In Kuwait, the clock is ticking for a Filipina maid who faces execution.
Jakatia Pawa, a Muslim from a southern province of the Philippines was convicted of murdering her employer's daughter in 2008 and was sentenced to death. But Pawa, 34, says that she is innocent. And her attorney, human rights groups, and Philippine diplomats all maintain that Pawa was prosecuted for a crime she may not have committed.
Remarking on Pawa's case, which has gained attention world-wide, Amnesty International says: "[Pawa's] lawyer stated that there was no evidence in the case file proving that his client had indeed committed the murder."
The National (Abu Dhabi) reports: "[Filipino] ambassador, Ricardo Endaya, was dismayed with the court's decision. He said the knife that was used in the murder did not have the woman's fingerprints on it and there were no bloodstains on her dress or body that could link her to the crime."
Pawa has exhausted the appeal process. Last week, a Kuwaiti court upheld the decision to put her to death. Pawa's fate now rests in the hands of Kuwait's Amir, whose signature ratifies the sentence.
Noli de Castro, vice president of the Philippines, is headed to Kuwait to plead for Pawa's life and to give the Amir a letter from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The Filipino government is asking Kuwait for clemency; additionally, The National states that Filipino diplomats are trying to convince Pawa's former employer "to accept blood money in return for forgiveness, which could save the woman from the death sentence."
Nearly 10 percent of Filipinos are Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs). Sending approximately 16 billion US dollars a year in remittances to the Philippines, they are lifeblood to the weak economy of the Southeast Asian country. As such, OFWs are hailed as heroes for making the tremendous sacrifice of working abroad.
Pawa's case highlights the fact that OFWs often face less-than-humane working conditions in the Middle East. In Israel, for example, some foreign laborers are subject to what is know as the "binding arrangement", which links the worker's visa to one employer. Because the employer is given tremendous power over his employee's legal status, the Israeli Supreme Court has likened the binding arrangement to modern-day slavery and, in 2006, struck it down. The Israeli government, however, has not enforced this court order.
Lebanon has also come under scrutiny for the treatment foreign workers receive there. The migrant worker population in Lebanon suffers from an abnormally high death rate--Human Rights Watch reports that an average of more than one foreign worker a week dies from unnatural causes.
Circumstances facing migrant laborers in Kuwait are said to be especially difficult, as well. Indonesia forbids its citizens from working in the country. And the Unites States has added Kuwait to its human rights blacklist--marking it as a country that engages in serious human rights violations.
Want to help Jakatia Pawa?
Amnesty International is trying to mobilize a letter-writing campaign in an attempt to save Pawa's life. See their site for more details.