Katharina Reny Lestari – A priest and several nuns were among dozens of anti-human trafficking activists who descended on the Malaysian embassy in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on June 27 to protest against the acquittal of a woman accused of murdering her Indonesian maid four years ago.
Malaysia's Federal Court dismissed an appeal by prosecutors to overturn High Court and Appeal Court rulings to acquit Ambika M.A. Shan, who was accused of murdering Adelina Jemira Sau in Penang in 2018.
According to judges, prosecutors had not presented a good enough reason to overturn the two previous rulings that cited a lack of evidence proving Shan physically abused the maid.
Sau, 21, from Indonesia's predominantly Christian East Nusa Tenggara province, died of multiple organ failure in a Penang hospital on Feb. 11, 2018, after being rescued from her employer's home a day earlier by a migrant workers' protection group.
It was alleged Sau suffered daily physical abuse by her employer, was forced to sleep on the porch with the dog and was poorly fed.
Shan, now 62, was arrested for murder while her daughter was charged with hiring a maid without a valid work permit.
The case has received a great deal of attention in Indonesia, which has often complained to its neighbor of maid abuse including overwork, beatings and sexual assaults.
"I took part in the embassy protest because of Pope Francis' call against human trafficking. Human trafficking is a rights violation that often turns deadly," said Jesuit Father Ignatius Ismartono, an adviser to Sahabat Insan, a charity dealing with issues faced by Indonesian migrant workers.
"Such abuses against migrant workers, including maids, must be stopped," he told UCA News.
Anis Hidayah from a migrant welfare group, Migrant Care, denounced the Malaysian court's decision.
"Adelina was a victim of human trafficking but the Malaysian court's decision was unfair. There is no justice at all for her," she said.
"We came here to protest against the Malaysian court for making such an unfair decision concerning an Indonesian citizen who served an abusive Malaysian employer."
She called the acquittal a setback to efforts to prevent physical abuses and other human rights violations against Indonesian migrant workers.
"We will continue to tell the Malaysian government that such a decision must not be repeated by any court in Malaysia. Every migrant worker has the right to justice," she said.
Holy Spirit Missionary Sister Genoveva Bikan from Vivat International-Indonesia, a Catholic human rights organization, accused the Malaysian government of failing to respect a 2006 memorandum of understanding between Indonesia and Malaysia on the recruitment and placement of Indonesian domestic workers.
She also urged the Indonesian government to file a diplomatic protest over the Malaysian court's decision.