Responding to the trial of Lebanese comedian and activist Shaden Fakih, who will appear on Friday before the Military Court on charges of insulting and harming the reputation of the Internal Security Forces (ISF), Diana Semaan, Amnesty International’s Acting Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:
“The case of Shaden Fakih is the latest example of the Lebanese authorities’ abuse of defamation laws to curtail freedom of expression by trying journalists and activists in the Military Court.
“Over the past three years, Lebanese security and military agencies have been increasingly harassing and interrogating activists in relation to social media posts that criticize the authorities, often referring their cases to the military justice system for investigation. This prosecution is a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression, which Lebanon has most recently committed to upholding during its 2021Universal Periodic Review before the United Nation Human Rights Council. These shameless attempts to stifle activism and criticism must stop.
“Lebanese authorities must immediately drop the case against Shaden Fakih, stop subjecting civilians in general and activists in particular to the Military Court and end the abuse of laws on defamation to suppress criticism of officials and institutions. It’s essential that the Lebanese government brings national laws on the right to freedom of expression fully in line with international human rights law and standards.”
The case of Shaden Fakih is the latest example of the Lebanese authorities’ abuse of defamation laws to curtail freedom of expression by trying journalists and activists in the Military Court.
Diana Semaan, Amnesty International
The Office of Cybercrime first interrogated Shaden Fakih in May 2021 following a complaint by the ISF about a comedic call she made to its hotline during the Covid-19 lockdown, in which she asked them to deliver sanitary pads to her house. She later posted a video recording on her social media accounts and, in November 2021, the Military Court summoned her for trial scheduled for 24 June 2022.
The Human Rights Committee, the expert body entrusted with interpreting states’ obligations under the ICCPR, has explained in its General Comment 34 (on the right to freedom of expression) that “states parties should not prohibit criticism of institutions, such as the army or the administration.”
Under international human rights law, the jurisdiction of military courts over criminal cases is limited to trials of military personnel for breaches of military discipline. Access to military court sessions is restricted and the right to appeal is limited.