Friday, April 4, 2014

Saudi Arabia/HK: Indonesia Establishes Moratorium Against Mistreatment, Execution of Expats

According to Reuters, migrants' rights activists in Indonesia welcomed on Friday (April 4) the government's decision to pay $1.8 million to free one of its citizens on death row in Saudi Arabia, just days before she was to be executed for murdering her employer.

Satinah, a 41-year old migrant domestic worker, was convicted of killing her Saudi employer in 2007 but said she had acted in self-defense after her boss physically abused her. She was sentenced to death by beheading.

"The government can no longer ignore the fact that saving a citizen is our country's responsibility," said Anis Hidayah, executive director of NGO Migrant Care, according to media reports.

The Indonesian government, which announced its decision on a website on Thursday (April 3), had come under fire over Satinah's case after initially saying it could not raise the money in time. Celebrities and activists spearheaded a fundraising campaign.

COMMENT: No country should have to pay "blood money" of any amount to Saudi Arabia that seems so anxious to wield the executioner's sword.

Hundreds of mostly female Indonesian migrant workers go abroad in search of work every year, but often face abusive working conditions in countries such as Malaysia, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia. 

These workers contribute millions of dollars to the Indonesian economy annually in remittances.

The case of an Indonesian maid beaten by her employer in Hong Kong prompted mass rallies this year and graphic photos of her injuries were made public. The employer was brought before a court before being released on bail.

Indonesia imposed a moratorium on sending other domestic workers to Saudi Arabia in 2011 after another maid was beheaded for killing her employer. The ban remains in effect.

NGO Migrant Care says 45 migrant workers could face the death penalty in Saudi Arabia "if the Indonesian government doesn't defend their rights."

It makes far more sense for foreign governments to establish binding expat agreements negotiated in advance between the sending and receiving nations whereby all parties agree that the employee will be deported before they are imprisoned or executed. 

No expat should be vulnerable to the country of their birth being extorted for cost-prohibitive "blood money,"  imprisonment and/or execution.