ATFL Strongly Condemns Luqman Slim Assassination, Urges Restraint by Security Forces in Managing Civil Unrest

Friday, February 5, 2021

Washington, DC, February 5, 2020 (ATFL) – The American Task Force on Lebanon (ATFL), a leadership organization of Americans of Lebanese descent working to promote strong US-Lebanon ties, is greatly disturbed by the increased violence in Lebanon, compounded by the assassination of Luqman Slim, a journalist, film maker, and advocate, who was a critic of the government and Hezbollah’s role in the country. His body was found on February 4 with multiple gunshot wounds. Slim had been receiving threats for the past several years, yet he refused to leave his Shia neighborhood near Beirut. His family, Lebanese political figures, and international sources including the Biden Administration have called for a full and rapid investigation. His death signals that Hezbollah will not tolerate criticism of its role in the country.

Slim’s death follows the killings of two journalists and the imprisonment by the military of another who has been investigating the August 4 explosions at the Port of Beirut. Pressure on the media has been increasing, and journalists, bloggers, and others face increasingly harsh treatment from the security forces. The causes of the civil unrest that erupted in Tripoli and elsewhere on January 25 are numerous, ranging from the lack of any findings six months after the Port blast, to the devastating economic hardships caused by the latest lockdown to combat the pandemic. The people of Tripoli, already impoverished and with the highest rate of unemployment in the country, have suffered several deaths and more than 400 injuries from protests that continue daily.

ATFL encourages the US and the UN Security Council to pressure Lebanon for an immediate and thorough investigation into Slim’s assassination. ATFL also supports the recent statement by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian calling for a full, transparent, and thorough report on the Beirut blast. ATFL further recommends that the Lebanese government and citizens collaborate on an emergency economic package to provide basic foodstuffs, fuel, and healthcare to poor communities and make funding available for the micro, small, and medium businesses which have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

Lebanese sectarian leaders cannot fix Lebanon’s problems by allowing more violence, sectarian killings, and restricting the rights of its citizens and media. By not taking decisive and responsible action to end the violence, they are complicit in the worsening situation. They have the obligation to take the leadership and responsibility to protect Lebanon’s citizens and address their immediate needs.