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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March 16, 2015

Now Lebanon - Torture in prisons reported, activists sent to court, March 16, 2015

Myra Abdallah

Not only do security services and non-state actors in Lebanon freely violate human rights and international conventions, activists who report arbitrary detention and torture are sent to court.

The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) has been documenting and denouncing the practice of torture in Lebanon since 2006. In 2011, the organization published a comprehensive report on torture in Lebanon, based on testimonies and personal accounts. The report not only outlined the torture practiced by official Lebanese security services but also that of unofficial state actors, specifically the Amal Movement. Consequently, CLDH board members Marie Daunay and Wadih al-Asmar were called up for investigation. Nabih Berri, the head of the Lebanese Parliament and the Amal Movement, decided to have human rights defenders investigated rather than investigate the abuse allegations.

“The report that documented cases of torture in official and unofficial detention centers was published in 2011,” Wadih al-Asmar told NOW. “Shortly thereafter, we were sent to court by Head of Parliament Nabih Berri, representing the Amal Movement, because the report denounced torture practiced in Amal party and Hezbollah detention centers. Our aim is to denounce violations of human rights whether the violator is an official in the security services or not. We went to 12 investigation sessions before the case was transferred to the Publications Court.” Tomorrow (17 March), the first trial will be held publically in the Justice Palace in Baabda.

Strong connections in Lebanon also play a big role in the treatment of detainees. “In August 2014, I was accused of online weapon trafficking and arrested. I was detained for investigation,” said 26-year-old Charbel, who declined to identify his place of detention for fear of reprisal. “The moment we arrived at the official detention center, the officers—all wearing civilian clothing—started hitting me and humiliated me repeatedly. Every time I said I was innocent, the physical attacks were more brutal. The torture didn’t stop for the first two hours. My fiancée’s family has a lot of connections in Lebanon. When my fiancée came to ask about me, and the officers found out about this, their only concern was whether she knew I had been physically abused. They even threatened to ‘hunt’ me if she ever found out. The physical attacks stopped after my fiancée’s family’s connection started calling the officers.”

Despite continuous efforts by official authorities to deny the practice of torture in prisons and detentions centers, detainees are being tortured regularly and several organizations have been trying to report these violations. In 2008, Alefreported that “most government security institutions are suspected of committing crimes of torture and ill-treatment against vulnerable groups. Most arrested individuals who end up in detention centers suffer prolonged incommunicado detention, which facilitates torture and cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.”

In addition to physical abuse, some detainees report being humiliated and threatened. “I resisted the physical torture and did not admit something I did not do,” said Abou Amin, who declined to give his real name or the reason for his detention. “They told me I was arrested for security reasons, though I was innocent. Later, they told me I was accused of drug dealing. Nothing was clear,” Abou Amin told NOW. “I was physically abused but the physical abuse wasn’t the worst of it. They threatened to go after my family. I have a wife and two kids. I couldn’t risk their safety. I was not sure if they were saying this to scare me or if they would actually do it, but I knew that they can do whatever they want whenever they want. I am a simple man—I am not the son of a minister or political leader; I do not have enough money to bribe officers. I had to surrender and cooperate with them, even though some of what I said was not correct. I had to protect my family.”

Moreover, the practice of torture in prison sometimes leads to the death of prisoners. According to an Amnesty International report in 2013, research information indicates that the death-in-custody of 35-year-old Nader al-Bayoumi, who was detained following armed clashes between the Lebanese Army and armed groups led by Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir in Sidon, was the result of torture. “Amnesty International has spoken to three released detainees, including a 15-year-old child, who said they were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment and not allowed to contact their families or a lawyer during their detention. Two of the released detainees, including the child, said they were forced to sign documents they were not allowed to read,” the report said.

Not all of those tortured are detained because they are deemed threats to national security—not all of them commit a crime. Samer was arrested according to Article 534 of the Lebanese penal code that criminalizes “acts against nature” – used to criminalize homosexuality. He said he was tortured because they wanted him to confess his sexual orientation. “I was arrested, humiliated, and was struck many times, which left bruises on my body for days. They wanted me to admit I was homosexual. They repeatedly insulted me using humiliating terms. They also threatened to give me the ‘egg test,’ and that was the worst part,” he said. The egg test. described as torture by the Lebanese Order of Physicians and banned by the Interior Ministry in 2012, consists on inserting a chicken egg into the anus as a means of determining whether or not a man is a homosexual. It was later dubbed the “test of shame” by activists and organizations defending the rights of homosexuals in Lebanon.

“Accusing Amal and Hezbollah is not personal and does not have any political intention,” said al-Asmar. “As a human rights center, we aim to denounce all violations against human rights in order to put an end to them. If, because of this, we are prosecuted for slander, the government should then shut down all human rights organizations and only allow those strictly organizing conferences to be active.”

“The prosecutor should have had rejected the case because it is related to freedom of expression and human rights and the Lebanese authorities should have had investigated torture allegations instead of filing a lawsuit against us.”

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