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Lebanon: Intellectual’s Murder Needs In-depth Inquiry To Dispel Doubts Over Justice System, Say UN Experts

GENEVA (22 March 2021) – UN human rights experts* today called on the Government of Lebanon to ensure a credible and effective investigation into the brutal killing of a prominent intellectual, Mr. Lokman Slim, and bring the perpetrators to justice.

“More than a month after Mr. Slim’s murder, the investigatory steps taken at national level have led to no meaningful result raising concerns as to the effectiveness of the current investigation,” the experts said.

“The Government should urgently implement measures to guarantee the independence and the impartiality of the investigation and ensure that those responsible are identified and held accountable,” they said. “This is essential to ensure justice is delivered and to build public trust in the national judicial system before it is irremediably compromised. The Government should consider requesting international technical assistance to investigate the killing of Mr. Slim.”

A well-known intellectual, an activist, a writer, publisher, filmmaker and vocal critic of Hezbollah, Slim was found shot dead in his car on 4 February 2021, in Southern Lebanon, an area reportedly de facto controlled by Hezbollah. He was shot six times, three times in the head. Prior to his death, he argued that, should he be killed, everybody would know who would be behind it.

“The killing of Mr. Slim appears to be linked to his civic engagement and to be emblematic of the regression of Lebanon civic space, in the context of a reported surge of arrests, intimidations, threats and violence against human rights defenders, journalists and activists,” the experts said. “We are deeply concerned that the murder of Mr. Slim in the event of a lack of accountability may have a profound chilling effect on freedom of expression in Lebanon.”

Mr. Slim had reportedly questioned why and how the hazardous chemicals that exploded in the port of Beirut, killing 205 people and wounding more than 6,500, had been taken to Lebanon. “Any alleged relation between the explosion and Mr. Slim’s assassination should be fully investigated,” the experts said.

Mr Slim’s murder was preceded by repeated intimidations, harassment and threats and he had publicly sought protection. “The Government had an obligation to take all steps that could be reasonably expected to protect Mr. Slim’s safety. Failure to have done so could engage the State’s responsibility for violation of his right to life,” the experts said.

“We call on the Government to ensure the effective protection of all persons that may currently be at risk of targeted violence for reasons related to their work or because of their opinions.”

The experts urged authorities to end prevailing impunity and to re-establish trust in institutions of justice with such measures as establishing an independent and impartial Commission to investigate the failure of past investigations into the killings of human rights defenders, activists and politicians in Lebanon. The Government should also consider embedding a unit of international experts to advise and support investigations into allegedly politically motivated murders and ensure accountability.

The UN independent experts have previously raised their concerns with the Government of Lebanon and will continue to monitor the situation and pursue their dialogue.

ENDS

The experts: Ms. Agnès Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Diego Garcia-Sayan, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Ms. Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

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