ALEF’s 2015 Lebanon Human Rights Report reveals a persistent poor record in fulfilling basic rights, despite meagre improvements

 In 2015 the Lebanese government has shown willingness to comply with certain human rights matters; however cross-sectorial violations, lack of policies, inability and unwillingness to respond to challenges remain the strongest obstacles to state obligations in the protection, promotion and fulfillment of human rights in Lebanon. Lebanon clearly lacks capacity and funds to improve legislation, enforce laws, and report to United Nations mechanisms properly.

On a positive note, some political actors have taken action towards addressing issues such as the dissolution or limitation of jurisdictions of the military court. The Lebanese Government, on the other hand has fulfilled some of its reporting obligations like the Universal Periodic Review, the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

In most of the other issues, as crucial as they can be, such as freedom of expression, political participation, torture, refugees rights, migrant workers, forced disappearance and gender inequality, the political will to respect and promote these human rights is still absent despite the high visibility of the issues in the media.

The presence of over a million Syrian refugees continues to be an economic and social burden and a source of serious political concern for Lebanon. With the absence of sustainable solutions and solidarity among nations in terms of demographic burden- sharing, there has been an increase in the trend of violations mainly expressed by ad hoc policies by the government often in violation of human rights and refugee rights principles.

Another prominent human rights issue in Lebanon this year was the repetitive inadequate use of force by the police during the series of protests over waste management that started in August 2015. Documented reports indicate that Internal Security Forces excessively and inadequately used tear gas canisters, live bullets, rubber bullets, water cannons, and mass targeted arrests to disperse protesters. Subsequent procedures to hold individual violators responsible were limited as police officers’ actions could not be directly attributable.

The space for human rights defenders faced continued restrictions, by way of censorship of activists’ work, issuance of submission warrants, and the suspension and delay in issuance of NGO registrations. These were manifested in practices such as the judicial prosecution of the Lebanese Center for Human Rights for reporting alleged human rights abuses by Hezbollah and Amal movements. Another example is Helem, a pro-LGBT rights NGO, which has not yet received its registration number since 2004, leaving it and other organizations in this situation in a legal and administrative limbo. Activists, most recently including Ashkal Alwan director Christine Tohme, have also faced the confiscation of their passports resulting from submission warrants by the General Security in violation of a July 2014 ruling by the Lebanese Council of Ministers forbidding the use of such warrants.

A long period of political stalemate has enforced a suspension of legislative activity, one that only rejuvenated in infrequent and limited intervals. Such intervals saw the self-extension of the parliament’s mandate. The stalemate, consisting of the inability to elect a President and the self-extension of the Parliament, impacted the executive power whose actions continue to be limited.

Impunity is still widespread in Lebanon as a result of a weak rule of law that has left crimes – mainly of political nature – committed in the far and more recent past, with no prosecution. Interference of the executive in the judicial system is in violation of the principles of fair trial. Unfair practices such as the trial of civilians in military tribunals are still ongoing. Reports and allegations on torture in formal and informal places of detention have been alarming throughout 2015. In June, a series of videos and pictures were published on social media showing ISF officers inhumanely treating prisoners in Roumieh prison. Although the judicial follow up provided limited accountability, it failed to provide justice and remedy for the victims. The judicial proceedings have also failed to reach command responsibility and high-ranking generals who are liable through either ordering or ignoring the practices for months.

Migrant workers in Lebanon continue to face widespread violations and poor protection as a result of the poor design and implementation of the sponsorship system. These violations are pushing migrant workers into the realms of trafficking and other forms of abuse.

The protracted conflicts, refugee crisis and security challenges pertaining to the anti-terrorism efforts in the region not only threaten the safety of the population, but also raise concerns about the capacity of Lebanon to adequately protect and uphold good human rights practices. International and local actors are urged to provide support to the national institutions involved in addressing human rights issues and most importantly promote an accountability framework for the Lebanese duty bearers.