Filmed beating raises questions over migrant rights in Saudi

DUBAI Fri Nov 1, 2013 11:56am EDT

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DUBAI (Reuters) - A video apparently showing a Saudi man beating an Asian employee for talking to his wife has prompted calls for an official investigation, a rights official said on Friday.

The Internet footage has drawn attention to what rights groups say is the wider problem of Saudi employers abusing foreign workers. Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video and the government was not immediately available for comment.

The video shows an Asian worker in orange overalls being repeatedly hit by a man with a Saudi accent wearing a traditional white robe.

The Saudi accuses the Asian of talking to his wife, before he starts flogging him with a belt and kicking him as he screams in pain. The beating looks to be happening in the Saudi's home. It is not clear who is operating the hand-held camera.

"We are investigating the incident," Mufleh al-Qahtani, chairman of the government-licensed National Society for Human Rights, told Reuters by telephone.

"We have addressed the authorities ... to verify this video and know who did this. If it is proven to be real, then we will demand that the perpetrator be punished and that the Asian worker can realize his rights."

State-owned al-Arabiya television said the state Human Rights Commission was looking into the case after receiving complaints. Reuters was unable to contact the Commission on Friday, the Muslim day of rest.

The attack was "a flagrant violation of the victim's rights to safety and dignity and the act also flouted rules set by Islamic sharia," Arabiya cited the Commission's spokesman, Ibrahim al-Shadi, as saying.

Saudi Arabia's human rights record came under fire at the United Nations last month, with critics accusing the kingdom of abusing the basic rights of women and foreign workers.

Britain and the United States, strategic allies of Riyadh, have raised cases of suspected forced labor among the 9 million migrant workers employed by companies or as domestic workers in the deeply conservative Muslim kingdom, whose total population is 28 million.

(Reporting by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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