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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

New unit to prosecute cases of abuse against domestic workers

Move follows law last year that set out clear working conditions for maids, nannies, gardeners and others

The Judicial Department building in Abu Dhabi. Sammy Dallal / The National
The Judicial Department building in Abu Dhabi. Sammy Dallal / The National

A special prosecution unit has been set up to try cases that involve the abuse of domestic workers.

The move on Wednesday announced by Abu Dhabi Judicial Department will "deliver justice for all community members... regardless of their economic, ethnic and religious" status.

Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Head of the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department, has established dedicated prosecutors and specialised judicial departments in each court of first Instance.

Yousef Al Abri, acting undersecretary of the judicial department, said the resolution is part of the federal labour law issued by President Sheikh Khalifa in September.

That law set out out working conditions for maids, nannies, gardeners and others, guaranteeing at least 12 hours off duty a day, including eight consecutive hours, and 30 days of paid annual leave.

It sets out fines employers and recruiters up to Dh100,000 for failing to guarantee these rights or to those who discriminate, harass or force work on the people they employ. It covers 19 occupations.

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Read more:

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The same fine is imposed on recruitment agencies if they use violence against workers, fail to accurately notify workers of their job description or the value of the overall salary, or ensure their health and fitness ahead of bringing them in to the country.

Discrimination includes “differentiating between workers and not treating them with equality based on race, colour, gender, religion, political opinion, ethnicity or social origins”.

In May last year, the Federal National Council passed the draft bill that was put forward to the President.

The domestic abuse unit was announced one month after the body of a Filipina housemaid was found stuffed in a freezer in Kuwait in a case that made global headlines.

Joanna Daniela Demafelis' body was found on February 6 in a Kuwait City apartment that had reportedly been abandoned for more than a year.

An outspoken Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said her body bore torture marks and there were indications she was strangled, demanding justice and calling for better treatment of all domestic workers.