The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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July 16, 2016

The Daily Star- STL finds Al-Akhbar, editor guilty of contempt, July 16 , 2016

BEIRUT: Al-Akhbar newspaper and its editor-in-chief Ibrahim al-Amin were found guilty of contempt Friday at The Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague. Amin and Al-Akhbar’s parent company had been charged with contempt of court and obstruction of justice after the paper published controversial articles in January 2013. The stories included photographs and personal details of 32 confidential witnesses set to appear before the tribunal.
“I find both the accused guilty,” Contempt Judge Nicola Lettieri said. The witnesses named in the articles were scheduled to testify in the case against five men, all linked to Hezbollah, accused of orchestrating the February 2005 attack in Downtown Beirut that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others.
Amin was not present at the judgment, having refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the court and stated his intention to exercise his right to remain silent when he appeared via video-link in a pre-trial hearing. He continued to defend the publication of the names and personal details, and claimed the court was part of a Western conspiracy to discredit Hezbollah. But Judge Lettieri invited Amin to appear at the sentencing hearing scheduled for Monday.
When contacted by The Daily Star, Al-Akhbar refused to comment.
Large amounts of the proceedings were held in private session and even testimonies by publically identifiable witnesses were later redacted.
However, Judge Lettieri stated the evidence made it clear that the 2013 articles were, “Objectively likely to undermine the public’s confidence in the tribunal’s ability to protect the confidentiality of witnesses in the future,” and thus constituted an “obstruction of justice.”
Defense counselors had made the case in April of this year that witnesses experienced no significant repercussions as a result of Al-Akhbar revealing their connection the tribunal. However, witness Mahmoud Assi, manager of the Sidon branch of the Capital Insurance and Reinsurance Company, stated he’d asked for a clarification to be printed in Al-Akhbar following the publishing of his name. The witness’s perceived reluctance to give a straightforward reason for wanting the clarification was seen to support the Prosecution’s argument that Amin published the names in order to intimidate present and future witnesses.
Judge Lettieri said “such conduct indicates that the witness feared ramifications and threats on his life.” Anne-Marie de Brouwer, victimology expert from the University of Tilburg, emphasized the psychological and societal effects of being identified as a witness in her testimony.
In the judgment, Judge Lettieri noted that the first article, entitled “STL Leaks: The Prosecution’s Surprise Witnesses,” published on the Jan. 15, was met with consternation from politicians, journalists, security personnel, and witnesses alike who stressed the paper was breaking the law.
Amin gave the go ahead and authored a story exposing a further 15 names four days later in the second article titled, “The STL Witness List: Why We Published.”
Amin’s role as a director of the accused parent company and as the editorial power in publishing the articles on the company’s behalf were the grounds for Lettieri finding the accused corporate entity equally “Guilty to charges, beyond reasonable doubt.”
Lettieri also supported the judgment in light of internationally recognized rights of freedom to expression. “The tribunal must balance the freedom of the press and the need to ensure the integrity of judicial proceedings,” he said. “The profession of the journalism may not be used as an impenetrable shield ... I see no journalistic value or pressing social need in publishing the photographs and information,” he added.
In September 2015, Judge Lettieri delivered a not-guilty judgment on similar charges brought against Al-Jadeed TV and journalist Karma al-Khayat for allegedly publishing the names of confidential witnesses. That case is currently under appeal.
However, today’s judgment is equally an initial verdict and therefore can be appealed.

Source & Link : The Daily Star

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