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Investigation at standstill four years after Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir’s murder

Investigation at standstill four years after Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir’s murder
Maiysa Kassir, youngest daughter of slain Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir, cries on her father's coffin during his funeral in central Beirut June 4, 2005. Hundreds of mourners, including key opposition leaders, flocked to the prominent journalist's funeral on Saturday amid intesifying calls for an international inquiry into his assassination.

It has been four years since the murder of Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir, but those behind the crime are still at large.

Kassir, a prominent columnist for the daily Al-Nahar and an influential democracy advocate, was killed outside his home in East Beirut by a bomb placed in his car on June 2, 2005. His assassination occurred nearly six months before the murder, under similar circumstances, of Gebran Tueni, another outspoken columnist and managing director for the same leading Lebanese daily. Both Kassir and Tueni had earned a reputation for criticising Syria's poor human rights record.

Another assiduous critic of neighboring Syria's government, reporter and talk-show host May Chidiac, formerly with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, lost an arm and a leg when a bomb exploded in September 2005 under the driver's seat of her car near the port city of Jounieh.

The three incidents occurred amid a series of assassination attempts and attacks on journalists and political figures in Lebanon following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in February 2005.

To date, no progress has been made in the investigation into the murders of Kassir and Tueni and the assassination attempt on Chidiac. The assassination of Kassir, who held French citizenship in addition to his Lebanese nationality, was also investigated by a French judge.

"The failure to bring to justice the killers of our colleagues Samir Kassir and Gebran Tueni is a blot on Lebanon's press freedom record," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ programme coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa. "We call on the international tribunal to intensify its efforts to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice."

“The investigators have made little progress in the four year’s since Kassir’s death,” Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) said. “The complex political situation in Lebanon has had an effect on the investigation but we strongly urge both the French and Lebanese authorities to shed light on this murder. Lebanese journalists will not be able to work safely until those responsible have been punished.”

A Special Court for Lebanon was set up in the Netherlands by the UN Security Council in 2007 and inaugurated in March 2009. Lebanese authorities pledged to fully cooperate with the international tribunal, which was set up to shed light on the murder of Hariri and scores of other political and media figures.

Special Court Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare was quoted by local and international media as saying that the tribunal was committed to "help the people of Lebanon find the truth." Gisele Khoury, Kassir's widow, told CPJ she hopes the tribunal "will soon identify and bring to justice those who killed Samir." Khoury is head of the Samir Kassir Foundation in Lebanon, which was established to promote independent journalism and protect press freedom in the Arab world.

Khoury’s lawyer, William Bourdon, told RSF: “The French investigation has ground to a halt. The investigating judge in charge of the case is about to leave this post and, for the time being, there is no sign of new developments. I am waiting for information that could confirm that, as a result of what it has learned, the Special Tribunal could extend its investigation to include the Kassir murder, given the links that have been established with the wave of murders over which it has authority.

Date posted: June 2, 2009 Date modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 718