Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2005 - Lebanon

Ongoing judicial harassment of Mrs. Samira Trad23

On 10 September 2003, Mrs. Samira Trad, director of the Frontiers Centre, an NGO for the defence of non-Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, had been summoned by the General Security office of the Beirut General Directorate. Mrs. Trad had then been questioned about the statutes of the Frontiers Centre and about a report on Iraqi refugees seeking asylum outside of Lebanon published by the association. Mrs. Trad had been released the next day and had been later informed that she was accused of "defamation against the authorities" (Article 386 of the Criminal Code) in connection with the aforementioned report.

This case was first heard on 14 November 2005, and the hearing was then postponed until 14 April 2006.

Furthermore, the investigation into the role played by members of the regional delegation of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Mrs. Trad's arrest was closed in 2005 and did not state any responsibility. On 4 February 2004, Mrs. Trad's lawyers had asked the Office of the UNHCR Inspector General in Geneva (Switzerland) to carry out an investigation after discovering that the incriminated report had been transmitted to the General Security by the UNHCR office in Beirut (Mrs. Trad had circulated the report to the HCR delegation for comment in June 2003).

In March 2005, the Frontiers Centre received a letter from the UNHCR office in Beirut informing its members that the General Security central office had requested the UNHCR delegation in Beirut to cease any working connection with the Centre as long as the Ministry of Interior had not approved its legal registration. Such an authorisation, however, is in no way provided for in Lebanese law.

Defamation campaign against Mr. Ghassan Abdallah24

Mr. Ghassan Abdallah, executive director of the Palestinian Human Rights Organisation (PHRO), has been harassed and intimidated since 15 November 2005, following a meeting with Mr. Samir Geagea, a former militiaman and leader of the Lebanese Forces (political party). This meeting took place within the framework of a PHRO programme entitled "Truth Leading to Reconciliation" aiming at establishing a Palestinian-Lebanese dialogue.

On 19 November 2005, an anonymous public statement, released on the Internet by individuals who presented themselves as PHRO board members, accused Mr. Abdallah and other PHRO members of "betrayal", "working with international intelligence", "belonging to networks like FIDH [which] is funded by the CIA and linked to several racist Israeli groups" and of "receiving funding from illegal sources".

PHRO lodged a complaint for libel with the Beirut Civil Court on 26 November 2005, and an investigation was opened on 7 December 2005.

Some political parties then decided to conduct their own investigation into the meeting between Messrs. Abdallah and Geagea and into the allegations raised in the Internet statement. The Popular Frontiers Liberation Palestine – General Command party (PFLP-GC), in particular, allegedly asked one of PHRO security staff to convey information about PHRO members' activities and movements. Other political formations were also believed to have attempted to interfere in the judiciary's investigation.

On 17 December 2005, the Pro-Syrian Palestinian Alliance Parties convened a meeting in order to discuss Mr. Abdallah's interview with Mr. Geagea and the complaint lodged by PHRO. On this occasion, PHRO representatives were insulted and threatened by representatives of the Fateh Movement and the PFLP-GC, and did not get the chance to express their opinion.

By the end of 2005, the investigation on the 19 November 2005 press release was still under way.

Lastly, on 10 November 2005, the Ministry of Interior acknowledged PHRO registration request for the first time and granted the association a record number. According to legal provisions, PHRO shall obtain its legal status unless the authorities formally reject its registration request within 60 days.

Ongoing judicial harassment of Mr. Muhamad Mugraby25

On 26 February 2005, Mr. Muhamad Mugraby, a lawyer at the Beirut Bar particularly renowned as a legal counsel for political opponents and his restless fight against corruption in Lebanese legal circles, was called in for questioning by the Beirut General Security Forces. Mr. Mugraby was notably interrogated about a statement he made in November 2003 before the Mashrek Committee of the European Parliament, and in which he had denounced the failures of the Lebanese judicial system and mentioned his arbitrary detention earlier in August that year. Police officers, in particular, asked him to detail his position on the military justice system in the country. Mr. Mugraby's file was then transferred to the Public Prosecutor's office, which decided to press charges for "defamation of the military and its members" under Article 157 of the Military Criminal Code. The hearing was scheduled for 9 January 2006.

Furthermore, the two appeals filed by Mr. Mugraby with the Court of Appeal against the decisions of two disciplinary commissions of the Bar of Beirut (dating back to 2002 and 2003) that had withdrawn his right to exercise the profession were still pending by the end of 2005.

Moreover, the two legal actions filed by Mr. Mugraby with the Court of Appeal, respectively against thirteen judges involved in his August 2003 arrest and against the National Bar Association, remained pending as of the end of 2005.

Lastly, Mr. Mugraby was still targeted by judicial proceedings initiated in 2000 for "defamation of the judiciary" under Articles 391 (illegally wearing a professional uniform) and 393 (unlawful practice of a profession regulated by law) for facts dating back to 2000.26

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

23. See Annual Report 2004 and Letters to the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, 1 April, 10 and 30 May 2005.

24. See Urgent Appeal LBN 001/1205/OBS 131.

25. See Annual Report 2004 and Urgent Appeal LBN 001/0005/OBS 033.2.

26. Mr. Mugraby was charged in April 2000 after he issued a press release on the administration of justice in Lebanon.


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