As the world comes together today and shows its support for victims of torture, ALEF act for human rights calls on the government to reaffirm its commitment to eradicating torture in Lebanon. To this extent, there are three critical steps that must be taken by the government, legislature, and judiciary to root out torture.
Firstly, the detention system in Lebanon should be reformed to reduce pretrial detention and end prison overcrowding. Excessive pretrial detention results in overcrowding and detention conditions that are cruel, degrading, and inhumane. Introducing serious alternatives to pretrial detention and improving detention conditions must be a priority for the government if Lebanon is to meet its obligations under Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture.
Secondly, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and individual prosecutors must ensure, in accordance with Article 47 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, that they undertake their responsibility to exercise sufficient oversight over the judicial police in the conduct of investigations. At all times, the Code of Criminal Procedure must be followed, and the rights of suspects respected. An important first step would be to prioritise evidence gathered using modern tools of investigation over confessions extracted without knowledge of the suspect’s wellbeing.
Here, the General Prosecutor must revoke a 2001 memorandum that prevents access to counsel for suspects in the investigation stage of proceedings. The UN Human Rights Committee is crystal clear: Article 14(3)(d) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) “requires the accused to have access to a lawyer at all stages of criminal proceedings, including the initial period of police detention, questioning, and investigation”.
Allowing suspects access to a lawyer at all stages of the proceedings would remove the cloak of impunity that judicial police have over suspects in the initial stage of the investigation. In short, it would bring needed accountability and scrutiny to the investigation and custody process; two necessary prerequisites to end the culture of impunity that tolerates torture.
Thirdly, since the protests that erupted across Lebanon on 17 October 2019, there has been credible evidence of excessive force and violence against peaceful protesters by the security forces. This excessive force can – in certain situations – constitute torture under international law. As such, the definition of torture in the 2017 “Anti-Torture” Law should be amended in accordance with international law to include the use of torture in non-custodial contexts. Supporting victims of torture requires nothing less than ending loopholes in the 2017 law.
On this day, ALEF stands in support of victims of torture and asserts that the most effective way to support victims of torture is eradicating torture in Lebanon. ALEF recognizes this will require more than introducing serious alternatives to pretrial detention, prosecutors exercising responsibility and accountability, and amending the “Anti-Torture” Law, but these are essential steps on Lebanon’s road to eradicating torture and humanising the criminal justice system. ALEF calls on the government to take them.