Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Nizar Saghieh

Supermarket Spinneys affairs: A vaster syndicate fight in Lebanon…

Marisol RIFAI published this Nov. 2, 2013 in the French Lebanese daily Orient Le Jour.com

L’affaire Spinneys, enjeu d’une lutte syndicale plus vaste

LIBAN – JUSTICE Intimidations, licenciements abusifs, pressions sur les médias et les réseaux sociaux…

Depuis mars 2012, les accusations contre les méthodes et décisions appliquées par la chaîne de supermarchés Spinneys à l’encontre de ses employés se multiplient. Mais au-delà du cas particulier, c’est l’avenir des luttes syndicales qui est aujourd’hui en jeu.

« La diffamation est un droit quand elle relève du devoir citoyen. »

C’est sous ce slogan que plus d’un millier de personnes ont rejoint la page Facebook de soutien à l’ancien ministre du Travail Charbel Nahas.

Il comparaissait mercredi pour la deuxième fois devant un tribunal, pour diffamation. Il est accusé par la chaîne de supermarchés Spinneys d’avoir qualifié les pratiques du directeur exécutif de Spinneys Michael Wright à l’encontre de ses employés de « terroristes », ainsi que d’avoir jugé ces pratiques-là comme « méprisantes » vis-à-vis de la justice libanaise.

« Une plaidoirie est prévue le 11 décembre prochain au cours de laquelle des témoins seront présents et les preuves des méthodes “terroristes” apportées », indique à L’Orient-Le Jour l’avocat de M. Nahas, Nizar Saghieh.

Mais dans « l’affaire Spinneys », le cas de M. Nahas, bien qu’il soit le plus médiatisé, fait partie d’une longue série de procès intentés par et contre Spinneys où se joue l’avenir des droits civils, salariaux et syndicaux au Liban.

Rappel des principaux faits
L’affaire remonte au printemps 2012. La chaîne de supermarchés Spinneys, détenue majoritairement par le fonds saoudien Abraaj Capital, emploie quelque 1,500 personnes au Liban, avec des statuts très différents.

Parmi eux, des employés administratifs, mais aussi des caissiers considérés comme travailleurs temporaires et payés à l’heure ou encore des porteurs de sacs qui ne perçoivent aucun salaire à l’exception des pourboires et ne sont pas inscrits à la Caisse nationale de Sécurité sociale (CNSS).

« Tous ces travailleurs auraient normalement dû percevoir la hausse salariale pour le secteur privé », souligne Nizar Saghieh.

Cette hausse, la première depuis seize ans, avait été votée en février 2012 par le Parlement.

Trois mois plus tard, une centaine de salariés adressent une pétition à la direction de la société, pour protester contre la non-application de cette hausse des salaires.

« Des pressions et intimidations de toutes sortes ne tardent pas à s’abattre sur les signataires de cette pétition », raconte Nizar Saghieh.

Samir Tawk, l’un des employés à l’origine de la pétition, est muté du jour au lendemain de Dbayé à Saïda. « Cette pratique est une des méthodes employées par Spinneys pour pousser une personne à la démission en l’éloignant géographiquement de son lieu de résidence », explique l’avocat.

Contacté par L’Orient-Le Jour, M. Wright dément cette version des faits. « L’employé en question a été transféré pour prêter main-forte aux équipes de Saïda pendant le seul mois du ramadan, une pratique courante dans notre entreprise », souligne-t-il.

M. Tawk quant à lui, a répliqué qu’il a été averti la veille de son transfert et que Spinneys a refusé d’augmenter ses indemnités de transport.

La formation du syndicat, pierre d’achoppement de la bataille
Face à ce climat de tensions, beaucoup d’employés finissent par abandonner leurs revendications, « car forcés par la direction à revenir sur la signature de la pétition », selon M. Tawk.

Mais quelques obstinés s’accrochent et c’est alors que débute une longue bataille pour la création d’un syndicat propre aux travailleurs de Spinneys.

« Les pressions s’accentuent et, en août, une nouvelle fois, des centaines d’employés sont forcés par la direction de Spinneys à signer un document attestant leur retrait du syndicat et l’un des membres fondateurs du syndicat, Milad Barakat, est licencié », poursuit Nizar Saghieh.

Pour Michael Wright, la pétition n’est pas justifiée, « puisque nous avons appliqué la majoration salariale à partir de février à tous les employés payés au salaire minimum ».

Pour les autres, qui touchent plus, la compagnie adresse une requête au ministère du Travail, demandant une permission pour modifier la méthodologie prévue par la loi pour la majoration des salaires.

« La réponse du ministère nous demande de nous en tenir à la loi et c’est ce que nous avons immédiatement fait », clame M. Wright.

Ainsi, le directeur exécutif de Spinneys explique la raison de la colère des employés à l’initiative du syndicat par une « politisation de la part de l’ancien ministre du Travail Charbel Nahas ».

« Se rendant compte qu’ils avaient été floués sur les véritables cause de la création du syndicat, les membres se sont retirés de leur propre gré », poursuit M. Wright. Il soutient ainsi que « plus aucun membre du syndicat n’est à ce jour employé à Spinneys ».

« Normal, rétorque l’ex-employé Samir Tawk, ceux qui n’ont pas retiré leur candidature ont été renvoyés ! »

Plusieurs rappels à l’ordre
Face à cette situation, la juge des référés de Beyrouth, Zalfa el-Hassan, publie une décision qui empêche la société de licencier tout membre fondateur du syndicat des employés de la chaîne jusqu’à ce que le ministère du Travail approuve officiellement la formation de ce syndicat.

« Quelques jours auparavant déjà, l’Organisation internationale du travail (OIT) avait adressé un avertissement à Spinneys concernant ses pratiques et la CNSS avait effectivement constaté que des centaines d’employés n’étaient pas inscrits à la Sécurité sociale, ce qui représente un manque à gagner pour l’État se comptant en millions de dollars », indique Nizar Saghieh.

Pour l’avocate Mirelle Najm-Checrallah, membre du barreau de Beyrouth, il est très difficile pour des travailleurs libanais de tenir tête à des employeurs malveillants.

« En ce qui concerne la non-application de la majoration des salaires, par exemple, les employés peuvent recourir au Conseil arbitral du travail, mais ils ne le font généralement que dans le cas où ils sont licenciés, de peur de perdre leur emploi », explique-t-elle. Quant à la liberté de constituer un syndicat, celle-ci est soumise à l’autorisation du ministère du Travail, sur avis du ministère de l’Intérieur.

« Cette ingérence de l’État a été dénoncée maintes fois et elle est contraire au principe de la liberté syndicale consacrée par l’OIT », rappelle l’avocate.

Une bataille qui dépasse le cas particulier de Spinneys
Pour Nizar Saghieh, qui est également l’avocat des syndicalistes de Spinneys et le directeur exécutif du Legal Agenda, « le cas de Spinneys n’est malheureusement pas isolé, mais il a pris de l’ampleur à cause des méthodes particulièrement violentes utilisées pour faire face à la fronde salariale ».

« Le cas de Spinneys est seulement la partie émergée de l’iceberg qui dévoile au grand jour la réalité des relations entre employés et employeurs au Liban », regrette Nizar Saghieh.

Selon lui, le problème au Liban est qu’il n’existe pas de véritables luttes syndicales, « car les syndicats ne sont pas indépendants, ils sont créés par le haut et répondent à des intérêts pas toujours compatibles avec ceux des travailleurs ».

À ce jour, une dizaine de plaintes ont été déposées devant les prudhommes et au pénal « où nous invoquons l’article 329 du code pénal qui prévoit que “constitue un délit le fait d’interdire à tout citoyen d’exercer son droit civil” », rappelle l’avocat.

« Notre objectif dans l’affaire de Spinneys est de faire pression sur l’État pour ratifier la convention 87 relative à la liberté syndicale, de produire une jurisprudence susceptible de protéger le droit syndical et, plus largement, de promouvoir un État de droit et de justice sociale, loin des clivages confessionnels qui sacrifient les droits sociaux », conclu Nizar Saghieh.

Pour mémoire

Vers un printemps syndical ?

Le syndicat des employés de Spinneys menace de recourir à l’escalade

 

 

The Right to Food Safety:

Rights-Based Dialogue as a Springboard towards State-Building

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The stances taken by Lebanon’s Public Health Minister Wael Abou Faour in November 2014 took the country by surprise.

Departing completely from the norm, Abou Faour published lists of actual businesses that have persisted in producing or selling food unfit for consumption, or not conforming to health standards.

Fellow Ministers and others from outside the cabinet criticized Abou Faour, accusing him of adopting a policy of defamation that could have a negative impact on Lebanon’s economy.[1]

In response, Abou Faour argued that it was the state’s duty to warn citizens against looming threats, and therefore, to denounce those businesses even at the risk of ruining their reputation for the sake of public interest.[2]

To support his approach, Abou Faour argued that, due to their practice of influence peddling, some of these businesses wielded more power than the Lebanese state. This suggested that providing citizens with information that would allow them to avoid threats was the least that the state could do, given that its duty to protect them against such threats was a difficult task in the face of powerful vested interests.

Criticism of Abou Faour receded after media and popular support for his initiative grew.

He was emboldened and, along other public administration officials, moved from denunciation to taking practical measures: he shut down businesses and referred them to the public prosecution office. Support for his campaign grew, and suspicion about his credibility or his ability to persevere receded.

Public support fed on Abou Faour’s ability to continue with his campaign and vise versa.

Such a process could enable the state to regain some of its standing and sovereignty, after having been largely weakened and fragmented by the current political system–the regime of sectarian political leaders (zu‘ama’).

From such a perspective, regardless of Abou Faour’s intentions, his initiative sheds important light on the workings of Lebanon’s political system.

It also allows for using “rights-based dialogue” as a means to rebuild a national public opinion. This in turn could represent a step towards rebuilding the state, at a time when authority and sovereignty have become widely sect-based and fragmented.

On November 29, 2014, this was implicitly expressed by Abou Faour after a streak of media successes. He said that he chose to engage in this campaign within the framework of a reasoned confrontation against a “vast network of interests” on his part and on the part of his political party, the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP).

At its core, such a confrontation relied on the support of the “Lebanese public opinion” as a “fundamental ally.” As a result of such support, he added, “Our ambition has grown,” and the aim has become “to open a breach in the political system” and create “new horizons in politics.”[3]

Rights-Based Dialogue as a Gateway to Citizen Integration in State-Building

Abou Faour’s campaign led to the rare coming together of Lebanese media outlets of various leanings in an effort to reflect the concerns and aspirations shared by all segments of Lebanese society, regardless of their sectarian or political affiliation.

The unifying dynamic behind this confluence of coverage was the fundamental notion of citizens’ right to food security, or in other words, their right to life and health.

Some outlets pointed out the [Health] Ministry’s selectivity in dealing with different regions with different sectarian makeup. Yet their efforts remained limited and failed to turn health reform into an object of sectarian bickering.

In the past, fear of particular threats to public well being had often taken on a sectarian dimension or fueled sectarianism. In contrast, the current fear, based on awareness of serious violations of the right to food security, is taking on unifying national characteristics.

The apparent immunity from criticism that Abou Faour enjoyed reflects the importance of the right to food security that was allegedly violated and its precedence over any potential harm as a result of the minister’s policy.

One clear example was the major shift in stance of some cabinet ministers, who had at first opposed this campaign.[4] This signifies a reversal of social priorities, since the rights of citizens are being placed above all other considerations, including the interests of influential parties.

It also increases the legitimacy of the principle that “defamation,” or more accurately in this instance, public denunciation is a right when it becomes a duty.

Notably, Abou Faour not only denounced businesses that committed violations, but also threatened to expose anyone who might intervene to protect them.[5]

The statement made by Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi during a cabinet session on November 27, 2014, which was carried by some media outlets, only reinforced this trend. Rifi said that he would instruct all judges to publish rulings connected to food safety, in order to make an example of violators.

Rifi also made it clear that the judiciary would continue what Abou Faour had started.[6] It should be noted that one public prosecutor, Samer Younes, has for years, but to no avail, been reminding judges of the need to give precedence to food security over business interests, no matter how powerful.[7]

This article makes the tentative argument that the Abou Faour campaign and how it unfolded has shown clearly, and on a large scale, the kind of impact public dialogue could have when it concerns a specific, unifying right.

Not only does such dialogue affect the formation of a national public opinion. It also influences social integration. In lieu of state atrophy or acute sectarian and political division forbidding or marginalizing such dialogue, the latter is in itself likely to strengthen the state and reduce such division.

It would indeed lead citizens to unite around the state in confronting any minority, group-specific or economic influence.

Such a tentative argument faces several objections:

One objection is the claim that the present example remains, to a large extent, an isolated one. Other attempts to give precedence to one right or another, the objection goes, were less effective.

Examples include the cessation of public dialogue over the right of workers to fair wages, initiated in early 2012 by former Labor Minister Charbel Nahas, who later resigned, and the limited influence of human rights groups working in Lebanon. The latter have indeed remained unable to shape and steer public opinion, or confront the prevailing political system.

As important as it might be, this objection seems to be based on weak assumptions. The Abou Faour experience might prompt a reexamination of these assumptions about former efforts of a similar nature, rather than the latter serving as grounds to undermine Abou Faour’s efforts.

Did the Nahas experience with regard to workers’ right to fair wages truly come to an end with his resignation?

Would it not be too hasty to make such an assertion without looking at its contribution to raising the awareness of this right among workers and within public opinion at large?

Would it not be difficult to isolate the movement of public sector employees and teachers to demand the promised wage increases, including the massive protests and marches they held in 2013 and 2014 from the Nahas experience?

What about the struggle of private sector employees?

The most prominent of these was the campaign by the employees of the Spinneys supermarket company in 2012 to establish an independent union which shaped legal and media practice and discourse.

Regardless of the results achieved by those various movements, does the mere fact that they took place in the wake of the Nahas experience not lead us to think of the cumulative effect and impact of such dialogue?

Within such a context, every experience paves the way for the next, expanding and strengthening the framework of dialogue.

It would be a mistake to expect dialogue about the right to a fair wage to have an impact of the same magnitude as the current dialogue about the right to food security.

By its very nature, the right to a fair wage allows for broad social division. Aside from the strong conflict of interest between employers and employees in this regard, society is also divided over the benefits of wage increases in terms of job opportunities and economic growth as a whole.

Those representing capital holders can always raise fears of companies going bankrupt and workers losing their jobs if a wage increase were to be imposed during times of financial crisis.

On the other hand, they cannot, in any way, shape or form, defend the right of restaurants to serve spoiled meat or engage in fraudulent practices. There is also the fact that employees are dependent on their employers.

The desire to demand their right to a wage increase can therefore be balanced out by fear of losing their jobs. Such fears may indeed gain the upper hand when one considers the state of labor unions today, which have become constrained, controlled, and exploited in service of the prevailing political system.

Naturally, consumers find themselves in a radically different position being, in principle, completely independent from traders and importers.

One could therefore say that the outcome of the Nahas experience does not invalidate the tentative argument made by this author. It rather enriches it.

It is only natural for the ability of rights-based campaigns to have a unifying effect and to grow in proportion to the solidity and broadness of the social base that supports them. In this context, the difference between the Nahas experience and the Abou Faour one is one of the capacity to unify, not of the nature of the right in question.

The same reasoning applies to the work of human rights groups.

As significant as the capabilities of such groups might be, they cannot be compared to the massive capabilities wielded by the state. This is especially true as most of them work to promote rights that affect only certain segments of the population–such as women’s rights, the rights of people with disabilities, gay rights, etc.

Yet in spite of this, it would also be a mistake to downplay the importance of these groups’ achievements in terms of social integration.

One of the most prominent examples is the growing public discourse about combating violence against women. In addition to the demonstration led by the NGO KAFA on March 8, 2014, the work done by individual judges displayed a profound involvement with this movement.

Indeed, many of them issued landmark rulings immediately after the ratification in April 2014 of the Law on the Protection of Women and Family Members from Domestic Violence. Public discourse about the right to the truth in the issue of the families of the disappeared also had a significant impact.

The government was ultimately forced to carry out the ruling issued by the State Council to hand over the complete dossier of investigations on the fate of the disappeared to their families.

The second objection to the tentative argument I propose is that the most prominent factor affecting the Abou Faour experience is not the actual discourse that emerged about the right to food security, or the awareness of its importance.

Rather, it is the feelings of terror this public discourse has given rise to, on account of the long lists published by Abou Faour and the variety of sectors involved. The effects of this initiative, the objection goes, are therefore likely to recede as soon as emotions subside and reassurances are made.

According to this point of view, the momentum of interest in this issue may well turn out to be temporary, and ultimately tantamount to a publicity stunt.

This objection, like the preceding one, is likely to add to the tentative argument rather than undermine it. The Abou Faour experience teaches us that the impact of public discourse about a particular right increases, when awareness of its importance is accompanied by strong feelings of the consequences of violating that right, most notably, fear.

This is reminiscent of what Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, famously said about combating regimes that are based on emotions and interests. According to Spinoza, in order to succeed one cannot rely on rational thought alone, but must make use of equally powerful emotions and interests as well.

This is the source of unifying force of Abou Faour’s initiative. Such an initiative relates to what is clearly and evidently a fundamental right that concerns everyone, without exception.

There can be no justification for violating such a right, and doing so in fact gives rise to fear and only boosts awareness of the importance of protecting it. Moreover, only the state can enable the momentum of this initiative to reach its full extent.

Rights-Based Momentum as a Means to Strengthen the State and Improve Its Performance

As a result of the momentum created by public discourse about the right to food security, the state seems to have gained a greater ability to enforce its laws when confronting influential parties. Abou Faour’s experience and its fallout have also had an impact on a number of cabinet ministers, who seem to have learned how to properly carry out their public responsibilities.

Chief among such initiatives was Minister of Economy Alain Hakim’s decision to shut down a number of labneh (strained yoghurt) factories on November 24, 2014. He also pulled their products from the market for violating legal health conditions, and referred [all violations] to the public prosecution.

Noteworthy as well were the decisions taken by local governors (muhafizin) to put a stop to certain activities, as requested by the Ministry of Health. Chief among those was the governor of Beirut issuing a decision to shut down the Beirut slaughterhouse on November 18, 2014.

More importantly, the Council of Ministers itself took charge of the issue of food security, forming a committee to coordinate the work of several ministries in this regard in its November 27, 2014 session. The government, it argued, cannot wait for an independent food safety commission to be formed, as should be the case following the ratification of the food safety law.

In terms of legislation, there is once again talk of the need to quickly ratify a food safety law. As public opinion recently discovered, a proposal and a draft law [on food safety] have been held up for years in the halls of Parliament. The media covered the issue during this period, basing its news on reports by the head of NGO Consumers Lebanon, Zuheir Berro, and later on statements by concerned cabinet ministers and MPs.

Amid such momentum, Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb referred to the Council of Ministers an animal rights bill the ministry had drawn up years ago, in collaboration with NGO Animals Lebanon.[8] He did this merely a few days after a number of slaughterhouses were shut down, as if his ministry sought to gain some public interest for its bill by voicing similar concerns.

This was also reflected in the statement made by Executive Director of NGO Animals Lebanon, Jason Mier, to Beirut’s daily al-Akhbar. Arguing that the bill had been drawn up for the sake of people’s health and the safety of their food, Mier urged for its ratification at the nearest opportunity. He stressed that this would represent a qualitative shift in the work of slaughterhouses, farms and other facilities dealing with cattle.

Despite the importance of the examples listed above, these official initiatives have so far remained much more procedural than structural, and in the best of cases legislative in nature. Meanwhile, no initiatives have been taken so far on the part of public authorities to strengthen consumer protection associations or improve their capabilities. Similarly, public prosecutors have so far issued no rulings to deter the owners of businesses that committed violations.

What are the Perspectives of Similar Initiatives Within the Lebanese System?

What comes next?

Could institutional reform possibly achieve its goals?

Could this rights-based momentum be used to enact the necessary legislation and activate the oversight apparatus on issues of public health?

Could the standing and role of the state be thereby restored, as MP Mohammad Kabbani urged in a statement on November 20, 2014?

Beyond this, could the issue possibly have a snowball effect?

Could it lead the state to strengthen its oversight apparatus in other fields in which it is no less needed, such as that of welfare institutions? Or, on the contrary, will such discourse die down, even if after some time?

Will the issue of food oversight end up being referred to committees that do not work, are prevented from working, cover up corruption, or are corrupt themselves?

Will the impact of this momentum be merely temporary?

Will it cause no structural change? Will it, at best, pave the way for future confrontations that may prove more effective?

The second outcome is possible even if the food safety law is passed, as the legislative response is seldom sufficient on its own. The history of enforcing the consumer protection law, as well as every other social law, has always been undermined by the interests of traders and importers, which invariably lead to voiding such laws of much of their content.

The fact that the cabinet minister who initiated this campaign, i.e., Abou Faour, is affiliated to a political faction almost organically linked to the network of interests that controls Lebanon’s food supply, increased the likelihood of such a [negative] outcome.

However, raising these skeptical questions misses the point, and perhaps reflects a muddled view of the way reform works. Whether or not the Minister of Public Health perseveres in his efforts is not the point. Much more significant is whether social forces can take advantage of the momentum to strengthen the citizens’ movement in support of food safety and ensure its survival.

Despite the momentum of public discourse, the lack of any social initiative in this regard so far only increases the urgency of the issue.

The will and the intentions of those in power might be difficult to control, but what about ordinary citizens? How can they take advantage of rights-based momentum to develop their capabilities and their defiance, and thereby improve their chances of imposing their fundamental rights on those in power, whoever they may be?

[This article is an edited translation from the Arabic original, both of which were originally published on Legal Agenda].

Note:  Walid Jumblat has an important leverage in the formation of any government. And when he agrees on a policy with the powerful power broker Nabih Berry, Parliament Chairman, things get moving.

Reformist and former minister of Social Affairs: On Trial for reforming society?

It’s not every day that you get to see a Lebanese minister pleading his case in court.
But it probably should be everyday considering that Lebanon is among the world’s most corrupt countries, according to the 2012 report by Transparency International.
Posted Yesterday by  posted this Nov. 2, 2013 in The Beirut Report:

A minister on trial

The ranking is not surprising in a country where government bodies routinely fail to publish any records on how public money is spent or the fact that known militia leaders, murders, criminals and their business associates are running the government with zero accountability.

So what brought former labor minister Charbel Nahas to court this week?

Did he insulted the head of a major corporation (Spinneys supermarket chain) after it was accused of intimidating and attacking its own employees.

Nahas is barely visible in this rare photo leaning into the podium just right of attorney Nizar Saghieh. Court proceedings are not videotaped, photographed or recorded.

Nahhas is accused of defaming the British Michael Wright, CEO of the massive Spinneys supermarket chain by calling him a “terrorist“in a Facebook post, following reports that workers have been physically abused or fired for attempting to form a union to demand their rights.

The workers had accused Spinneys of failing to implement a government passed wage hike, denying social security benefits for hundreds of its employees and actually collecting daily fees of 5,000LL from its bag handlers for the opportunity to work for Spinneys.

The formation of the private union was considered a historic event in a country where labor rights are violated with impunity on a daily basis and the Spinneys workers received support from the International Labor Organization as well as Minister Nahas, who helped them create the union.

Activists are saying that the Spinneys worker’s union has largely been emptied owing to a vast intimidation campaign by Spinneys management.

Activists allege that Wright and his legal team have been sending threatening letters to anyone who likes, blogs or shares critical posts about Spinneys.

I have seen a couple of these emails and have also heard testimony from activists who work outside of Spinneys and say they have either lost jobs or been forced into silence after Spinneys lawyers reached out to their bosses and demanded that they cease any activities criticizing the supermarket or its treatment of workers. Much of that has been documented on the site “Spinneys CEO Against Freedoms” created by activists.

But all this did not stop dozens of supporters from attending Minister Nahas’s defamation trial on Wednesday and his defense by the prominent human right’s lawyer Nizar Saghieh. The large crowd of supporters seemed to annoy the Spinneys lawyer, who accused the minister of recruiting court attendees on Facebook.

The judge laughed and said: “Next time, why don’t you invite your supporters via Facebook?

Nahas addresses the media following the hearing.
Activists supporting Nahas gather outside the courthouse.

The audience had a laugh as well and the judge threw out the complaint noting that court attendance was free and open to the public. This last line was really interesting to me. I never knew court trials were open to the public. In fact, I’d never been to the main courthouse in Adlieh, which is quite a large and impressive building by Lebanese institution standards, though currently under renovation.

Even more interesting was the level of gender equality in the courts.

About half of the cloak-wearing attorneys I saw in the hallways were female as were two out of three judges sitting on the bench in the Nahas trial:

The only problem was that it was really hard to hear anything. The large vintage wooden-pane windows were all propped open and, with no speaker system, the voices of both litigants and judges were drowned out by the jackhammers at a nearby construction site.

But a microphone wasn’t the only type of electronics that were desperately lacking. There were no cameras and not even a sound recording of the proceedings. The only record was a handwritten one, penned by the woman in green sitting next to the judges.

Of course all this pales in comparison to the questionable nature in which cases are chosen to be heard. And why is it that we are prosecuting people for criticizing a company’s policies on Facebook instead of prosecuting the myriad of white collar crimes and kickbacks going on nationwide, not to mention the utter public sector corruption that produces a critical lack of basic services such as healthcare, electricity, water, traffic policing and internet access, just to name a few.

Part of the problem seems to be intimidation.

Few Lebanese believe in the courts or have the time to fight in them. But perhaps more of us need to start making time to attend trials at this great, seemingly gender progressive courthouse and launching complaints about the leadership that has failed us.

As for the Nahas trial, the next hearing is scheduled for the 11th of December. More updates to come.

How bodyguards of deputies and police treat freedom of expression: In Lebanon

Is it a pub when a dozen women are having a beer, in any location? Should bodyguard of politicians harass the meeting women?

Gino’s blog posted this June 29, 2013

I have met Nadim Gemayel on several occasions, and have very good friends with many cadres of the Kataeb party from my school and university days.

I have been to several private parties where Nadim was also a guest, and know that his bodyguards are the typical, macho-man, show-off, street-hardened bunch that will not think twice about littering while parked in someone’s driveway blocking other cars, and whistle at girls passing by.

What Happened

  • Nasawiya, a prominent and very outspoken feminist group in Lebanon, were holding a farewell party for one of their members, leaving this country (so many of us want nothing more than to get away from).
  • No more than 12 persons were present in the Nasawiya headquarters, which is in Mar Mikhael on the ground floor of a building, with floor-to-ceiling windows, which Nadim Gemayel thought was a pub for some reason.
  • Nadim was having dinner at Bar Tartine nearby, and when the bodyguards saw that the Nasawiya group were taking photos and videos of their own farewell party, barged in, not announcing themselves, and asking them to stop filming and taking photos.
  • When asked who he was and under what authority Nadim was invading private property and ordering people around, the bodyguard refused to introduce their patron.
  • Eventually, it was learned that it’s because an MP was having dinner nearby and didn’t want anyone taking photos of him (they didn’t even specify the MP)
  • Of course, the Nasawiya NGO, which is a participant in the ongoing peaceful demonstrations against the illegal extension of the Lebanese parliament’s term, started chanting against whoever the MP was.
  • That’s when the bodyguards pulled out their weapons, a handgun and an assault rifle, and threatened the Nasawiya members, putting the assault rifle to one of their heads and declaring that they have permission to shoot, while insulting and cursing the peaceful activists.
  • The police were called in, and the activists were herded into their HQ and kept there for two hours as Nadim finished his dinner and Gemayel managed to gather local Kataeb supporters that wanted a piece of the Nasawiya group.
  • When the Kataeb supporters got violent and pulled a person from the Nasawiya group with his shirt, the police fired two shots in the air, in a residential area, to disperse the crowd and end the altercation.
  • A while after the altercation was done, and Nadim left, the Nasawiya activists headed home, and physically safe.

ترهيب المتظاهرين والمارين في الجميزه<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
مرافق #نديم_الجميل<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
nadim_gemayel#<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
شكراً نديم!

Policeman aiding a bodyguard carrying a gun

Why Gemayel Screwed Up Big Time

  • Nadim is known for his over-exaggeration of his security concerns. When invited to speak at AUB, he’d cancel last minute for “security purposes”, while his much more outspoken and influential cousin, and thus obviously more in danger, Samy Gemayel used to drive his own car to AUB (not a convoy) and bravely face those Nadim perceives as targeting him (Hezbollah and Palestinian activists), which is partly why I respect Samy to a certain extent
  • Nadim’s entire political career is built on him going on TV and complaining about Hezbollah’s and its sympathizers’ use of force, weapons and disregard for Lebanese citizens’ rights and freedoms. Tonight, Nadim and his bodyguards did exactly what he accuses Hezbollah of doing 24/7. I will now laugh bitterly at his broken Arabic on TV when he complains about Hezbollah. Not because I am pro-HA, but because he is a class-A hypocrite who’s obviously an MP for all the wrong reasons.
  • Nadim’s uninformed and lightning-fast PR campaign on the media was worthy of a Syrian State TV newscast. It was full of humiliating lies. For one, he thought Nasawiya was a pub. For two, he said “50 men armed with sticks and stones attacked” his convoy (which appears untouched in the video). 50 men? Really? 12 feminists drinking beers translated into 50 men armed with sticks and stones?
  • Nadim’s attempt to take a low-blow at the movement opposing the extension was pathetic. It’s as if he knows he won’t get elected if elections happen, and wants to defame the peaceful demonstrations for a purpose that shine a teeny tiny glimmer of hope in a country where MPs stay forever and their inept sons inherit their thrones.
  • There is plenty of evidence recorded by multiple sources that has not been uploaded yet, and it is unquestionably incriminating to his party of armed, violent bodyguards. So, his barrage of misinformation will be proven otherwise in the coming days, adding insult to the injury he inflicted on himself tonight with this parade of machoism, terror and condescension for the people he’s supposed to be a public servant to.

My Two Cents

  • Don’t worry Nasawiya, we’ve got your back and we have the evidence to make sure Nadim never gets elected again. The MP who helped block legislation that protects women, and who violated the most basic of our rights in extending for himself, tonight tried to deal another low-blow to the secular, pro-women, pro-democracy, pro-human rights movement, and he failed, big time.
  • Gemayel’s bodyguards’ unacceptable behavior has weakened his already shaky political career. The only ammo he uses against Hezbollah, turned against him tonight. Nadim is just as bad as the thugs he wails about on TV day and night.
  • It’s funny that less than 24-hours about his controversial “prediction” that the “era of political assassinations is coming back”, he creates this fantastical epic lie that 50 men attacked his convoy unexpectedly. How convenient for the MP who works hardest to get noticed.
  • It’s also funny that he needs a whole convoy, that block a whole street, to go have dinner with his constituents. Who’s Nadim trying to impress? And since when did flashy SUVs protect anyone from the assassination attempts he’s predicting? Keep your own problems yours, don’t ruin citizens nights and threaten and humiliate them just because you’re an MP. For shame, abusing the power the people gave you with the money their taxes provide.
  • I think he should fire his bodyguards and media reps and try to do some damage control after apologizing. The bodyguards obviously thought that brandishing a gun and a rifle in front of a bunch of girls would scare them off, a gamble that backfired, big-time, in today’s tweet-friendly, camera-phone age. You can’t hide anything anymore, and you’d better start acting like it’s 2013, where warlords and political dynasties are history, and where no matter who your dad was, you have absolutely no right to threaten, brutalize and defame the people that pay the salary you buy those 3 shiny SUVs with.
  • Shame on you Gemayel, for tonight, you proved to the Lebanese public that you’re just another crooked, corrupt, attention-seeking and deceitful politician who will sink to epic lows just to protect the seat you have taken hostage. And don’t you ever dare of talking about others carrying and using guns to terrorize people from this day forward. To us, you’re just as bad as any other militia that keeps you up at night.
Note 1: Nasawiya released this statement: “Victory! Everyone has been released from the police station and Nadim Gemayel’s bodyguard, R.M., who attacked the activists last night – and again this afternoon – has been taken into custody by the police after the activists surrounded his car for over 30 minutes and did not let him pass even when he ran them over.
. We salute the incredible courage of these women and men. Nidal Ayoub, who was injured by R.M. is staying overnight in the hospital. We send her lots of love for a speedy recovery. The judge’s corrupt orders have been revoked.
. We want to thank our lawyers Nizar Saghieh and Nadine Moussa who stood by us and all the activists who showed up to support last night and this afternoon. The struggle continues!

Note 2: This was compiled after talking to several sources, on both sides and from third parties, reviewing the evidence and putting the pieces together. I trust the above completely, and am as shocked as you probably are that things would come to this. I just wish I was there with them when the assault happened, so I could have chronicled every single detail of what went down there. Let’s hope the judiciary does its job without being threatened by Gemayel and his bodyguards, but if not, we have the evidence necessary, and even if it doesn’t throw Gemayel or his bodyguards in jail, at least we can make sure he never steps in the parliament legally again.

Video taken outside of Nasawiya

Another video taken outside of Nasawiya

Nasawiya Statement

Nadim Gemayel Statement

Nadim Gemayel on MTV

A MUST-READ eye witness account


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

December 2020
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