The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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October 29, 2010

The Daily Star - Scope for abuses in Lebanese prisons remains frightening - October 29, 2010

By Simona Sikimic BEIRUT: Many cases of torture in Lebanese prisons continue to go unreported because of a lack of understanding, insufficient access to victims and the propensity of the establishment to turn a blind eye.
Refugees or migrant workers seem to be most at risk. Last month, Sudanese migrant Mohammad Babker Abdel-Aziz Mohammad Adam claimed to have been abused by security forces in a bid to make him leave Lebanon. But while Lebanese authorities deny these allegations, with so few people willing to speak up about the practice and military courts and intelligence services remaining outside of civil legal jurisdiction, the scope for potential abuses remains frightening, several human-rights groups have warned in the last few months.
Over 150 people have been arrested in Lebanon on suspicion of spying for Israel since April 2009 alone, leaving organizations like Human Rights Watch fearful that those facing the death penalty did not meet international fair trial standards and could have confessed to acts under extreme duress.
Testimony obtained under torture is inadmissible under international law which requires judges to throw out all cases where torture is suspected to have taken place. “In Lebanon, however, some judges do not take account of torture allegations,” said Roland Tawk, a lawyer and human-rights activist. “This leads to an extremely contradictory situation where torture is illegal, but, it is considered acceptable to use information obtained under torture, in effect validating the practice.”
The recently leaked CIA files implicating US and UK troops – as well as their Iraqi allies – in acts of torture, have only further thrown into question the ability of legal mandates to protect human rights and have once again tarnished the standing of human rights worldwide.
But torture, the act of intentionally inflicting severe physical or mental pain or suffering on a person in order to obtain information or punishing them, is a crime under international law. Lebanon, as a fully fledged signatory of the UN Convention Against Torture, is legally obliged to enact the treaty’s various clauses that supersede national rules and are seen as a fundamental basis for achieving respect for human rights and the rule of law, rudimentary features of any democratic society.
In spite of this, however, Lebanese laws remain unclear and Article 401 of the penal code, which is usually cited as preventing torture, only outlaws the use of violence without specifically prohibiting torture, Tawk said.
Human-rights activists, for their part, try to report cases, but with organizations – such as the Red Cross – only gaining access to prisons on the strict condition of anonymity, the scope to which they can do so remains limited.
Hope is now resting on a new national Prevention and Reporting Mechanism which will for the first time bring together lawyers, journalists, doctors and civil-society groups into one network geared toward improving detection and prevention capacity.
To be coordinated by Lebanese association Act for Human Rights (ALEF), the scheme is expected to start operations by the beginning of next year and will help people spot, report and follow up on abuses.
The first round of training, aimed at classifying torture and detailing the rights of detainees, finally kicked off this week and is set to be followed up over the coming months.
“Lawyers do not even always know the rules pertaining to torture,” said Tawk. “Misconceptions prevail but in some cases the law is clear and must be better used to fight violations.”
Under Lebanese law, for example, a suspect can only be held for 48 hours without charge. While this can be extended for another 48 hours, the four-day maximum is often flouted.
“We work with inmates at the Roumieh prison and they often report having been detained for upward of 20 days without charge” said Ghada Dib, a project coordinator with the Father Afif Osseiran Foundation who participated in the training. “Prisoners are moved around several different police stations where they can be subjected to extensive probes without seeing a judge or gaining proper legal representation.”
Although gaps in applying the law, and even cases of police brutality, do not tantamount to torture, not following regulation leaves detainees of every persuasion at greater risk.
“If journalists and lawyers are trained to notice these violations, the hope is that they will be able to report cases and bring more attention to them,” said ALEF’s torture prevention and monitoring project officer, Maria Emanuela Falchi. “This is the first time they are being specifically targeted and we are hopeful the new approach will yield results.”
The seeds of the project were first sown in 2007 when an EU-funded scheme began training activists to deal with highly sensitive cases, but this approach has been criticized as one sided and incapable of achieving results on the ground in the near future.
“While advocacy will, and has to continue, this is a real way of achieving more immediate results and helping individual cases,” said Falchi.

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