UN asks Lebanon to investigate suicide of migrant domestic worker

The Government of Lebanon should carry out a full investigation into the death of Alem Dechasa, a 33-year-old Ethiopian migrant domestic worker who committed suicide on Wednesday 14th March 2012, United Nations Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinian, has said.

Ms. Dechasa committed suicide a few days after she was seen being beaten by men and dragged into a car in the Lebanese capital.

These acts of abuse caught on video and posted on social media websites, show the victim shouting and struggling to resist a man dragging and forcing her into a car as bystanders stood by.

“Like many people around the world I watched the video of the physical abuse of Alem Dechasa on a Beirut street,” said the UN expert monitoring contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences. “I strongly urge the Lebanese authorities to carry out a full investigation into the circumstances leading to her death. I also express my deepest condolences to Ms. Dechasa’s family and friends.”

“The cruel image on the website reminded me of the many migrant women workers I met in Lebanon during my official visit to the country last year,” she said. “Women who had been victims of domestic servitude told me they had been under the absolute control of their employers through economic exploitation and suffered physical, psychological and sexual abuse.”     

At the end of her visit to Lebanon in October 2012, Ms. Shahinian urged the Government to enact legislation to protect some 200,000 domestic workers in the country.

She indicated that without legal protection some of them would end up living in domestic servitude. “Migrant domestic workers in Lebanon, the majority of whom are women, are legally invisible,” she said at the time. “That makes them acutely vulnerable.”

“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,” Ms. Shahinian said. “States are under an obligation to ensure the realization 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.”   

Other UN independent human rights experts also condemned the physical abuse of Ms. Dechasa.


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