Date
22 July 2017
Yonas Tegegn has settled allegations of slavery and abuse by a domestic helper without admitting guilt. Photo: Intermet
Yonas Tegegn has settled allegations of slavery and abuse by a domestic helper without admitting guilt. Photo: Intermet

Top WHO official settles maid abuse lawsuits

An Ethiopian housemaid, who sued the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Thailand for beating and enslaving her, has settled the lawsuits out of court.

Emebet Mono Bezabh, 25, worked as a housemaid for Yonas Tegegn, who brought her from Ethiopia in 2013 when he became the agency’s country representative in Thailand.

Bezbah said she was beaten at least three times a week by Tegegn’s wife, only allowed to eat rice, and forced to sleep with the family dog, according to Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Once she slapped me so much that for a long time afterward, some liquid was coming out of my ear. The wife told the husband, and he brought me medicine,” Bezabh told the Thomson Reuters Foundation via a translator at Nonthaburi provincial court.

She said her employers confiscated her passport and denied her any payment.

Tegegn came to the court to sign an agreement and pay Bezabh a confidential amount but declined to comment.

There is no admission of wrongdoing in the out-of-court settlement.

Bezabh, supported by three Thai organisations — the Foundation for Women, Human Rights and Development Foundation and the Lawyers Council of Thailand — dropped a criminal case against Tegegn and his wife and a civil case in a labor court.

The lawsuits accused Tegegn and his wife of violating labour rights and breaching the 2008 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act.

Activists and lawyers supporting Bezabh had worried that Tegegn would receive diplomatic immunity and publicised the case shortly after she had escaped his home.

A WHO official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Tegegn was put on leave and the WHO brought in an acting country head.

Tegegn’s current status is unknown.

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FL/RA

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