Belgium convicts Emirati princesses of abusing servants

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Court hands Sheikha Hamda Al-Nahyan and seven of her daughters each a suspended 15-month jail term and a $185,000 fine

One of the victims (2nd R) arrives in court in Brussels during trial for UAE princesses who were later convicted of human trafficking (AFP/file photo)
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Friday 30 June 2017 17:17 UTC
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A Belgian court convicted eight Emirati royals on Friday of human trafficking and degrading treatment of their servants at a Brussels hotel.

The court handed Sheikha Hamda al-Nahyan and seven of her daughters each a suspended 15-month jail term and a $185,000 fine, Belga news agency said.

The princesses were prosecuted over the treatment of 23 women, many of them African, who worked for the family from 2007-2008 at what was then the prestigious Conrad Hotel in Brussels.

The family rented an entire floor of the hotel and allegedly paid sub-standard wages to the women, who were without working or residency documents.

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The women worked long hours, with some sleeping on mattresses laid outside the rooms of the princess they served. They were not allowed to leave the royals' floor of the hotel, Belga said, citing the investigation.

"We are very satisfied because the court made a very clear statement that this was a sort of modern slavery," said Jean-Pierre Jacques, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. "It's what we have been demanding for nine years."

A lawyer for the royals, Stephen Monod, regretted that the court "took into account the statements of the victims".

The United Arab Emirates has been denounced by rights groups for lack of legal protection to domestic workers.

"UAE laws and policies leave migrant domestic workers exposed to abuse and exploitation," Human Rights Watch said in a report last year. "The labour law explicitly excludes domestic workers from its protections, and their employment is instead governed by a standard contract that provides far weaker rights than the labour law."