ALEF-Act for Human Rights publishes its annual report on the status of human rights in Lebanon for 2013
February 18th, 2014 – Beirut, Lebanon, On the occasion of the launching of its Annual report on the status of human rights in Lebanon for 2013, Dr. Elie Abouaoun, Member of the Board and Secretary General of the organization, presented the main findings of the report as well as the positive and negative developments of the past year in the field of human rights.
No country in the world can boast of having a pristine human rights record, and Lebanon is no exception. The continuous instability accompanied with negative social, political and economic issues has not only hampered possibilities of achieving a sustainable state-building process, but has also caused a weak rule of law and threatened human rights while weakening trust in the state on behalf of the citizens. A culture of impunity continues to prevail, where the domestic legal order became dysfunctional and operated on a discretionary basis.
Today, the protection of human rights in Lebanon remains a strategic choice towards the path to peace and security. The surge in violence that Lebanon witnessed in 2013 is the most serious threat to the right to life in Lebanon since 1990 and requires a strategic and multi-level intervention to counter violent extremism and lay the foundations of proper security management compared to the existing scattered or stand-alone reactions. As long as this might seem unpopular or even condemnable by some, it is worth insisting that in its fight against terrorism, the Government of Lebanon should still uphold its commitment to universal human rights and Lebanon’s obligations under international law. At least for one main reason of avoiding the frustrations that can emerge from illegal arrests and detention, unfair trials, torture, stereotyping and other violations which in turn can be used by terrorist group to enroll more people and further radicalize their own constituency.
Despite stagnation or even regression on some issues during 2013, it is important to note that some positive developments were reported during the last year:
- The adoption by the Lebanese parliament, in December 2012, of a “National Human Rights Action Plan” (NHRAP) with the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR),
- The code of conduct pertaining to migrant workers drafted by the Government of Lebanon in collaboration with the union of migrant workers agencies in Lebanon, the OHCHR and the International Labor Organization (ILO),
- Several court decisions issued during 2013 that criminalized the discrimination and violence against migrant workers penalizing employers responsible for violations,
- According to the Ministry of Justice, the decrease in of the ratio of convicted to pre-trial detainees in prisons from 68% / 28% in 2009 to 38.95% / 61.05%,
- The launch, in May 2013, of the process of shifting the administration of prisons from the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Justice,
- The approach of the prisons department at the ministry of justice is one that is introducing right based reform to the prison administration,
- The Committee Against Torture (CAT) visit to Lebanon in 2013,
- The adoption – by the parliamentary administration and justice committee – of the definition of torture in accordance to article 1 of the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (UNCAT),
- The continued unofficial moratorium on the death penalty since 2004,
- The Lebanese government’s decision not to close borders to Syrian refugees and to stop the refoulement of the ones arrested by security forces.
However, despite these positive developments, many violations were recorded in 2013. Of these, we would like to highlight:
- Minimal updates to the “National Human Rights Action Plan” (NHRAP) have been reported during 2013 as well as the fact that the plan does not include specific timeframe for implementation and does not enjoy a broad political endorsement,
- The protection of migrant workers remains a major source of concern. Violations by employers, recruitment agencies are still frequently reported and the relevant legal framework is still inadequate; given that migrant workers are still not covered by the regular labor law. Moreover, many migrant workers are held in administrative detention in the General Security detention facility,
- The draft law on criminalizing torture, currently reviewed by the justice and administration committee of the parliament is still inconsistent with several obligations of the convention, in particular defining the “public official”, and criminalizing refoulement in accordance to article 3 of the convention. Additionally the law does not include a government-funded system for rehabilitation while it only covers compensation,
- Lebanon did not send yet the initial report to the Committee against torture due in 2001,
- Cases of torture and arbitrary detention are still reported quite frequently, in particular in the form of administrative detention (refugees and migrant workers), detention at the Ministry of Defense (illegal prison) long detention with no trials (example: Tarek Rabaa) and other cases (LGBTQ, drug addicts…etc.),
- Despite the unofficial moratorium, sentences of death penalty are still being pronounced by the Lebanese prosecution in particular by the Military Tribunal,
- The continued practice of censorship by the Lebanese authorities as well as the pressure put by some political parties and religious institutions on these authorities to ban certain publications and productions,
- Despite the relatively easy border crossing and the permissive enforcement of the residency law, refugees entering Lebanon through illegal border crossings remain, legally speaking, under risk of arrest and deportation,
- The resilience of the Lebanese population to the growing caseload of Syrian refugees has started to be depleted, feelings of resentment are on the rise triggering minimal to large-scale violence and discrimination by the host communities towards Syrian refugees,
- The Government of Lebanon failed to adopt a comprehensive and consistent policy to address the Syrian refugee crisis. The scattered decision-making on some matters reflected in contradictory decisions (i.e. refoulement of refugees who entered illegally) and weakened Lebanon’s position in its efforts to advocate at international level for a better response to a large-scale humanitarian crisis,
- There are growing concerns about the protection aspects included in the response to the Syrian refugee crisis; knowing that this responsibility falls equally on the international community and the Government of Lebanon:
- The relatively small resources allocated to protection programs for Syrian refugees leading to often inadequate programming in the field of refugees protection,
- The Syrian refugees’ UNHCR registration card does not entitle them to refugees’ status in the eyes of the Lebanese authorities, thus basing their stay on the Lebanese residency law, which requires constant renewal,
- Imposition of illegal curfews by municipalities, targeting explicitly or implicitly Syrian nationals,
- Rising levels of violence and retaliation by members of host communities against Syrian refugees,
- The increased vulnerability of women and girls to forced and early marriages as well as survival sex and various forms of GBV. The situation is not properly recorded and is actually encouraged by the culture of impunity and the attitude of some religious leaders.
- Following the submission of a draft law by the civil society organizations seeking to criminalize all forms of violence against women, discussions at the level of the parliament has stagnated. Actors of the civil society – including women rights groups – lobbied for certain amendments to this law proposal, while religious institutions pushed back on some parts of the law. This tog-of-war between the different interest groups slowed the legislative process to a halt. On another note cases of domestic homicide have been reported during the year.
Last but not least, it is worth noting that successfully implementing reforms to remedy human rights violations in Lebanon, is the recognition that challenges today can be attributed to numerous factors such as the absence of legal culture, inadequate and archaic legislation, poor law enforcement, nepotism and corruption, culture of impunity, lack of accountability frameworks and others. However, from our perspective, the major challenge remains the absence of human rights values from most social paradigms adopted by the Lebanese population leading to a plethora of unreported violations and abuses from domestic violence to discrimination in the workplace and others. In the last years, it was regretful to see the culture of impunity and weak rule of law being solidified; causing non-state actors to take the law into their own hands.
For further information, please contact:
George Ghali, Program Officer, (00-961)-3-885-003
Dima Wehbi, Programs Manager, (00-961)-3-965-360