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First conviction for modern-day slavery in Israel


For the first time, an Israeli court convicted two people of the offense of holding a person under conditions of slavery. The ruling was issued by a District Court in Jerusalem on February 29.


The case involves a female foreign worker who did housework in the home of a couple. The worker worked long hours, 7 days a week with no organized breaks and received a very low salary. Her movements were supervised, her passport confiscated, and she was isolated from contact with most people other than members of the household. The worker was housed in a bathroom where the defendants placed a folding bed.


Though there were occasions on which the worker was permitted to leave the house for short periods of time, the worker did not attempt to escape. The Court accepted her explanation that she was afraid to flee, as she did not know anyone and had no money.


The case sets a precedent in Israeli law, since it is the first time there is a conviction in relation to the  slavery offence enacted in 2006. This case is particularly important because it recognizes that slavery  can take place even when there is no violence of physical abuse.


Rahel Gershuni, National Anti Trafficking Coordinator of Israel shared with UN.GIFT her views about this landmark case. "This is a historic conviction because it recognizes that at the base of human rights lies freedom. Thus, even a person who is relatively well treated and neither beaten nor physically abused, may be a slave if his freedom is severely curtailed. This is an important message."