Saturday, March 10, 2012

The identity of the aggressor of the Ethiopian is revealed: Will the judiciary take action?

The identity of the aggressor of the Ethiopian domestic worker was revealed yesterday. He even gave an interview to LBCI news, who had initially showed the shocking phone footage of incident.
LBC’s broadcast shows the Ethiopian woman being pushed into a car by Ali Mahfouz and another accomplice.
Despite the council of ministers' statement on this issue, condemnations by government officials, extensive media coverage and human rights activists outrage, the aggressor, who works in an employment agency, remains free. Will the judiciary take action?

The Ethiopian girl is said to have attempted to commit suicide.

The Ethiopian consul reiterated his request for the Lebanese authorities to assign a security guard to the consulate. Caritas representative said that this is a case of human trafficking. He said that similar incidents in front of his embassy are recurrent.

While most media coverage was rationale, Annahar newspaper wrote in Arabic that despite this incident, and "in reality" many of the workers are living in "acceptable to good conditions" and that some of them are harming they country they're living from (i.e. Lebanon). Annahar adds that in any case "we should not consider that Lebanon, who does not offer his own citizens all their rights, is not affording any rights to [migrant domestic workers]".
لكن للحقيقة، ان كثيرين منهم أيضاً يعيشون في ظروف مرضية بل جيدة، وبعضهم يسيء الى البلد الذي يقتاتون منه، إذ لا يجوز أن تتحوّل ظاهرة المطالبة لهم بحقوق، الى جلد الذات واعتبار ان لبنان لا يوفر لهم أي حقوق، وهو لا يوفر أصلاً لأبنائه كل الحقوق.

The following is some English media coverage.

The Daily Star: Officials to investigate beating of domestic worker - March 10, 2012, By Annie Slemrod, Van Meguerditchian

BEIRUT: The government has called for a probe into a video showing an Ethiopian domestic worker being beaten by a Lebanese man
outside her country’s consulate.

Ethiopia’s consul general told The Daily Star Friday that there are no security personnel at the consulate despite repeated appeals to the Lebanese authorities.

A video released by LBCI Thursday shows a woman moaning as a man beats her and tries to force her into a car. Another man helps push the woman into the car, as others stand nearby. LBCI said the incident took place outside the Ethiopian consulate in Badaro. The video blurs the faces of all people except for that of the woman, but a Friday night LBC report identified the man as Ali Mahfouz.

Asaminew Debelie Bonssa, Ethiopia’s consul general in Lebanon, told The Daily Star that a Lebanese man brought an Ethiopian domestic worker into the consulate two weeks ago, 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.

Bonssa said he spoke to the woman but “the way they were handling her was not positive” and she did not appear to understand him.

Bonssa added that the police took the woman to Psychiatrique de la Croix Hospital, known as Deir al-Salib, where she is now.

The consul said he was unaware as to whether the police witnessed the violence, but said they did see the car, adding that he hoped the perpetrator of the incident that is “really sad for us” is apprehended and brought to justice.

The consul said that while the Lebanese authorities previously assigned one security guard for the building, he was removed three years ago – during the 2009 parliamentary elections, the consul was told it was a temporary step.

“We were advised to just wait for some time, then when the election was over we requested [a new guard and] they said they will replace him.” A new guard was never provided, he said.

He added that he had contacted the Interior and Foreign Affairs ministries about the problem, and “we were advised later by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the country is peaceful and there is no need for security personnel [at the consulate].”

Bonssa said he explained to authorities that the consulate “is the place where employers and employees have social problems. We do arbitration, we settle many problems.” He said that occasionally “there are people who are harsh and treat them [workers] poorly.” He was told that in these cases, he should call the police, but that after multiple requests, “we became frustrated and for the sake of relations between the two countries [Lebanon and Ethiopia], I didn’t report this problem.”

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel denied that his ministry had received a letter from the consulate regarding security at the consulate’s gate, but said such a presence could not stop such problems. “Such an incident could take place anywhere,” he said. “It could happen on any street and it could happen inside homes. Should we place security forces in everyone’s homes?”

Charbel told The Daily Star that he has “tasked the security forces to carry out an investigation to find out who is behind this incident,” which he called a “horrible scene” that reflects badly on Lebanon’s image. He added that both the woman and the Ethiopian Consulate should file civil suits against the abusers.

“Without that lawsuit, the man could just walk free after spending several days in detention,” he said.

In a Friday evening report on LBC, Mahfouz said the woman, who was in his employ, had tried to commit suicide three times – by throwing herself in front of a car, drinking cleaning fluid, and jumping off a balcony – and this is why he had taken her to the consulate.

After Cabinet was adjourned Friday, Information Minister Walid Daouk said that “the Cabinet condemned the violence against the Ethiopian domestic worker in public and asked for an investigation into this matter.”

He also asked for “those that did this to be turned over to the concerned judicial authority, which should take legal measures against them.”

Telecommunications Minister Nicholas Sehnaoui tweeted that “we should all come to the defense of the poor Ethiopian girl, victim of this abuse. Actions like these dishonor our country. I am ashamed.”

Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi said Friday that the Justice and Labor ministries will have an emergency meeting Monday on the issue, and added that the authorities have contacted the woman’s employment agency and will question Mahfouz.

Ali Fakhry of the Anti-Racism Movement, who met with Bonssa Friday, told The Daily Star that activists plan to keep the pressure on the government. “The Lebanese government and the [Ethiopian] general consul said they want to follow up, and we will have to put some pressure [on them] to make sure they really follow up on the case,” he said.

Al-Akhbar: Lebanese domestic worker violent abuse caught on video - Published Friday, March 9, 2012

A Lebanese man has been caught violently abusing an Ethiopian domestic worker on an amateur video in front of the Ethiopian Embassy in Beirut.

Lebanese television network, LBCI, aired the footage on Thursday, which disturbingly shows the man pulling at the woman's hair, and dragging her into his car, as she screamed and wailed.

The attack occurred in broad daylight, with no bystanders coming to the woman's aid.

A source in the Internal Security Forces said they were not privy to the matter as yet and were waiting for an investigation by the Ministry of Labor to conclude.

The ISF source, wishing to remain anonymous, said the government had shown a particular interest in the incident during a Cabinet meeting on Friday.

It is not yet clear what led to the incident or whether the woman was seeking asylum inside the Ethiopian Embassy before she was set upon by the man.

The video has gone viral on social media, with bloggers horrified and demanding the man be immediately apprehended.

But Wissam Saliby, a blogger on Lebanese domestic workers' rights at Ethiopian Suicides, said despite the widespread attention, it remains to be seen whether the government will act.

"This is not something new, but it's the first time it's been caught," he said.

"Will the government respond and crackdown and put these people in prison in accordance with criminal law? I don't know."

Saliby highlighted that the attack was indicative of a large scale problem Lebanon has yet to resolve, suggesting that influential elites were seldom investigated for similar crimes against their domestic workers.

"This is not an isolated case, I get a lot of information like this, but I can't publish it. [Some] people are very well connected," he said.

Based on such endemic corruption, Saliby is unconvinced the government will take the opportunity and crackdown on abusers of domestic workers.

"I'm skeptical because this is a huge problem that the government has not been willing to deal with. There's no will," he said.

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