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Lebanon: UN requests investigation into threats against lawyer and human rights defender for his support for Syrian refugees 

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News briefing 

Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice

Geneva: January 19, 2022

United Nations human rights experts have called on the Lebanese authorities to explain the measures they have taken regarding threats and alleged intimidation against human rights defender and lawyer, Mohammad Ahmed Samir Sablouh, director of the Prisoners’ Rights Center at the Tripoli Bar Association, who has been working on documenting cases and assisting torture victims and arbitrarily detained persons from Syrian refugees at risk of forcible transfer. 

Accusations of high treason: 

In a memorandum sent to the Lebanese authorities on November 16, 2021, the experts indicated that in 2020 and 2021, Sablouh provided Amnesty International with testimonies and information regarding the alleged violations committed against Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which it published in a report. Following the publication of the report, the caretaker Minister of Justice held a meeting on April 14, 2021, with the heads of the security services and members of the Beirut and Tripoli Bar Associations, attended by Sablouh as the rapporteur of the Prisons Committee of the Tripoli Bar Association.

The experts added that at the end of the meeting, he claimed that a representative of the General Security Dectorate told Sablouh that he “should not communicate with international NGOs,” and accused him of “high treason” by endangering foreign funding of the state following the Amnesty International report while the country was in poor economic conditions. The military court also demanded the Tripoli Bar Association to lift his immunity to investigate him in one of the cases he is following up on a Syrian refugee who was severely beaten by Lebanese security men.   

UN concerns about the threats of the military court: 

The experts expressed their deep concern about the threats and harassment against Sablouh, which appears to be directly related to his legitimate work as a human rights lawyer, and their concern about targeting him for his legitimate exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and expression, as well as to peaceful assembly and association, stressing their concern as well on the alleged interrogation, arbitrary detention, and accusations of terrorism, torture, and risks of deportation for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. 

UN demands from Lebanon: 

The experts called on the Lebanese authorities to provide detailed information on the Military Prosecution’s decision to lift the immunity of Sablouh, with an indication of the measures that have been taken to ensure that human rights defenders, including lawyers, civil society and activists, are able to work in an enabling environment and carry out their legitimate activities without fear of harassment, stigmatization, or criminalization of any kind.

The experts also called on Lebanon to provide detailed information on the number of complaints of human rights violations allegedly committed by members of the security forces against journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers in Lebanon in 2021.  

The experts also requested an indication of the measures taken or to be taken by the Government of Lebanon to ensure full respect for the principle of non-refoulement and the prohibition of arbitrary and collective expulsion of Syrian refugees. 

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