Nada Homsi: Rights groups urge Lebanon to release US journalist

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Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International say detention of journalist Nada Homsi is arbitrary and call for her release.

Published On 8 Dec 2021

Rights groups have urged Lebanese authorities to release an American journalist held on unclear charges, describing her detention as “arbitrary”.

Nada Homsi was detained on November 16 after her home in Beirut was raided “without judicial order” and was denied access to a lawyer, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

Homsi, a freelance journalist working with the United States media outlet National Public Radio (NPR), continues to be held by the General Security, a high-level intelligence agency, despite Lebanon’s public prosecutor ordering her release on November 25.

“General Security’s refusal to release Homsi despite the public prosecution’s order is a blatant abuse of power and a very worrying indication of the security agency’s lack of respect for the rule of law,”  said Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Homsi was charged for drug possession after General Security found a small amount of cannabis at her home and charged her for drug consumption, according to her lawyer Diala Chehade, but officers from the agency continue to say she is being held for “security reasons”.

#Lebanon's General Security has been detaining US journalist Nada Homsi since Nov16 for unspecified "security reasons," & did not allow her to contact family/lawyer for 6 days after arrest. Her detention is arbitrary & GSO should release her immediately.

— Aya Majzoub (@Aya_Majzoub) December 8, 2021

No security or military charges have been filed against Homsi, despite General Security officers claiming the raid on her home was based on security intelligence gathered by their information unit, the statement said.

Homsi was also denied access to a lawyer for six days, and in violation of article 47 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, was interrogated without the presence of one, according to Chehade. Homsi was told by officers that “these rights do not apply at General Security”.

Under Lebanese law, a person can be detained without charge for a maximum of 96 hours and then must be released if no charges have been filed.

Chehade said General Security continues to detain Homsi under the pretext that she was working in the country without a proper work permit, and the agency issued a deportation order for her about two weeks ago.

“General Security should immediately release Homsi and allow her a meaningful opportunity to challenge her deportation in a competent, independent, and credible court,” said Diala Haidar, Lebanon Campaigner at Amnesty International.

“They must refrain from detaining any individuals in relation to their immigration status, and promptly identify and hold to account those suspected to be responsible within its structure for violating Homsi’s due process rights.”

Assault on journalists

Homsi’s detention comes amid what rights groups say is a crackdown on journalists in Lebanon by state and non-state actors.

According to the Samir Kassir Center for Media and Cultural Freedom (SKeyes), a media and press freedom watchdog in Beirut, more than 100 media workers have come under assault from non-state actors between the start of the uprising in October 2019 and November 2021.

Rights groups said security agencies regularly attack journalists who are doing their jobs, especially during coverage of protests. Yet accountability for such abuses remains elusive, with Lebanese authorities using the broad jurisdiction of the military courts to silence and punish peaceful dissent or criticism of the security agencies.

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