philippines national Jonalin Malibago, by presiding judge Munir Suliman on December 9.
Malibago worked for the woman between February 2006 and July 2006 in her home in Achrafieh, Beirut, during which time she sustained bruises to her head, chest, back legs and arms.
The bruises were first noticed when Malibago was hospitalized in June 2006. Her employer told doctors she suffered from a blood disease known as Thalassemia, which could account for the injuries.
A medical report later commissioned by the Beirut Appeals Prosecutor confirmed the bruises were in fact caused by direct blows. The Batroun court last week ruled that they were sustained from the continuous beatings she was subject to by her employer while she worked as a maid in her home.
Malibago returned to the Philippines in late 2006 after filing the complaint and the court rejected the accused’s request to have her return in order to stand trial in Lebanon.
Nadim Houry, a migrant rights researcher for the US-based Human Rights Watch, sees the ruling as an important step in fighting this widespread abuse of migrant workers and expressed hope that the verdict would act as a precedent for future cases.
“The fact that a prison sentence was passed – even if it was only 15 days – will act as a deterrent to others,” Houry said. “The judiciary has been somewhat absent in the past but the judge in this case made the right decision, people need to be afraid of being named and shamed,” he added.
However, Houry expressed concern that a number of obstacles still prevent migrant workers from filing lawsuits against their employers, such as the high financial costs incurred and the prolonged procedures required for investigation.
“Many victims are forced to leave Lebanon before seeing justice, as the case takes so long to reach trial stage,” Houry said.
Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud said last week during a meeting with the Philippines, Ethiopian and Sri Lankan embassies in Beirut that the ministry intended to take their own measures in cases of abuse of domestic workers “out of utter respect for human rights.”
A recent report released by Human Rights Watch shows that at least one woman dies a week in Lebanon, while many more are injured trying to escape abusive employers and harsh working conditions.
In the past year, Ethiopia, Nepal and the Philippines took the step of banning all travel to the country due to the high number of suspicious deaths among the domestic worker community. – The Daily Star