BEIRUT — The US journalist Nada Homsi, who was detained on Nov. 16, has been released, Diala Haidar, a human rights campaigner at Amnesty International, told to L’Orient Today on Wednesday afternoon. Homsi’s release came hours after two human rights NGOs released a joint statement slamming Homsi's “arbitrary” detention and calling for her to be freed immediately.
Here’s what we know:
• Speaking to L'Orient-Le Jour after her release, Homsi, an American journalist of Syrian origin, said that when officers came to her apartment without a warrant on Nov. 16, "I didn't understand why, because no complaint was filed against me." She suggested that she might have been targeted for her pro-Palestine public stances and for her work as a journalist.
• The statement by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which was released early Wednesday, called for General Security to “promptly, thoroughly, independently, transparently, and effectively investigate the due process violations she [Homsi] faced since her arrest, and bring to justice anyone suspected to be responsible.”
• Haidar told L’Orient Today that although Homsi's release is “great news, we call on the General Security to investigate all due process violations Homsi faced since her arrest and hold those responsible to account.”
• Speaking to the Human Rights Watch, Homsi’s lawyer, Diala Chehade, said that General Security officials raided Homsi’s apartment on Nov. 16 without a legal warrant and discovered a small quantity of cannabis.
• According to Chehade, the police then contacted the public prosecutor, who issued an arrest warrant for Homsi and her partner. Her electronics and documents were also seized by the authorities. Although the public prosecutor ordered Homsi’s release on Nov. 25, General Security issued a deportation order against her and continued to hold her in detention.
• “Not only did General Security officers raid Homsi’s apartment without producing a judicial warrant, but they also violated her rights in detention by denying her access to a lawyer,” said Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch.
• Amnesty International and HRW wrote to the head of General Security, Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, on Dec. 1, demanding he free Homsi and examine the actions of his subordinates. The communication reportedly received no reaction from Ibrahim.
• A person suspected of drug use in Lebanon should be referred to a specialist “addiction committee: for treatment, and judicial proceedings against them should be delayed if they agree to treatment,” according to the country's drug law. On June 25, 2018, Samir Hammoud, the then-Court of Cassation public prosecutor, issued a circular forbidding pretrial detention for anyone convicted of drug use.
• HRW and Amnesty International cite Chehade as telling them that Homsi had not overstayed her three-month visa.
• Both organizations have repeatedly recorded violations of due process in Lebanon during detention and questioning, and say accountability for such abuses remains elusive.
• In Lebanon, journalists and activists are increasingly being targeted by both state and non-state entities, according to the Samir Kassir Eyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom (SKeyes), a media and press freedom watchdog in Beirut.
Update: This article has been updated to include comments from Homsi.