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Human Trafficking Victims Take Significant Steps Toward Bringing Kuwaiti Diplomats to Justice

Galen Sherwin,
Former Senior Staff Attorney,
ACLU Women’s Rights Project
Steven M. Watt,
Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU Human Rights Program
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December 16, 2010

For two years, Mani Kumari Sabbithi, Joaquina Quadros, and Gila Sixtina Fernandes were held as slaves by a Kuwaiti diplomat and his wife at their home in McLean, Virginia. Deprived of food, underpaid, isolated from the outside world and threatened with their lives, the three women eventually escaped the home and were granted T visas (temporary visa for victims of trafficking).

In 2007, ACLU filed suit against the state of Kuwait, the diplomat and his wife seeking redress for their injuries. Since then, the ACLU has been fighting to get these women their day in court and Kuwait has vigorously opposed their attempts to get a hearing, arguing that the court should dismiss the case on the technical ground that it does not have authority to hear the case.

Today the women took a significant step forward when Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the D.C. District Court, ruling from the bench, found that these women could proceed, granting their request to add new factual allegations, bring the former diplomats back into the case and reinstate proceedings against the state of Kuwait.

We expect the defendants to continue their attempts to torpedo this lawsuit with similar technical arguments. But foreign states and their diplomats should not be allowed to evade accountability for egregious human rights violations committed in this country.

This lawsuit aims to ensure that the three survivors of trafficking and forced labor can get the justice they deserve and open the courthouse doors for others like them.

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