One year after the assassination of Lebanese intellectual and Hezbollah critic Lokman Slim, his family is still searching for responsibility in a country where crime often goes unpunished.
“We really need justice for Lokman,” his widow Monika Borgmann told AFP from their home in the southern suburbs of the capital Beirut, days before the first anniversary of his killing.
If his murder remains unpunished, it would be like “giving the green light to the killers, whoever they are, to continue” their crimes, she said, in the midst of stalled investigations into his murders.
A secular activist from a Shiite family, 58-year-old Slim, was found dead in his car on February 4 last year, a day after his family reported him missing.
His body was found in southern Lebanon – a stronghold of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement – but the culprits have not yet been identified.
An outspoken activist and a researcher passionate about documenting the 1975-1990 civil war in Lebanon, Slim was a divisive figure. His power over foreign diplomats in Lebanon often angered Hezbollah and its loyalists.
In several televised interviews, Slim accused the group of taking Lebanon hostage on behalf of its Iranian protectorate.
In one of his last TV appearances, he accused the Syrian regime of having links to the ammonium nitrate transport that caused the catastrophic explosion in the port of Beirut in August 2020.
Slim’s family has not received any updates from the authorities since investigations into his murder began.
This is not uncommon for a country where even investigations into the Beirut port explosion have not yet identified a single perpetrator – one and a half years after the explosion destroyed parts of the city.
“Collection of information” The judiciary is still working to gather evidence from security agencies regarding the murder of Slim, says a legal source and explains that the investigations are still in a “collection phase”.
They have not yet reached any important conclusions because not all security agencies have provided the investigators with the necessary information, the same source added.
Borgmann, Slim’s widow, said the family had been left in the dark.
“We do not really know where we are going,” she said, expressing doubts about whether any progress will ever be made.
German documentary filmmaker Monika Borgmann, widow of the murdered prominent Lebanese activist and intellectual Lokman Slim, poses for a photo shoot during a studio photo shoot at her home in Beirut’s southern suburbs on January 26, 2022 Joseph EID AFP Slim’s family has called for an independent international investigation into his murder . This is a demand that Borgmann said is within reach after UN experts last year demanded a credible and impartial investigation.
“The government should consider requesting international technical assistance to investigate the murder of Mr. Slim,” UN human rights experts said in March.
Lebanese politicians and media personalities have suspected Hezbollah’s involvement in his assassination, but Slim’s family has never publicly accused the party of his killing.
“Of course I have my opinion on who is behind the (murder),” said Borgmann, a film director, originally from Germany.
“But for me, it’s not really enough to point a finger at someone and … stop there,” she added.
“We need proof and we need responsibility,” she said, expressing hope that his killer would be imprisoned.
Borgmann said that Hezbollah had threatened Slim several times, especially in December 2019.
A group of people attacked his home in the southern suburbs of Beirut, pasted Hezbollah’s slogans and messages on the walls, called him a traitor and warned that his “time will come”.
Slim then said that he would put the blame entirely on the shoulders of the Shiite Hezbollah and Amal movements if something happened to him or his family.
“Lokman said it himself,” said Borgmann.
“Believe in justice” There have been at least 220 murders and attempted murders since Lebanon’s independence in 1943 until Slim’s killing last year, according to Beirut-based consulting firm Information International.
Investigations into these murders have rarely yielded results due to political interference or lack of evidence.
After he was killed, Slim’s family started a foundation in his name dedicated to studying political assassinations in Lebanon and the region.
“Political assassinations played a major role in controlling the political life of Arab societies,” said Hana Jaber, the foundation’s director.
They create “imaginary barriers … that discourage societies from thinking freely or producing alternative political, social and cultural projects”.
As a result, the foundation created in Slim’s honor will work to counter the culture of impunity around political assassinations and “break the isolation of those at risk,” Jaber said.
For Borgmann, the foundation will serve to preserve Slim’s legacy.
“The fight against the culture of impunity has always been at the heart of our work,” she said.
“Now we have to do it without him, but for him.”