On Wednesday, Republican lawmakers called on U.S. President Joe Biden to sanction those behind the most recent assassination of journalist and vocal Hezbollah critic Lokman Slim.
In an official letter to President Biden, House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Lead Republican Michael McCaul and Chairman Gregory W. Meeks wrote: “This brazen assassination of an outspoken activist is likely intended to intimidate and silence others, particularly in light of Lebanon’s tragic history of political assassinations without accountability for the perpetrators,”
They urged the U.S president to use the Magnitsky Act “as an appropriate tool to hold those responsible accountable for the extrajudicial killing” of the Lebanese anti-Hezbollah activist.
In 2012, the United States passed the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, a bipartisan bill signed into law by President Barack Obama, intending to punish Russian officials responsible for the assassination of Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who had reported that Russian officials were involved in large-scale tax fraud.
Lokman Slim, who was assassinated over two weeks ago in a region of Lebanon controlled by the Iran-backed group, had long been a target of threats by Hezbollah partisans.
He used to encourage the curbing of Hezbollah‘s influence in the country. He was also an advocate for national unity and freedom and was working on the documentation of Lebanon’s civil war.
“It is very clear who his enemies are,” Slim‘s wife told The Associated Press in an interview. “It is mainly Hezbollah but, for me, it is not enough to say we know his enemies and that is it.”
It is to note that the Iran-backed group condemned Slim’s killing, calling for a swift investigation, and also condemned the accusations against its party, in a more recent speech by its leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Taking it further, a lawsuit was filed against the MTV media channel for its episode accusing Hezbollah of assassinating Lokman Slim.
Further actions were taken against two local channels, MTV and Al-Jadeed, with the Lebanese parliament’s media committee blocking them from broadcasting in Hezbollah-dominated areas.
The full letter of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee to President Biden can be found below:
Dear President Biden,
On February 4, 2021, anti-Hezbollah activist Lokman Slim was murdered in Lebanon. Slim was a valued member of Lebanon’s civil society, promoting democratic participation while also holding accountable all members of the Lebanese government, including Hezbollah. This brazen assassination of an outspoken activist is likely intended to intimidate and silence others, particularly in light of Lebanon’s tragic history of political assassinations without accountability for the perpetrators.
The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act could serve as an appropriate tool to hold those responsible accountable for the extrajudicial killing of Lokman Slim. We believe Slim’s murder could constitute a sanctionable gross violation of internationally recognized human rights committed against a foreign person seeking to exercise and promote basic freedoms and the rule of law. We urge you to consider utilizing Magnitsky authorities in calibrating the appropriate response to Slim’s murder. We similarly urge you to consider any relevant information, including with respect to officials in the Governments of Lebanon and Iran, if appropriate in calibrating such a response.
We look forward to working with you in our shared pursuit of respect for human rights and democratic institutions.