French Ambassador Bruno Foucher Wednesday called for Lebanon to formally abolish capital punishment, at a conference commemorating World Day Against the Death Penalty.
Though Lebanese courts still distribute death sentences, none have been carried out since 2004, amounting to a de facto moratorium on the punishment. Former MP Ghassan Moukheiber attributed the moratorium to international pressure against execution, particularly from the European Union.
This international pressure, he told The Daily Star, often competes with domestic support for the death penalty especially when egregious crimes capture national attention. Moukheiber said the aftermath of the murder of 22-year-old Roland Chbeir was a period of notable pressure in favor of capital punishment, with the victim’s family leading the charge.
The emotional pitch of the debate has been heightened also by the question of how to punish terrorist groups. So far in 2018, the Military Tribunal has sentenced four people two of them alleged members of Daesh (ISIS) to death for the murders of Lebanese soldiers.
Caretaker Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk has, in recent years, pushed vigorously for the death penalty, especially after the 2017 murder of architecture student Roy Hamoush. “I know we would have European, Western or even international opposition,” he said at the time. “But we have a situation of deranged people carrying weapons ... Even in the 1990s when Syria controlled Lebanon’s security apparatus ... the death penalty was needed for the security situation,” he had said.
Moukheiber believes that the moratorium on the death penalty will hold, neither breaking apart nor developing into a formal abolition. Lebanon’s dependence on foreign support, on the one hand, and the public’s anxieties toward crime and the security situation, on the other, have produced an equilibrium in which change is unlikely, he said.
At the conference, meanwhile, speakers were quick to dismiss the notion that the death penalty would deter crime, or combat terrorism.
Former Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar said that crime in Lebanon was due to judicial ineffectiveness, rather than the absence of the death penalty. “We must not consider the death penalty a means of governance [which would be] a way to forget that the state has failed in its mission,” he said. “It’s time to say things as they are.”
Foucher said that capital punishment could be counterproductive in the fight against terrorism. “At a time when the region traverses a grave crisis, it would above all send a strong message to terrorists and the barbarism they bring,” he said. “‘We are staying who we are, you will not change us’ ... It would make Lebanon an example to the Middle East and the Arab world.”
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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