Follow Up: Human Rights defenders on trial for denouncing torture in Lebanon

The first public court session of CLDH representatives Marie Daunay and Wadih Al-Asmar was held Yesterday in front of Judge Elias Khoury (Publication Court of Baabda) in the presence of NGOs,  the European Union, embassies and United Nations representatives, showing their support to the two human rights defenders sued for denouncing allegations of torture in Lebanon.

The session was a questionning by the Court and the lawyers of the two human rights defenders who face up to one year in jail and a fine in case they are convicted for defamation. Both insisted on the role of human rights NGOs to denounce human rights violations whenever they get credible allegations, and on the risk of such a lawsuit for the human rights NGOs’ work. The next court session is scheduled on June 11, 2015.

In 2011, CLDH published, in partnership with other NGOs a comprehensive report on torture in Lebanon, based on testimonies and first-hand information, denouncing the practice of torture by various security services and non-state actors.

Short after the report’s publication, two of CLDH board members, namely Marie Daunay and Wadih Al-Asmar, were summoned by the police for investigation. They were explained that Amal Movement leader Nabih Berri (who is also the head of the Lebanese Parliament) had filed a complaint against them because the said report mentioned allegations of torture perpetrated by Amal members.

The police said Amal considered the denunciation of these allegations as an incitation to sectarian strife, an infringement to the country’s unity, defamation and false accusation.

Instead of investigating the allegations of torture, the head of the Parliament preferred to have the human rights defenders investigated and sued.

The case was then referred to Prosecutor Claude Karam, who transmitted it to investigating judge Jean Fernaini. On several occasions, Marie Daunay and Wadih Al-Asmar were heard by Judge Fernaini who finally issued an indictment accusing them of defamation and transferred the case to the Court of Publication.

Since its inception in Beirut in 2006 CLDH has been systematically documenting and denouncing the practice of torture in Lebanon. CLDH strongly believe that the practice of torture is unacceptable, whatever the reason is, and whoever the perpetrators are.

CLDH would like to express its gratefulness to the persons who attended the session and/or expressed their support to CLDH.

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