France urges Lebanon to lift immunity of envoy accused of rape, violence

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Lebanon’s ambassador to France is being investigated over rape and assault allegations following complaints by two former embassy employees, with French authorities requesting the lifting of his diplomatic immunity.

The Lebanese Foreign Ministry claimed on Saturday that it did not receive any French request to lift immunity for Rami Adwan, 48.

But the French Foreign Ministry told AFP late on Friday: “In view of the seriousness of the facts mentioned, we consider it necessary for the Lebanese authorities to lift the immunity of the Lebanese ambassador in Paris in order to facilitate the work of the French judicial authorities.”

Authorities in France opened an investigation into Adwan following the complaints issued by the two former embassy employees.

Adwan’s lawyer, Karim Beylouni, told AFP: “My client contests all accusations of aggression in any shape or form: verbal, moral, sexual.

“Between 2018 and 2022 he had with these two women romantic relationships punctuated by arguments and breakups.”

A Lebanese lawyer and expert in international law told Arab News on condition of anonymity that “lifting the immunity of the Lebanese ambassador is taken by the competent minister, the minister of foreign affairs, without referring to the Cabinet, which appoints ambassadors to their positions.”

The lawyer added: “However, the matter requires the Ministry of Justice to request the French Foreign Ministry to provide the file of the diplomat targeted by the investigations. After studying the file, the Lebanese Foreign Ministry gives permission to prosecute him in France because the alleged crime was committed in France.”

French investigative website Mediapart reported that the investigation was being conducted based on a complaint “filed by a former employee of the Lebanese Embassy named Ava, who is 31 years old and who said in the police report that she was raped in May 2020 in a private apartment belonging to Ambassador Adwan.”

According to the complaint report, Ava “expressed her refusal to have a sexual relationship and resorted to screaming and crying.”

The 31-year-old alleged that Adwan assaulted her during a fight in his office, but she did not file a complaint “because she did not want to destroy the life of this man, who is married and has a family.”

However, the ambassador “denied raising his hand against her and denounced the baseless accusations.”

He said that Ava “was trying to use their relationship to enhance her position within the embassy.”

In April 2021, the employee informed Adwan that she was leaving her position, and immediately filed a report.

Mediapart reported that Ava “provided the police with WhatsApp messages on that evening and the following day, explicitly accusing him (Adwan) of rape.”

The newspaper said that the French judicial investigation is also communicating with a second complainant, “a 28-year-old Lebanese student named Gabrielle, who had a close relationship with Adwan after starting her internship at the embassy in 2018.

“She worked in the embassy for four years until the end of 2022 and filed a complaint in February of last year, alleging that she was subjected to a series of physical assaults, often resulting from her refusal to have a sexual relationship.”

The report quoted one of Gabrielle’s neighbors, who was also contacted by Mediapart and questioned by the police, as saying that she “woke up around 2 a.m. that night and heard muffled screams.”

The neighbor said she had met the Lebanese ambassador several times and recognized him.

Adwan, previously envoy to Monaco, was appointed ambassador to France in 2017.

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