In the unraveling court case of the Ethiopian domestic worker M.H. against her employer, Legal Action Worldwide (LAW) lawyers submitted a formal request for a travel ban against her employer and her recruiter.
The move took place on Thursday during the third court hearing in the case of M.H., the first migrant worker in Lebanon and the region to take her former employer and recruiter to court.
The first defendant (her former employer) and her lawyer attended the court hearing, which took place at the Court of Justice in Baabda, and requested the right to submit admissibility of arguments.
They also requested to start the questioning phase, which the judge denied.
The judge will also review the request of Legal Action Worldwide (LAW) lawyers representing M.H. for the travel ban against the two defendants.
The court hearing will resume on May 12, 2022, as decided by the judge, and “during which the questioning of defendants will start,” according to LAW lawyers.
The domestic worker (M.H) had filed the lawsuit based on charges of verbal and physical violence and abuse of employment and detainment during her employment. She was allegedly locked in the employer’s apartment for eight years and forced to work up to 15 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Legal Action Worldwide (LAW) told 961 News that “‘MH’ was allegedly enslaved for 8 years by her employer. She was cut off from the world, locked in an apartment all day and night, and forced to work 15 hours a day for seven days a week, while she was beaten, insulted, and threatened.”
Supported by Legal Action Worldwide (LAW), M.H is now demanding justice, accusing the employer of enslavement as well as the recruiter who “profited from her suffering”.
LAW indicated that “this ground-breaking case has huge legal ramifications in Lebanon and the wider region; if the defendants are found guilty then the case would set a legal precedent that could see thousands of domestic workers, who endure similar circumstances, hold their abusive and exploitative employers to account.”
“This case is a major stepping stone in the fight to end the oppressive ‘kafala system’ that traps thousands of migrant workers in a system which denies them basic working rights and protections,” the organization added.
M.H’s case is not the first in Lebanon where hundreds of foreign domestic workers endure racism and acts of violence, as well as financial abuse. However, it is the first to reach court.
Many of these domestic migrants also suffer from financial abuse by their employers who force them to work without paying their salaries, like in the case of Sajita. Cases of not being able or allowed to leave their employer’s home are countless.
The inhumane Kafala system has also caused cases of death among migrant workers.
According to the General Security intelligence agency, about two domestic workers die every week in Lebanon due to terrible living conditions, suicide, and dangerous escape attempts.
LAW is an independent NGO of human rights lawyers and jurists working in fragile and conflict-affected areas. It provides legal aid to victims and communities that have suffered human rights violations and abuses in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.