Last April 1, a Kuwaiti criminal court had passed a death sentence in absentia on the suspects of the murdered Filipino OFW, Joanna Demafelis (29), who had gone missing since 2016 until her body was found in a freezer earlier this year.
After the discovery of Demafelis’ body inside a freezer in a deserted apartment last February 6, which apparently had been there for over a year, the late Pinay OFW’s employers immediately left for Syria.
The Lebanese-Syrian couple, Nader Essam Assaf and wife Mona Hassoun, were taken into custody by Syrian authorities after the Interpol had pursued the suspects in a manhunt in the capital city of Syria, Damascus late February.
The couple were found guilty later in March, and recently had been sentenced to death in absentia by hanging earlier this month. According to a judicial source on the condition of anonymity, the sentencing can still be brought to the Court of Appeal should the couple decide to return to Kuwait.
Kuwait Court Passes Death Sentence to the Murder Suspects for the Death of OFW
Syrian authorities turned in the Lebanese husband, Nader Essam Assaf, to Lebanese officials, while the wife, Mona Hassoun, was held in custody by authorities in Damascus.
The murder of Joanna Demafelis had triggered a labour stand-off between the Philippines and Kuwait, which prompted a series of bilateral talks and negotiations between the two nations.The death of Demafelis had prompted Philippine President Rodrigo Rao Duterte to implement a labour ban on Kuwait, which prohibits further deployment of Filipino labourers in the Gulf State.
Furthermore, several airplanes were sent for Kuwait as per order of President Duterte to accommodate all Filipino household workers who wished to come back home to their families in the Philippines.
There are approximately 252,000 OFWs in Kuwait employed under the ‘kafala’ or sponsorship system, which legally entitles citizens of Kuwait to hold their employees’ work visa, preventing them from leaving or switching jobs without their sponsor’s consent or approval.
Several rights groups have criticized the kafala for several years up until now, pointing out that this system exposes migrant labourers to various forms of abuse and exploitation in the Gulf region.
In the meantime, Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III received this recent development positively, stating that the “swift justice” on the case of Joanna Demafelis’ death together with the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Kuwait could initiate the partial lifting of the labour deployment ban on the Gulf State.