Lebanon: How the judiciary is silencing the victim of physical abuse

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Women take to Beirut's streets to demand a proper domestic violence law in Lebanon on March 8, 2014.

By: Hadeel Farfour

Published Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Some judicial and security measures only seem to serve as tools to suppress the oppressed. This has been made evident through the case of Fatima, who filed a complaint against her uncle for physical abuse. However, she ended up signing an undertaking that she will not harm the alleged abuser.

Fatima Saifuddin, 21, was summoned on Monday, December 15 to the Mreijeh police station. The purpose was not to inform her about recent developments on the two complaints she had filed against her uncle claiming repeated physical assault (she was recently severely beaten and previously subjected to an attempted murder by shooting).

The irony is that the police station, which the battered girl turned to twice to complain about her uncle, summoned her to sign a pledge that she will not harm the allegedly abusive uncle after the latter filed a defamation claim against her. She was also required to provide proof of residency.

Fatima says that her uncle “based his claim on my TV appearance and what I said about the beatings I was subjected to.”

“It is specifically based on an article published by Al-Akhbar and my appearance on the TV program 'Lel Nasher' on Al-Jadeed TV,” she added.

However, the article on which the complaint was based, did not include any libel or slander on Saifuddin’s part against the alleged abuser, but discussed the way in which the police dealt with the case. Therefore, the claim was based on inaccurate and incorrect evidence. So, on what basis was the defamation claim allowed?

Joseph Musallam, head of the Public Relations division of the Internal Security Forces (ISF), explains that the police station acts upon the recommendation of the Court of Appeals, thus the decision to allow and proceed with the claim was made by the General Prosecutor at the Beirut Court of Appeals Joseph Maamari.

“It is up to the judiciary,” confirms Musallam, noting that “the security forces are following up on Fatima’s case and want to help her.”

Sources in the Court of Appeals of Mount Lebanon denied that it had issued a decision allowing a defamation claim based on an article published by Al-Akhbar or any other media outlet. They noted that “claims in regular defamation cases may have been allowed in the past two days.”

According to a judicial expert, signing a pledge has become an adopted method to prevent the arrest of a defendant and should not become standard policy, adding that the defendant should simply be heard as “not all claims are rightful, and in many cases there is an intent by the plaintiff to avoid the consequences of a criminal act committed,” such as when someone commits physical abuse and rushes to file a defamation claim to confuse the person subjected to abuse, especially if the plaintiff does not sue beforehand.

“This can be prevented by avoiding arbitrary arrests, which is provided for in the Lebanese Code of Criminal Procedure,” says lawyer Majed Fayyad, stressing the need for the public prosecutor to have access to the content and recordings of the investigations, rather than to rely on oral accounts by officers at the police station since “some of them lack the necessary qualifications to conduct the required judicial investigations.”

Fayyad adds: “This undertaking may be violated another time, but the threat to the undertaker is that the latter could be arrested again if a similar complaint in a similar context is filed against them considering that a previous pledge has been violated.”

Accordingly, Fatima’s uncle is entitled to defend his “reputation” and “dignity.” Therefore, Fatima was summoned and alerted to keep silent about her being beaten, while her complaints are being stalled.

“I would have hoped that the complaint of attempted murder by shooting I had filed – which is a public-order crime – was handled as quickly as the investigations into this fabricated case,” says Fatima. She said that she will file a protection request, adding that she is in contact with a lawyer who works with civil society group KAFA (enough) Violence and Exploitation.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

Prosecutor Joseph Maamari retired 3 years ago!!! So how come he is allowing the claim now !!!
Accuracy please !!

It would have been more expedient for Fatima to have gathered together some cash & hired a couple of thugs to break both her uncles legs in a most righteous fashion.

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