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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August 17, 2011

Daily star - Plan to improve prison conditions outlined, August 17, 2011

BEIRUT: Ministers outlined their plan of action to improve conditions in the country’s prisons at a meeting held by Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the Grand Serail Tuesday, as relatives of inmates staged a sit-in near Parliament, demanding a general amnesty.
Several officials, including Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi and Internal Security Forces Commander Major General Ashraf Rifi, joined Mikati at the Grand Serail to define the main paths of prison reform.
Overcrowding and other problems at Roumieh prison reached a breaking point in April, with several days of prison riots, and politicians promised to tackle the grievances of inmates.
“This is a national issue … and a human rights issue,” Qortbawi said after the meeting, listing the Cabinet’s main priorities as accelerating trials, building prisons, improving the conditions of inmates and increasing security to prevent inmates from escaping.
“We need to stop this patchwork policy,” he said, stressing that the Cabinet was working in collaboration with Parliament’s Justice and Administration Committee. He also said that the issue would be discussed during Wednesday’s parliamentary session.
“No one has a magical solution,” he admitted. “But we’re working on a comprehensive plan that includes buildings [prisons], judicial procedures, and human and security issues. Let’s always remember that the prisoner … is a human being who has rights that we should ensure.”
“Prime Minister [Mikati] considers prisons’ rehabilitation an urgent matter, especially in the case of Roumieh,” he added.
Qortbawi insisted on the need to provide inmates with physical and psychological medical care, touching on those charged for drug addiction.
“They can’t be left alone,” he said.
As for judicial issues, Qortbawi defined as priorities shortening pretrial detention and accelerating trials.
“It’s wrong to detain people for years without a trial,” he said, mentioning the case of members of Fatah al-Islam, who have been waiting for trial for several years.
He said the judiciary was ready to start the trials of the members, but lacked adequate space.
Qortbawi described Saturday’s incident, when five inmates escaped from Roumieh prison, as “unacceptable” and called for “immediate investigation.”
“We need a comprehensive plan and hopefully this time we’ll reach it,” he said adding the idea of bringing prisons under the supervision of the Justice Ministry, instead of the Interior Ministry, was also being discussed. “We should … try to rehabilitate him [a prisoner] instead of having him leaving prison in a worse state that when he entered,” the minister added.
Meanwhile in Riad al-Solh square, a dozen relatives of inmates staged a sit-in to ask for amnesty for prisoners.
“In this holy month of Ramadan, we reiterate our demand of [amnesty] for the prisoners,” said Ali Amhaz, spokesperson of the Prisoners’ Relatives Committee, which has been organizing regular sit-ins in Riad al-Solh square.
“We want them to remain patient because we believe there may still be people who are faithful to their promises,” Amhaz hoped, referring to the meeting at the Grand Serail.
Nour Sabra was concerned mainly with prison conditions.
“We’re here standing for our prisoners’ rights … Lebanon is a democratic country, but in our jails, it’s not democratic at all,” said the 23-year-old, whose father is in prison.
He said that amnesty should apply to “small cases, not all of them,” allowing prisoners held for relatively minor, nonviolent crimes to be freed.
He also said the situation in the country’s prisons was “much worse than before.”
“They’re treating them like animals,” he said, calling on the government to take concrete action to protect the human rights of detainees.

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