Qatar court upholds human trafficking conviction after woman dies

Court of Appeals and Cassation

Chantelle D'mello

Court of Appeals and Cassation

A Palestinian man convicted of human trafficking and involuntary manslaughter will petition Qatar’s highest court after failing to get his case thrown out in appeals, his lawyer has said.

Yesterday, the Court of Appeal upheld an eight-year prison sentence for Adnan Mustafa Eid Muhammad. He stands accused of dumping the body of an Indonesian domestic worker outside Hamad General Hospital in 2014.

But the court exonerated his co-defendant, a Qatari woman also convicted of involuntary manslaughter by a lower court this year.

“She should be immediately released,” presiding judge Abd al-Rahman al-Sharafi said in court.

However, neither defendant has been in custody.

Muhammad’s lawyer, who along with the defendants did not appear in court this week, told Doha News that he plans to appeal the judgment to Qatar’s Court of Cassation.

What happened

The case involves an Indonesian woman who came to Qatar as a domestic worker.

Few details are known about the victim. The Indonesian embassy has not publicly commented on the case and was not immediately available today.

But defense lawyers argued in court that she fled an abusive sponsor and reached out to the Palestinian man for help.

He then put her in contact with the other defendant, who hired her but did not assume her sponsorship.

The Indonesian woman, who had a pre-existing respiratory condition, later fell ill and died.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

OSU Medical Center

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

When the Qatari woman called him for help, Muhammad brought the body of the deceased woman to Hamad General Hospital where he abandoned it next to an elevator.

Vulnerabilities

The case highlights how vulnerable domestic workers become if they attempt to leave their sponsors, Vani Saraswathi, an associate editor with Migrant-Rights.org, told Doha News.

She said it’s “very, very common” for domestic workers to be living and working in Qatar without a proper sponsorship or employment agreement. In some cases, they’ve chosen to leave an abusive sponsor or are being overworked, Saraswathi said.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Amnesty International

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In other cases, they’ve been “returned” to a recruiting agency that cannot find them another job.

Domestic workers caught in either scenario often want to stay in Qatar so they can earn money to pay back loans they took out to secure a job in the Gulf and support their families.

“They don’t want to go back to their home countries and they can’t legally find another job here,” Saraswathi said. “There just isn’t enough of a choice for workers who have invested time and money to migrate on work to legally leave an abusive employment situation and seek another job.”

This leaves domestic workers who choose to work without proper documents vulnerable to exploitation, she added.

For example, they could be forced to work without pay if their new employer learns of their legal status.

Or, if their original sponsor has filed a police complaint against the domestic worker for leaving, they risk being arrested when they try to access government services.

ID questions

During the Court of Appeal hearing, defense lawyers argued that sometime prior to the ill woman’s death, her boss took her to Hamad General Hospital, which turned her away because she was unable to produce valid ID.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Meento

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

It’s not clear if Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC) requires its patients to produce government ID before providing treatment, as the lawyer argued in court. An HMC spokesperson has not responded to questions about the organization’s policies.

But during last month’s hearing, Muhammad’s lawyer argued that the hospital bore a share of the responsibility for the woman’s death.

“It’s inhumane to deny anyone treatment because they do not have a form of ID on them,” he said.

If Muhammad’s appeal is unsuccessful, he will face deportation after serving his jail term.

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