BEIRUT: Human Rights Watch Friday praised the Lebanese Parliament for passing a law last week to establish the National Human Rights Institute, which will help authorities investigate the use of torture and ill treatment in the country.
In a press release, the watchdog called on the government to ensure that the investigations unit can start work immediately.
“Lebanon has taken a positive, if overdue, step toward advancing human rights and eradicating the use of torture in the country...Now it’s time for authorities to follow through by appointing independent experts and ensuring that they can get to work," said Lama Fakih, the deputy Middle East director at HRW.
This legislation, which was passed during a rare session last Wednesday, established the National Human Rights Institute, a preventive mechanism made up of a 10-member committee of experts who look into issues of extralegal punishment throughout the country. The new law seeks to correct the lack of surveillance and documentation of cases, according to HRW.
As part of this law, a Committee for the Protection from Torture will be created to carry out regular and unannounced visits to all places of detention and investigate the use of torture, while issuing recommendations to improve the treatment of detainees. Visits will also be made to immigration detention sites and mental health facilities.
Meanwhile, the institute will be reviewing laws, decrees, and administrative decisions, investigating complaints of human rights violations and issuing periodic reports of its findings.
The law effectively brings Lebanon into compliance with its obligation under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which the country ratified in 2008.
"Human Rights Watch has long documented the use of torture by security services in Lebanon, as well as the failure of authorities to properly investigate allegations of abuse," the statement said.
HRW called on Lebanon to bring national legislation into compliance with the Convention against Torture, including by criminalizing all forms of torture and ill-treatment. Under the Lebanese Penal Code, Article 401 criminalizes the use of violence to extract confessions, but not all forms of torture.
“Authorities must take steps to amend the definition of torture under domestic law to bring it into compliance with Lebanon’s international obligations and investigate and prosecute alleged abusers,” Fakih added.
Although Parliament only approved the establishment of the NHRI Wednesday, the beginnings of the first draft had been crafted in 2009.
Parliament’s work has been frozen since former President Michel Sleiman’s term ended in May 2014. Parliament can only meet to elect a new president or in extraordinary sessions to pass pressing legislation.
Source & Link : The Daily Star