On 16 and 17 March 2021 I sent letters jointly with other UN Special Procedures mandate holders, to the Governments of Lebanon and Syria respectively on the killings of Human Rights Defenders in those countries.
In Lebanon, intellectual, writer, publisher, filmmaker and Human Rights Defender, Mr. Lokman Mohsen Slim, was found shot dead in his car in Nabatiyeh, South Lebanon on 4 February 2021. According to reports, he was kidnapped on his way back home to Beirut after visiting a friend. He was shot six times, including three bullets to the head.
Mr. Slim documented allegations of war crimes in Syria and Lebanon and defended and promoted the rights of Lebanese and Syrian refugees in the country. He was also an outspoken critic of Hezbollah, who maintain a stronghold over the neighbourhood in which he was found dead.
Due to his engagement in Lebanon’s civic space and public scene, Mr. Slim had been repeatedly singled out by Hezbollah supporters as an enemy and frequently accused of pursuing a foreign agenda. He was intimidated, harassed and threatened on numerous occasions, as were his family and organization.
Mr. Slim’s home, known as Villa Slim, was a hub of cultural activities where debates, film screenings and exhibitions were often organised. He lived with no personal security and the gates to the house were famously always open. His murder took place at a time when freedoms and civic space in Lebanon have allegedly regressed with a surge of arrests, intimidation, threats and violence against Human Rights Defenders and journalists.
In the communication we expressed concern over the investigation, which was originally entrusted to a police station with little capacity and expertise, after which it was had been transferred to the Internal Security Forces (FSI), with no investigative judge appointed at the time of writing the letter.
In Syria, journalist and Human Rights Defender, Hussain Khattab, also known as Kara Al-Safrani, was shot dead by two masked gunmen riding a motorbike, in the cemetery area of Al-Bab, outside Aleppo on 12 December 2020. Mr. Khattab has reported on sensitive human rights issues, including the COVID-19 restrictions, victims of chemical attacks and internally displaced people in Syria. At the time, he was preparing a report on the spread of COVID-19 in the region.
He had been receiving death threats prior to the attack, positing information on social media on the identity of an individual who threatened him with a firearm. Following the incident, he moved to a different city, though a week before his killing, a reconciliation meeting was held between Mr. Khattab and the individual who threatened him.
In the communication, we expressed our utmost concern over the lack of investigation into the killing, which may have been aimed at silencing his reporting on human rights issues. In light of seven other journalists killed in Syria in recent months, we expressed alarm that these cases could have the effect of deterring journalists and Human Rights Defenders from carrying out their legitimate work.
Full communications can be found here: