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Thursday, 21 April 2011

Brisbane rape victim sues UAE luxury hotel

"...Drink spiked and was raped by up to four co-workers...''



Brisbane rape victim Alicia Gali
Alicia Gali had her drink spiked and was raped by up to four co-workers in June 2008. (The Brisbane Times)
A Brisbane woman is suing a five-star hotel in the United Arab Emirates after she was drugged and raped by co-workers and jailed for eight months.
In a landmark case, Alicia Gali, 29, is seeking compensation from her former employer, Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort, for breaching its workplace duty of care.
In June 2008 Ms Gali had her drink spiked and was raped by up to four co-workers while working as a beauty salon manager at the international resort.
When she reported the assault to authorities she was jailed on an adultery charge and spent eight months in prison because it is illegal in the UAE to have sex outside marriage.
Australian embassy staff advised Ms Gali and her family not to go to the media during her time in custody, when she was locked in a cell with 30 other women.
She was pardoned and released in March 2009.
Ms Gali alleges the hotel failed to protect staff against assault and its legal consequences.
She says the resort encouraged workers to drink illegally at its staff bar despite strict laws and the requirement of drinking permits.
"I thought I would be safe and protected in an international hotel group," she said in a statement.
"They didn't give me the correct advice and didn't help me when I was charged and imprisoned."
Ms Gali says the harrowing ordeal should be a warning to others.
"I still feel angry and upset. It's distressing because I was a victim in all this and I was punished," she said.
"The UAE is being promoted hugely here as a tourism destination - they sponsor things here.
"They are not complying with human rights, women's rights and migrant workers' rights."

Nightmare continues

Ms Gali's lawyer Melissa Payne says her client suffers severe post traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, flash backs, depression and claustrophobia.
Ms Payne says the incident could have been avoided.
She says the hotel should have had segregated secure quarters for female employees and provide adequate induction training on the local laws and customs.
"When she reported the assault to the human resources manager he did not advise her of the potential consequences of reporting that assault," she said.
"Alicia's employer has let her down in the most terrible, terrible of ways. A company like this should know better.
"The resort promotes itself as paradise on Earth... it wasn't paradise for Alicia."
Ms Payne says the law firm is still preparing its case and will consult UAE legal experts, human rights and labour law experts.
"There was never a prosecution against anyone for sexual assault or rape," she said.

Safety

But Trey Maurice from the international umbrella group Starwood Hotels, which owns the resort, says safety and security of staff is a paramount priority.
Mr Maurice says the management of the resort was aware of the unfortunate circumstances and provided support and assistance to Ms Gali and her family during her imprisonment.
Ms Payne said her client delayed the lawsuit until she had recovered psychologically.
"She now feels brave enough to speak out," she said.
"Alicia is very concerned there are other women who might find themselves in similar situations."
She says it is likely the legal suit will happen in Queensland courts, but there is a possibility it could be heard in the UAE.
"This is a complex area of law, but we are exploring all options," she said.
She says the compensation amount has not yet been determined.

Dubai - The Truth

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