Lebanon: Stop judicial harassment of human rights defenders

ARTICLE 19 is alarmed by the Lebanese authorities’ continuous judicial harassment of human rights defenders.

President of the Lebanese Centre for Human Rights, Wadih Al-Asmar, was in August 2018 added to the long list of activists who have been interrogated for their expression in Lebanon since 2015. He received a phone call from the Cybercrime Bureau, summoning him for questioning regarding posts he republished on his Facebook account.

Al-Asmar said to ARTICLE 19: “Approximately one month after the date of the summoning on 16 August 2018, I have not received the complaint officially. I’m appearing before the prosecutor Ghada Aoun following it along with my attorneys.

Wadih Al-Asmar confirmed that, “the Lebanese Center for Human Rights have no problem with the judiciary, but the problem is with silencing people”. He added, “As a Human Rights Defender, I reject all the pressure on the interrogee during investigations which usually leads to the removal of posts from social media without any judicial decision.”

The human rights defender was previously interrogated by the Cybercrimes Bureau in Beirut on 31 August 2018, where he was denied access to a lawyer contrary to Article 47 of the Lebanese Judiciary Procedural Code. Consequently, Al-Asmar chose to exercise his right to remain silent based on the same article and refused to delete his Facebook post until he was granted access to his lawyer.

Al-Asmar’s case isn’t the first case of judicial harassment of activists in Lebanon. During August 2018, at least six activists and journalists were interrogated for posting on social media, including Firas Bou Hatoum, Jean Elias, Abbas Saleh, François Marauoi, Taleb Kabbra, Yara Shehayeb and Rasheed Joumblatt. They were released after deleting their online posts.

We call on the Lebanese authorities to stop its ongoing intimidation and judicial harassment of human rights defenders, bloggers and journalists and guarantee the right to free expression in Lebanon.