Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ethiopian migrant worker publically beaten takes own life

By Wassim Mroueh, Annie Slemrod | March 15, 2012 |
The Daily Star

Also: Maid in Lebanon abuse video kills herself

BEIRUT: The Ethiopian domestic worker whose beating outside her country’s consulate was caught on tape and widely publicized committed suicide Wednesday, Ethiopia’s consul general in Lebanon confirmed to The Daily Star.
Alem Dechasa, 33, hanged herself using her bed sheets between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m., Ethiopian Consul General Asaminew Debelie Bonssa said doctors had
told him. She was in Pyschiatrique de la Croix Hospital, known as Deir al-Salib. Police took her there after the beating some three weeks ago.
Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi vowed that investigations would continue. “For us, the matter is not over,” he told The Daily Star. “We are considering what to do now. We have to see if the [Ethiopian] consulate wants to file a lawsuit.”
He said Wednesday that an Ethiopian consular official arrived at a Beirut police station to file a lawsuit against Ali Mahfouz – the owner of Dechasa’s employment agency – and the man who was beaten her on tape. When he arrived he was told that Dechasa had passed away.
A video released by LBCI last week showed Dechasa moaning as a man, later identified as Ali Mahfouz, beat her and forced her into a car.
Another man helped Mahfouz, as others stood by. According to Bonssa, the incident took place two weeks before it became public.
Last week, Bonssa explained that a man brought Dechasa into the consulate, saying she was sick. Bonssa said he advised the man to take her to the hospital for treatment. “From outside I heard voices,” he said, and he called the police.
Mahfouz told LBC that Dechasa had attempted suicide three times.
A security source told The Daily Star that Mahfouz was briefly arrested last week, but was released after leaving his address with the magistrate.
The source added that investigations are taking place under the supervision of Beirut Public Prosecutor George Karam.
Betty Barakat, from the nonprofit organization Caritas, who visited Dechasa Monday, said the Ethiopian was married with two children. She hailed from Burayu, not far from Addis Ababa, and had been in Lebanon for two months.
Bonssa said he was “deeply shocked” by the news, adding that he had seen Dechasa Saturday and she appeared fine. Bonssa also said doctors checked on her at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning and when they returned at 6 a.m. she was dead.
He added that he had been told Dechasa was on suicide watch. The hospital declined to comment, citing privacy concerns.
According to Bonssa, Dechasa arrived in Lebanon illegally, as Ethiopia banned domestic workers from traveling to Lebanon some three years ago.
In a statement from his office, Labor Minister Salim Jreissati said he had given “strict instructions” to ask Dechasa’s employment agency about the circumstances of her employment, “as well as the health problems she reportedly suffered from. What happened is a human tragedy that opens the door for cleaning the employment agency sector, and completely opening the agency issue.”

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