Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Lebanon's unacceptable Lèse majesté laws

The news that Zeid Hamdan was briefly arrested for insulting our Dear Great Leader President General Suleiman (henceforth DGLPGS) was unsurprising, but nonetheless a sad reminder of the atavism of Lebanon's legal system. Indeed, every once in a while we hear of one person or another arrested for insulting DGLPGS.

In a normal country with a real "majesté" such as Britain, the laws against insulting the Queen or King have not been prosecuted since the 18th Century. In Holland, calling the Queen a whore can set you back a €400 fine.  Lebanon seems to be in a league with fine beacons of progress like Thailand in enforcing Lèse majesté laws

The problem is that DGLPGS is not a near-deity like the Thai royals. He is merely an elected official in a ramshackle democracy. Even ramshackle democracies can't function if elected officials cannot be (harshly) criticised.  

In the 19th Century, the Queen of Thailand's boat capsized. Because the Lèse majesté laws barred anyone from touching the royals, no one was able to save her. She couldn't swim. She drowned and died.

Somewhere in all of this should be a moral for DGLPGS, but now that I am sipping my third Scotch of the day, I can't quite articulate it.