The Ethiopian domestic worker whose beating outside her country's consulate was widely publicized on video committed suicide Wednesday morning, 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 General Consul Asaminew Debelie Bonssa said doctors told him. He spoke to The Daily Star while returning from the hospital Psychiatrique de la Croix Hospital, known as Deir al-Salib. Police took her to the hospital after the incident.
The 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. According to Bonssa, who said Dechassa was in Lebanon illegally, the incident took place two weeks prior to its release. Mahfouz said Dechasa had previously attempted suicide.
Bonssa said he saw Dechasa Saturday and she appeared fine. Bonssa also said doctors told him they checked on her at 5 a.m. this morning and when they returned at 6 a.m. she was dead.
UPDATE 1: March 11, 2012
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.
Original Story: March 9, 2012
With every passing day I believe more and more that the ISF, aka Police, in Lebanon has no interest in upholding the law. Furthermore, I get the impression, based on Marwan's valet parking experience, and many stories about muggings, thefts, et al that the ISF is actively encouraging lawlessness in Lebanon, ensuring that victims of the crimes are fined, harassed, and actively intimidated to protect the attackers or simply spread fear in the Lebanese society... why?