Back to all articles
Press Release

Press Release: MH Remote Hearing Request

Accountability & Rule of Law - Lebanon - Advocacy

Press Release

Judges insist on victim returning to Lebanon to testify in-person in first criminal case alleging slavery and slave trade of migrant domestic worker

Beirut, 5 April 2024

Lebanese judges have rejected a request in the landmark criminal case alleging slavery and slave trading brought by a migrant domestic worker (MDW) for the victim to be allowed to testify remotely to save her the practical and emotional difficulties she would face returning to Lebanon, where she was enslaved and suffered serious human rights abuses at the hands of her employer over an eight-and-a-half-year period between March 2011 and September 2019.

Legal Action Worldwide (LAW), the organization representing the victim in the case (MH), requested on 29 February 2024 that the investigating judge follow the procedure for remote hearings established during the Covid-19 pandemic. A remote hearing was justified by the victim’s financial situation and the difficulty of obtaining a visa for Ethiopian nationals, making it impracticable for her to attend in-person. In addition, LAW emphasized the psychological pressure that would be placed on MH by having to return to the place where she was enslaved and abused, and her legitimate fears of retaliation for speaking out. The investigating judge rejected those considerations in a decision taken on the 21 March 2024, prioritising the defendant’s right to confront her accuser  in person over the safety and wellbeing of the victim. On appeal, a three-judge panel agreed with the investigating judge, effectively insisting on MH’s in-person attendance.

With the rejection of the request for a remote hearing, LAW will now have to take steps to secure MH’s in-person attendance while minimizing the inconvenience caused by the decision and ensuring that her safety is not at risk when she returns to Lebanon. MH’s appearance is not necessary for the case to continue. However, under the principle of equal and effective access to justice, it is important that she be enabled to participate in the pre-trial stage of the proceedings, which will ultimately determine whether the charges against her abuser are confirmed.

This is the first criminal case alleging slavery and slave trading brought by an MDW against a Lebanese employer and recruiting agency. There have been other cases alleging similar allegations such as forced labour, delayed pay and maltreatment, however, this is the first case in Lebanon and the wider region where the case argues that the conditions that the complainant lived and worked in constitute slavery. The case also alleges that the actions taken against MH by her employer and the agent who brought her to Lebanon amount to slave trading. The original criminal complaint was filed on MH’s behalf on 8 October 2020.

“The decision not to permit remote questioning represents a setback in the fight for justice for MH,” said Antonia Mulvey, Executive Director of LAW. “However, it is not the end of the fight. MH has shown incredible bravery by coming forward and seeking to hold her former employer accountable. Despite the challenges involved in physically returning to Lebanon, she will persevere. She has a right to present her views and have them taken into account at this stage of the proceedings. We will do everything possible to ensure that she is able to safely exercise that right.”


Notes to editors:

 According to an assessment by the International Organisation for Migration, there are approximately 400,000 migrant workers in Lebanon. A large majority are women and 70% come from Africa and Asia, in particular Ethiopia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. They come to Lebanon under the kafala system, a migration sponsorship scheme that gives citizens and companies in the country almost total control over MDWs employment and migration status. Human rights organisations have long described the kafala system as a form of legalised slavery.

For media interviews and requests, please contact

About LAW

LAW is an independent, non-profit organisation of human rights lawyers and jurists working in fragile and conflict-affected areas. LAW provides legal aid to victims and communities that have suffered human rights violations and abuses in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.

Accept Cookies

We use cookies to personalise content, provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media and analytics partners who may combine it with other information that you’ve provided to them or that they’ve collected from your use of their services. By using this website, you agree to the use of cookies as stipulated in our privacy policy.

Accept Cookies