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Story Publication logo September 6, 2023

Watch: How Diplomats Use Diplomatic Immunity To Get Away With Domestic Worker Exploitation



For years, foreign diplomats have been getting away with exploiting their domestic workers.

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A Rappler investigation records 160 incidents of diplomats and employees of various international organizations allegedly mistreating domestic workers under their care.

Video courtesy of Rappler.

MANILA, Philippines — For decades, erring diplomats and employees of international organizations have gotten away with exploiting domestic workers, an exclusive Rappler investigation has found.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations grants ambassadors and staff of international organizations different levels of diplomatic immunity while in their receiving country. This protects them from civil and criminal suits while performing their official responsibilities in their assigned states.

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For many diplomats, this immunity has protected them from being held liable in the complaints filed against them, leaving the abused domestic workers helpless.

Cely Nuñez, Ellen Germio, Edith Mendoza, and Sherile Pahagas are just four examples of workers whose wages were allegedly denied to them by their employers, but whose attempts at justice were blocked due to their employers’ diplomatic immunity. Pit Koehler, a German whom Mendoza and Pahagas both worked for, continued to speak at human rights events representing the German government even after allegations were made against him. The organizations who hosted Koehler said they were not aware that he was implicated in human trafficking.

Rappler recorded 208 domestic workers in its database of 160 alleged maltreatment reports, majority of them women.

Watch this video to learn more. 

Writers: Ana P. Santos and Michelle Abad
Narrator: Michelle Abad
Investigative Desk Head: Chay Hofileña
Videographers: Jeff Digma, Michelle Abad, and Ana P. Santos
Animation and graphics artist: Marian Hukom
Creative Director: Emil Mercado
Video Editor: Jen Agbuya
Producer: Jaira Roxas
Supervising Producer: Beth Frondoso

Reporting for this project was supported by JournalismFund Europe’s Modern Slavery Unveiled Grant Programme and the Pulitzer Center.





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