Friday, March 5, 2021

Critics denounce Lebanese justice system after activist’s killing

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Beirut, Lebanon – Rasha al-Ameen was holding up a placard bearing pictures of Lokman Slim, the Lebanese author, activist and outstanding Hezbollah critic, who was shot useless final week. She wept because the cameras masking the protest filmed.

Al-Ameen labored with Lokman at Beirut’s UMAM Documentation and Research Centre, archiving a few of the bloodiest chapters in Lebanon’s historical past, and noticed him as an inspiration at an exacting time for her nation.

In a sudden outpouring of emotion, al-Ameen screamed: “Lokman is still alive!” She shouted that his killers couldn’t silence dissent.

“Sifar Khauf, which means zero fear, that’s what Lokman used to say,” she mentioned. “We are repeating it today. His killers cannot scare us.”

At 2:16am native time on the night time of February 3, Slim’s spouse Monika Borgmann anxiously tweeted: “Lokman is not answering his phone and he has not been seen since yesterday, 8 PM. Please share any information… #LokmanSlim.”

Borgmann was apprehensive as a result of her husband had not returned home, and since the household lived underneath the fixed fear of what, it turned out, had transpired that night time.

In the early hours of the subsequent day, the physique of the 58-year-old was present in his automobile in a pool of his blood in Hezbollah-dominated south Lebanon. He had been shot 4 instances, within the head and the again.

While his killers haven’t been recognized, his household and buddies have pointed the finger of blame at Hezbollah, the Iran-backed militia and political social gathering in Lebanon. Slim was a vociferous critic of the group and had mentioned up to now that if any try had been made on his life, Hezbollah needs to be held accountable.

“We don’t know the exact reason why he was killed now but he had been getting threats from Hezbollah for a long time,” mentioned al-Ameen.

Hezbollah has denied any function within the killing, accusing opponents of aiming “to incite chaos” for political acquire and calling for a clear investigation.

h 56670344An picture dated October 10, 2020, reveals Lebanese activist and Hezbollah critic Lokman Slim [File: EPA]

‘Communist and a democrat’

Hatim Hamoud, additionally current on the protest, mentioned he had come to pay his respects to a co-ideologue. “Lokman was a communist and a democrat,” mentioned Hamoud. “He was killed in the south. Not an ant can move there without Hezbollah knowing.”

Hamoud, like many others, voiced concern that Lebanon may return to the times of political killings and bombings that it witnessed between 2004 and 2008.

“The well-locked iron gate on political killings has reopened with Lokman’s murder and we suspect we will see more assassinations of critics,” he instructed Al Jazeera.

Slim’s killing has generated combined feelings among the many Lebanese, who’ve been making an attempt for 16 months to overthrow the governing elite and substitute the previous sect-based power-sharing system with a brand new secular social contract.

While activists say they’re decided to remain the course, they admit that Slim’s killing has renewed previous fears.

Luna Safwan, a younger and outspoken Lebanese journalist who has usually been threatened on-line for expressing anti-Hezbollah views, mentioned she acquired “GIFs of cars exploding”.

Many of the assassinations within the 2000s had been carried out by car-bombs, together with that of the previous prime minister, Rafik Hariri, in 2005.

“I feel that freedom of speech is threatened, not only me personally,” she instructed Al Jazeera from Beirut. “Some entities don’t want us to do our work and the only way to send a clear message about it is through assassinations. This reminds us of what being opinionated meant back in 2005 in Lebanon.”

2021 02 11T124002Z 1096776123 RC2CQL99ZKDH RTRMADP 3 LEBANON SECURITY ACTIVISTActivists maintain up items of paper with the phrases in Arabic ‘zero fear’ in the course of the memorial service for Lokman Slim [Mohamed Azakir/Reuters]

‘Blood-stained hands’

Safwan’s brother Jad Safwan works on the Samir Kassir Foundation, an NGO named after the outstanding Palestinian journalist who was killed, additionally in a automobile bomb blast, simply months after Hariri.

Jad attended the protest towards Slim’s killing, held at Kassir’s marbled memorial along with his bronze statue sitting underneath a cover of bushes. He mentioned it appeared futile to attempt to search justice.

“We rarely heard of any development in the investigations in Samir’s case and it has been so many years,” mentioned Jad.

Hariri’s son and present prime minister-designate, Saad Hariri, mentioned on the time “the blood-stained hands that assassinated Rafiq Hariri are the same ones that assassinated Samir Kassir”, implying the involvement of the Syrian authorities and its native allies Hezbollah.

The trial in Rafiq Hariri’s assassination case was performed by a world courtroom over a interval of 11 years and convicted simply one of many 4 Hezbollah members accused of murder. But because the trial was held in absentia, and Hezbollah is believed to be defending him, even he stays scot-free.

‘Extremely pessimistic’

In the opposite assassinations of journalists, writers, and activists, nobody has been indicted.

A tradition of impunity has prevailed and nobody now expects there to be an sincere investigation into Slim’s killing, a lot much less do they envisage a chance the culprits may go to jail.

“We are extremely pessimistic,” mentioned Ayman Mhanna, the chief director of the Samir Kassir Foundation. “Now different outstanding critics are underneath risk too. In every other nation, legislation enforcement would get into motion if folks had been threatened on this method, however not right here.

“These law enforcement agencies have received billions from France, Germany, the US, and the UK to purchase state of art equipment, they have been trained by them. For what? Is the equipment only to be used against protesters, as a report by Amnesty International said, or to spy on journalists? This is the question for western parliamentarians to ask and find out what is done with their taxpayers’ money.”

Randa Slim, a relative of Lokman Slim’s and an analyst on regional politics, mentioned a world effort was required to attempt to search justice in Lebanon. “It is going to require long-term and sustained political organizing, lobbying, and legal work inside Lebanon and abroad to realize that,” she mentioned.

Hundreds gathered at a memorial service for Slim, to pay their respects to a person who could not have been a family title within the nation however was an opinion-maker nonetheless and standard within the west in addition to with native intellectuals.

Those who killed him could by no means be discovered responsible in a rustic the place the wheels of justice are corroded. But within the minds of many Lebanese, Slim will stay alive as a member of an elite group of activists who dared to talk their thoughts – even at private threat.

“He was a kind man who cared deeply about Lebanon and never gave up on his ideals of a country where rule of law, freedom of expression, accountability, and justice should prevail,” Randa Slim, his relative, remembered. “He spoke truth to power and eventually paid the ultimate price.”

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