A delegation from the Foreign Ministry visited Paris on Tuesday to conduct an investigation at the Lebanese Embassy in France into the case of Ambassador Rami Adwan, who has been accused of rape and intentional violence by two former embassy employees, a ministry source told L’Orient-Le Jour.
The delegation, headed by Hani Shmaytelli, Secretary General of the Foreign Ministry, is expected to present its report to caretaker Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib. The report will be crucial in determining the course of action following the case.
On Friday, France made a formal request to Lebanon, urging the authorities to revoke Adwan’s diplomatic immunity. However, the Lebanese authorities did not comply with the request. An anonymous French diplomatic source informed L’Orient-Le Jour that the potential expulsion of the ambassador could be the next course of action.
L’Orient-Le Jour was unable to independently verify this information with the ministry.
Lawyer Antoine Sfeir, an expert in international law, believes that “Lebanon will probably not agree to lift Rami Adwan’s immunity.”
“If Beirut complies, Adwan will be brought before the French courts,” Sfeir said. “The delegation sent to Paris is likely to recommend recalling the ambassador.”
Sfeir went on to say, “The French authorities could well decide to expel the ambassador if Lebanon does not lift his diplomatic immunity, but I think the solution will be to recall Rami Adwan to Beirut.”
“If Paris decides to expel him, Adwan will be considered persona non grata and will have to leave French territory immediately,” he added.
A legal expert told L’Orient-Le Jour on condition of anonymity that Lebanon intends to recall the ambassador without revoking his diplomatic immunity. According to the source, the ministry's delegation is not involved in any legal proceedings but is rather conducting an internal investigation.
According to the same legal source, if Adwan is recalled to Beirut, this action will set a precedent in terms of the charges against him, as no Lebanese diplomat has been dismissed previously for rape allegations.
Adwan, who has been Lebanon’s ambassador to France since 2017, is known to be close to Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader Gebran Bassil.
Adwan is currently under investigation by the French judicial authorities. However, due to the diplomatic immunity granted to ambassadors under the regulations of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the ambassador cannot be arrested, detained, or prosecuted in the host country's jurisdiction unless their home state decides to waive their immunity.
In a statement released on Saturday, the Foreign Ministry announced its decision to dispatch an inquiry commission to the embassy in Paris, adding that the commission will be headed by the ministry’s secretary general and its director of inspection.
“Its purpose will be to investigate Ambassador Adwan and gather testimonies from the embassy’s employees and administrative staff,” the statement read.
The Mediapart revelations
The alleged rape and acts of violence came to public knowledge through the French news website Mediapart last Friday. According to Mediapart, the first woman, aged 31, filed a complaint in June 2022, alleging that she was raped in May 2020 in Adwan’s private apartment. In her complaint, which AFP had access to, the woman stated that she had refused to engage in sexual activity and had vocalized her objections by screaming and crying.
The young woman, employed as an editor at the embassy, had previously reported to the police in 2020 that Adwan had physically assaulted her during an argument in his office. However, she chose not to press charges at the time, expressing her reluctance to “ruin the life of this man” who was married and had a family. She had been in a purported “love relationship” with the ambassador, who subjected her to what she described as “psychological and physical violence, along with daily humiliations.”
The second woman, aged 28, who had also allegedly been in an intimate relationship with the diplomat shortly after her arrival as an intern in 2018, filed a complaint in February. Her complaint detailed a series of physical assaults that often occurred following her refusal to engage in sexual activity.
Notably, she alleges that Adwan attempted to hit her with his car during an argument that took place during the Peace Forum in Caen, western France, in September.
Additionally, she accuses the ambassador of trying to asphyxiate her in her own home by forcefully pressing her face into the bed at the end of December.
“My client disputes any accusation of assault in any form whatsoever: verbal, moral, sexual. He had with these two women between 2018 and 2022 romantic relationships interspersed with arguments and breakups,” Adwan’s lawyer Karim Beylouni told AFP.
In a comment to L’Orient-Le Jour on Friday, Beylouni said that his client had “largely addressed these allegations and disputes the accusations of rape and beatings.”
Adwan has “explained the nature of the relationship, which was at times tumultuous and fraught with scenes and arguments. He is prepared to explain himself, if necessary,” the lawyer added.
This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour. Translation by Sahar Ghoussoub.
A delegation from the Foreign Ministry visited Paris on Tuesday to conduct an investigation at the Lebanese Embassy in France into the case of Ambassador Rami Adwan, who has been accused of rape and intentional violence by two former embassy employees, a ministry source told L’Orient-Le Jour.The delegation, headed by Hani Shmaytelli, Secretary General of the Foreign Ministry, is expected to...