Lebanon’s 20th century civil war not only destabilized Lebanon, but also devastated the country’s development and protection of human rights. Its domestic legal order is now dysfunctional and often does not operate independently from the government. Today, the judicial system is subject to the whimsical decisions of statesmen and is constantly hijacked by opposing forces, legitimate and non-legitimate. Despite the atrocious legacy of the civil war , the Lebanese government has not halted efforts to promote a positive outlook on human rights on both institutional and legislative levels. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, in cooperation with special rapporteurs, have established a human rights department at the General Directorate of the Internal Security Forces. Despite such efforts, the protection of human rights in Lebanon remains perceived by decision and policy- makers as a strategic choice towards peace and security instead of an obligation, depending on whether guaranteeing these rights is in line with political interests.
However, the path to reform cannot begin without an understanding of the legal and practical causes of Lebanon’s current human rights issues. In 2013, the Lebanese government violated civil and political rights, such as the right to life, liberty and security. Lebanon also faced major challenges in waste management, the protection of green spaces, increased risks of wildfires, and toxic waste dumping.
The recognition of human rights challenges is equally important in successfully implementing reforms in Lebanon. Lebanon’s legal culture is tarnished with inadequate, and in some areas archaic, legislation. On the ground this has translated to poor law enforcement practices and insufficient criminal legislation that protects the rights and freedoms of Lebanese citizens. These challenges are further compounded by the nepotism and corruption of the Lebanese government, creating a legal wall behind which officials can seek refuge. In Lebanon there is also a general lack of awareness amongst the Lebanese public about their rights and freedoms. The lack of knowledge by citizens of their human rights leads to a plethora of unreported violations and abuses at the hand of the Lebanese government. Lastly, the current status quo has led to the state’s inability to provide and preserve human rights. Subsequently, a culture of impunity and weak rule of law have taken hold; causing non-state actors, violent and non-violent to take the law into their own hands. The non-state actors who threaten the state’s ability to exercise its sovereignty should be investigated and criminally pursued.
This annual report highlights the most common human rights abuses in Lebanon in 2013. The report focuses on international standards and the obligations the Lebanese government has pledged to address. The applicable national laws to each human rights issue is also examined while the challenges in applying these laws are also taken into consideration. All of the sections in the annual report rely heavily on daily media screenings that ALEF-Act for Human Rights conducts on a regular basis. The cases, which appear in these screenings, are investigated thoroughly by the organization. Although the report focuses on the human rights situation in Lebanon in 2013, it also refers back to examples and incidents that represent a continuous trend.