Lebanon: Lawyer Nabil Al Halabi Forced to Retract His Facebook Posts Criticising the Ministry of Interior
Between 30 May and 1 June 2016, Lebanese lawyer Nabil Al Halabi was detained by the Lebanese Internal Forces (ISF) following a complaint by the Ministry of Interior (MoI) against him for "libel and slander" because of a Facebook post Al Halabi published denouncing corruption of MoI officials.
During his detention, Al Halabi was threatened and forced to sign a pledge, according to which he would never publish similar critical statements. As this constitutes of violation of Al Halabi's freedom of speech, on 7 June 2016, Alkarama raised his case with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression (SR FREEDEX).
Lawyer and director of the Lebanese Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (LIFE) Al Halabi, is a vocal critic of corruption, the use of military courts and the practice of torture in Lebanon, and has always been expressing his political views on his Facebook page. On 4 April 2016, Al Halabi published a post denouncing corruption within the office of the Ministry of Interior and alluding to his complicity with the managers of a sex trafficking ring discovered in Lebanon only a few days earlier, when the ISF found 75 women, mostly Syrian, who had been imprisoned, abused and forced into sexual slavery.
On 11 April 2016, the MoI filed a complaint against Al Halabi with the Public Prosecution in Beirut for "libel and slander," acts criminalised by Lebanon's Penal Code, using as evidence his Facebook post. On 15 April 2016, the Beirut Bar Association (BBA) decided to lift Al Halabi's immunity as a lawyer, putting him at risk of prosecution for a mere act of free speech. Alkarama consequently raised his case with the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council on 9 May 2016.
On 30 May at 6.45 am, members of the ISF stormed into Al Halabi's house and arrested him. During his detention, Al Halabi was forced to sign a pledge under the threat that he would be prosecuted for "having relationships with terrorist groups" such as the Islamic State or Al Nusra Front, because of his role in the past few months mediating with such groups to secure the release of kidnapped Lebanese soldiers. Al Halabi was forced to agree never to publish similar statements critical of the Minister of Interior and his staff, to retract his allegations of complicity between the said Ministry, its staff and the sex trafficking ring and to withdraw all his Facebook posts. He was then released on 1 June 2016.
"Even if Al Halabi has been released and the complaint withdrawn, we remain extremely concerned that he was subjected to reprisals and threats for acts of freedom of expression, protected by international human rights law," commented Inès Osman, Legal Officer for the Mashreq region at Alkarama. "Such accusations of 'libel and slander' are not even provided for in international law since they are often politically motivated."
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