New York, June 1, 2009--On the eve of the fourth
anniversary of the murder of Lebanese journalist Samir Qassir, the Committee to
Protect Journalists is outraged that those behind the crime are still at large.
Qassir, a prominent columnist for the daily Al-Nahar
and an influential democracy advocate, was killed outside his home in East Beirut by a bomb placed in his car on June 2, 2005.
His assassination occurred nearly six months before the murder, under similar
circumstances, of Gebran Tueni, another outspoken columnist and managing
director for the same leading Lebanese daily. Both Qassir and Tueni had earned
a reputation for criticizing Syria's
poor human rights record.
Another assiduous critic of neighboring Syria's government, reporter and talk-show host May
Chidiac, formerly with the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, lost an arm and a
leg when a bomb exploded in September 2005 under the driver's seat of her car
near the port city of Jounieh.
The three incidents occurred amid a series of assassination
attempts and attacks on journalists and political figures in Lebanon
following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in February
To date, no progress has been made in the investigation into
the murders of Qassir and Tueni and the assassination attempt on Chidiac. The
assassination of Qassir, who held French citizenship in addition to his
Lebanese nationality, was also investigated by a French judge.
A Special Court for Lebanon
was set up in the Netherlands
by the U.N. Security Council in 2007 and inaugurated in March 2009. Lebanese
authorities pledged to fully cooperate with the international tribunal, which
was set up to shed light on the murder of Hariri and scores of other political
and media figures.
"The failure to bring to justice the killers of our
colleagues Samir Qassir and Gebran Tueni is a blot on Lebanon's press freedom record," said Mohamed
Abdel Dayem, CPJ program coordinator for the Middle East and North
Africa. "We call on the international tribunal to intensify its
efforts to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice."
Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare was quoted by local and international media as
saying that the tribunal was committed to "help the people of Lebanon find the truth." Gisele Khoury, Qassir's widow, told CPJ she hopes the tribunal "will
soon identify and bring to justice those who killed Samir." Khoury is head of
the Samir Kassir Foundation in Lebanon,
which was established to promote independent journalism and protect press
freedom in the Arab world.