Human Rights for Lebanon

Annual Report 2001

Violation of human rights on a wide scale and suppression of public liberties in the Lebanese civil society continued to be the major concern for Lebanese civilians during the year 2001. Despite the frequent promises of officials and authorities to respect and uphold human rights, evidences accumulate and focus on the wide gap between the official rhetoric and the injustice and oppression practiced by security and judicial authorities.

Our calls for the promotion of human rights in Lebanon have been met with neglect or confronted by lawsuits initiated against our organisation as well as other active groups of the civil society working in the same field. This offensive campaign is spearheaded by the attorney general and chief justice Mr. Adnan Addoum, at the top of the judicial system in Lebanon.

The Lebanese constitution and applicable laws were made to form the basis of the State, the respect for human rights and the provision of individual and public liberties. But the continuing events in Lebanon, particularly of August 2001 refute all claims by the "State of law and order". Slogans and even laws were altered to become tools of suppression by the security and judicial authorities for the purpose of eliminating all forms of dissent and subjugating the Lebanese society to the will of the Authority. The infamous judicial orders during the large-scale detention campaign in August were a clear evidence of the violation of the principles of penal proceedings. Consequently, we witnessed the flagrant contradictions in the exercise of power against the citizens ranging from banning peaceful demonstrations and student gatherings by means of repression, detention and trials to allowing others to demonstrate holding knives, sticks and axes.

We hereunder describe in detail some of the violations to human rights which we acted upon during the preceding year but are still pending, and no convincing justification has been put forth by the Lebanese authorities.

Detentions and trials
The year 2001 was marked by a long series of detentions and attacks against some 2,500 Lebanese citizens. They included journalists (editor of "al-Hayat" Habib Younes, editor of MTV station Ghayath Yazbek) and lawyers (offices of the Law Bar in the North and the detention of some lawyers). Security forces also entered university campuses, information and party centres, imposed advance censorship on newspapers and confiscated already broadcast old films in addition to discrimination against some citizens.

Security forces responded to protests by the civil society with detentions, torture and intimidation, particularly during the first half of the year and following pleas by the Maronite bishops in September 2000, claiming these protests offended a sisterly state. Among those detained were members of the "Lebanese Forces" and the "National Liberal Movement" and a number of lawyers, engineers and doctors. The Organisation has obtained reports on the conditions of these detainees which were then documented and publicised:

On 9/1/2001 Walid Dagher, member of the Lawyers Bar of the "National Liberal Movement" was detained. Armed men also arrested Mr. Jo Fakhri of Bsheri municipality and dragged him to the Lebanese Army Intelligence Centre in Tripoli.

On 10/1/2001 Siham Younes and Marwan Saliba of the "National Liberal Movement" were arrested while distributing leaflets calling for independence. Ghazi Geagea, another member of Bsheri municipality, was also arrested.

On 21/1/2001 the airport security forces assaulted and beat up Mark Sheiban, an engineer.

On 25/1/2001 Mr Maroun Gerges Taok was arrested and transferred to the Lebanese Ministry of defence; his lawyers were refused permission to see him.

On 29/1/2001 Mr. Georges Halkees Taok was illegally arrested. Some students received threats of detention and arrest, which is contrary to the statements of the Speaker Nabih Berri and the Prime Minister Rafik Hariri about respect of free expression and the implementation of laws.

On 1/2/2001 security forces set up checkpoints in several areas to prevent a stay-in of university and college teachers.

On 14/3/2001 units of the Lebanese army were positioned in great numbers throughout the city of Beirut to prevent student demonstrations against the Syrian presence in Lebanon. On the same day Lebanese military forces were reported to have entered the Lebanese TV station following a row over control and supervision of political programs. A number of employees were arrested and detained in obscure circumstances.

On 6/4/2001 the security forces allowed pro-government militants to distribute leaflets threatening to liquidate supporters of the "Lebanese Forces", the "National Liberal Movement", the "Socialist Progressive Party" and the "Lebanese Communist Party" who were preparing for a peaceful rally in the centre of Beirut in commemoration of the 13 April events and their subsequent end.

On 11/4/2001 the security forces gave permission to some elements to demonstrate while carrying axes, knives and sticks. Pictures of this armed display were broadcast by all local and international TV and press agencies.

On 21/4/2001 following a Mass held by the city of Bsheri (north Lebanon) at the invitation of the city’s priests to commemorate the 8th anniversary of the detention of Dr. Samir Geagea, a son of the city of Bsheri, the security forces launched a campaign of attacks against civilians and even went inside their homes. It was reported that Georges Sukkar, Hanna Rahme, Charbel Sukkar, Bchara Taok, and Milad Taok (who was later transferred to St Joseph hospital in Dawra (Beirut in a serious state suffering from coma, bone fractures and bruises as a result of brutal beating in his house and in the presence of his family and children) were all arrested.

On 1/5/2001 Beirut witnessed a clampdown against dozens of people of Kurdish origin in Zeidaniyeh, Ain Al-Mrayseh, Zikak Al Balat. Syrian intelligence agents assaulted people in their homes.

ON 31/5/2001 anti-riot units of the internal security assaulted and beat students and teachers of the Lebanese University who were objecting to a government decision to unify branches of the university in Beirut and the "Mount Lebanon" area in Lebanon.

On 7/8/2001 the security forces launched a campaign of arrests against 250 activists of the "Lebanese Forces", the "National Liberal Movement" and the "National Liberal Party" following a visit to the "Jabal" area by the Maronite archbishop Nasralla Sfeir and the success of achieving reconciliation among all parties and sects.

On 8/8/2001 the campaign of detentions continued unabated following detailed reports of the mistreatment the detainees are suffering and their subjugation to beating and torture so as to sign undertakings not to take part in politics or rallies or they would be sent for trial. Among those arrested major-general Nadim Lteyf representative of the "National Liberal Movement", Dr. Tofik al-Hindi representative of the "Lebanese Forces" at "Kurnet Chahwan" constituency, lawyer Georges Haddad, engineer Hikmat Dib, Mr. Georges Al-Alam, engineer Adonis Akra, Jack Mitri, Toni Orient, Rabih Fakhri, Nader Nader, Charbel Abi Akl, Charbel Waked, Toni Nakouzi, Carla Jraish, Walid Sleiman, Mario Chamoun, Rami Saliba, Ziad Abi Nader, Simon Msallem, Ghassan El-Zinaty, Hares Nakhoul, Pierre Dagher, Toni Tannous, Charbel Msallem, and other Christian activists.

On 9/8/2001 civilian elements assaulted and violently beat up protesters gathered at the "Justice Hall" under the eyes and ears of the internal security forces, the army, officials of the courts and media correspondents. The Organisation has written to chief justice Adnan Addoum demanding that the authorities bring the culprits to justice. The Organisation has in its possession the full names of those civilians and their supervisors. However, none of the civilians in question or their supervisors has been summoned or held accountable.

On 17/8/2001 journalist Antoine Basil of MBC TV station was arrested and taken from his home accused of dealing with Israel. The same charges were made against Dr. Tofik Al-Hindi, the lawyer Elie Keyrouz and Mr. Salman Samaha who were held for a period of time at the Ministry of Defence and recently released on bails.

ON 18/8/2001 journalist Habib Younes editor of al-Hayat in Lebanon was arrested and accused of establishing contact with Israel.

On 3/9/2001 the security forces arrested each of Saud bou Chebl, Claude Shaanin, Fadi al-Chamati, Toni Jabbour, George Khouri, Saade Touma and Elian Al-Mir.

On 12/9/2001 Milad Assaf and Dani Geagea were detained for carrying pictures and leaflets, and were transferred to the Ministry of Defence without court orders.

On 14/9/2001 around 150 activists of the "Lebanese Forces" were arrested while taking part in a Mass in memory of former president Bachir al-Gemayel and were led to intelligence centres in Beirut.

On 20/9/2001 the attorney general ordered that he alone could issue permits for visiting the detainees. The order followed a visit by a delegation from "Kurnet Chahwan" to Roumieh prison where they met Dr. Tofik al-Hindi, lawyer Elie Keyrouz and Mr. Salman Samaha.

On 20/11/2001 the security forces banned a dinner party for the celebration of Independence Day due to be held in a restaurant in Byblos (North of Beirut) which was to be attended by former president Amin al-Gemayel.

On 21/11/2001 units of the Lebanese army and internal security forces stormed the campus of the Faculty of Engineering at St. Joseph’s University, tore up posters and boards hung on Independence Day because they expressed views not in support of the policies of the authorities.

Public liberties (individual freedom – right of residence and movement – religious rights)

After more than one year of Israeli withdrawal, the south of Lebanon is still under partisan authority with no real presence of the Lebanese legitimate forces. As a result the citizens are subjected to personal and partisan vendettas. There were a number of incidents against property of citizens (blowing up of shops belonging to Antoine Azi in the suburbs of Sidon, Antoine Kheyralah in the suburbs of Tyre, Paul Maroun in Majdelion). Assaults were also committed against former members of pro-Israel militias. We have documented 12 assaults (blowing up of shops and cars, beating and shooting to terrorise people) against persons who have been freed after serving their time in prison accused of dealing with Israel.

Assaults against religious sanctities were also documented:
The Roman Orthodox church at Ayta Al-Fakhar (February 2001), the Church of St Georges in Tripoli (October 2001), Maronite church in Sidon (October 2001) and dynamite explosives were also thrown at a mosque in the town of Batroun (north Lebanon).

Attacks on the freedom of the press:
In addition to the detention of journalists Antoine Basil and Habib Younes, the strict censorship of the media, and the use of incitement and intimidation, we have documented a warning to MTV television station – and this is a legal precedence – that it will be subjected to the judicial process following an interview with General Michel Aoun.

Violation of individual freedoms and discriminatory jurisdiction:
Each time general Michel Aoun declares his intention to go back home he is threatened that he will face a revision of old matters. Dr. Samir Geagea, leader of the Lebanese Forces, is subjected since he was detained 7 years ago to the same threats. In addition to his imprisonment in the Ministry of Defence Dr. Geagea is prevented every while and then from his daily exercise and banned from receiving visitors or having access to his solicitor. Two of his Lawyers, Robert Haddad and Elie Lahoud were denied access to visit him in May 2001 in spite of an official permit issued by the attorney general. The prevention was a punishment for their publishing in newspapers the viewpoint of Dr. Geagea in relation to a party matter.As a result of these same political pressures the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee did not exercise its duties of visiting and checking on inmates of the Ministry of Defence prison as it did in other prisons. This is despite Dr. Geagea's pleas to the Committee to investigate the conditions of his detention and those of his colleagues, which are in violation of the basic rights of any normal prisoner.

Human Rights
Detentions and subsequent interrogation, torture and beating of detainees and their trials without any penal charges do not conform with the principles of the Lebanese Constitution or to the judicial due process particularly in the military courts where most of the detainees end up. There does not seem to be a minimum level of guarantees and right to defence in addition to the record speed of issuing sentences. We hereunder give some examples:

Financial bails:
Financial bails have exceeded 3 million Lebanese Liras ($2000) which are beyond reach of students who due to their living and economic circumstances were unable to pay them. In our opinion this constitutes an indirectly applied oppressive intimidation. The exercise of authority in this respect – raising of amount of bail, ignoring reports of assaults, coercion and mistreatment of detainees submitted by their lawyers – shows the difficult circumstances of the judicial authority in Lebanon due to the large scale and uncontrolled interlock of political powers.
However, despite the acceptance by the Court of Appeal of the appeal action of the lawyers in the military court a new phenomenon has appeared in the Lebanese jurisdiction which is the request by the government’s commissioner at the former military court, Judge Nasri Lahoud, to reject orders of the Appeal Court, something that he is legally not entitled to. Judge Ralf Riachi submitted his resignation in protest against political and security intervention in the judicial process.

It is shameful that the attorney general and chief justice at the head of the Lebanese judicial system Mr Adnan Addoum should falsely attest to interrogations made by other than the judicial authorities which are the intelligence directorate of the Lebanese Army. He even took part in these interrogations through a video film said to be the confessions of Dr. Tofik al-Hindi, and approved its distribution to the media to misrepresent the truth and mislead public opinion thereby violating the basic principle of privacy of interrogations.
The Organisation doubts the genuineness of the film which was edited to suit the scenario of dealing with Israel. The intention was to incite public opinion against the detainees who instead received strong support from the Lebanese public opinion (Statement of 13/08/2001).

Use of force:
Reports speak of the use of physical and mental coercion and torture during interrogation particularly at the hands of the Lebanese Army intelligence agents at the Ministry of Defence. This has continued despite all annual statements and reports by international and governmental agencies since 1993 demanding an end to the use of such violence, particularly following the death of Fawzi Al-Rassi during interrogation.
In reports by international human rights organisation the detainees in the Deniyeh incidents of 2000/2001, most of whom come from Tripoli and Deniyeh, have been subjected to brutal forms of torture during interrogation. And in a recent press conference Elie Keyrouz and Salman Samaha (Lebanese Forces) following their release from prison (October 2001) on bail have confirmed all above-mentioned reports and statements in respect of violations and torture.
It should be said that detentions and interrogations are exercised without any legality. During interrogations detainees are not allowed access to their families or lawyers even though the period of apprehension exceeded the 48- hour limit as stipulated by law. Oftentimes detainees are kept in solitary confinement.

All prisons in Lebanon lack the basic health and human conditions. In February 2001 Radwan Shakib Ibrahim of Upper Mashghara died in the Roumiyeh prison following his transfer after 9 years in Syrian prisons. Ibrahim was known to suffer from kidney and blood pressure problems.
Deaths were also recorded in respect of Barakat Saiid Aamil from the town of Rmeish, Geryes Shafik Saiid from Klaiaa, Abdelmenaam Saleh Karout and a Sudanese political refugee named Awadalla Jam Jakroum. No public enquiry was made and no one was held accountable. As is always the case, the deaths were described as heart attacks. At the time, the Organisation submitted questions for which no answers have been received until the present.
The prison of the Ministry of Defence, the HQ of the Minister of Defence and of the Chief of Staff, was legalised in 1995 though it has been illegally used for many years. It is notorious among all other prisons for its terror and brutality. The prison is situated in the third floor underground and lacks natural ventilation and sunlight. Inmates are held in solitary confinement for years in a row (Dr. Samir Farid Geagea, Geryes Tofik Al-Khouri, Hanna Youssef Chalita, Kamil Hanna Karam and others) where they are banned from mingling or even talking to prison guards. All they would hear are screams of newcomers crying for mercy at the hands of their torturers. Inmates are blindfolded and shackled on their way to and from toilets, interrogation rooms or interviews, although some have already spent over 8 years and have actually received court orders requiring their transfer to better prisons. This is the case of Kamil Hanna Karam, about to complete his period, Geryes al-Khouri and others.

The situation is worse as far as women prisoners and detainees. Their rights are seriously violated and are subjected to the ugliest forms of torture and subjugation. No investigation judge has taken any steps to put an end to such practices despite complaints by the detainees themselves. Many human rights organisations were shocked by these revelations.

A number of people have been detained for interrogation for many years without a trial. We name in particular Mr. Hanna Chalita who has spent 7 years in the prison of the Ministry of Defence in tragic circumstances whereby his health has deteriorated. For political reasons he has not been sent for trial.
Mr. Fadi Midhat Mkhaiber has been found innocent and released after being apprehended and interrogated for one and a half years.
The prison at Roumieh is said to be overcrowded with detainees who have not been charged.
The Lebanese authority maintains a policy of delay and procrastination in respect of vital issues and offers no convincing explanation to the public or to human rights organisations. The "Fact-finding committee on the missing and kidnapped" formed by the government is a clear example how the government does not seriously deal with violations of human rights. There are a number of matters that require solutions such as:

- The issue of Lebanese citizens still detained in Syrian prisons, and the compensation of those set free. They include people kidnapped from Lebanon and put in Syrian prisons such as the Antonian brothers Albert Cherfan and Sleiman Abou Khalil, Mr. Boutros Khawand, the musicians Karam Morkous and his brother Ziad, Lieutenant Tanios Zghaib and Lieutenant Robert Bou Sirhal and many others.
- Lebanese political exiles and deportees
- Legitimising the arbitrary arrests by the security forces, the use of coercion during interrogation and the authorities’ non-abidance with international conventions signed by the State, namely the convention against the use of torture. Particularly, some people have been previously arrested and subjected to physical and psychological torture.
- The issue of continuing violations of the right of expression, freedom of the press, and the right to receive and publish material…
- The conditions of Lebanese prisons
- The continuing detention of Geryes Tofik Al-Khouri in solitary confinement since 15/3/1994 inside a small cell at the Ministry of Defence, the HQ of the Minister Khalil Al-Harawi, where Mr. Geryes is not allowed reading or visits especially from his lawyer and religious officials. He is denied all rights guaranteed by the Lebanese law though he has already been sentenced to life imprisonment (Statement of 29/1/2001)
- the issue of holding to accountability those who assaulted students and unarmed citizens at the Justice Hall in Beirut. The statement of the Organisation was very clear in determining the responsibility. But the response was a lawsuit lodged against the Organisation (statement 24/8/2001). Later there was a confirmation of the information in the possession of the Organisation (statement 31/8/2001)

The Organisation calls upon the Prime Minister Mr. Rafik Al-Hariri to set up an emergency committee to look into the outstanding human rights issues. We believe that the political establishment jointly bears responsibility of organising the operations of the security forces and subjecting them to supervision and accountability.
The Organisation, as well as other groups working for the promotion of human rights, shall not stand idle in the face of wide-scale violations often exercised under the disguise of keeping security in the country. The Organisation which has always upheld the principles of human rights and support of the oppressed in Lebanon recalls the slogan rose in its annual conference: "Terrorism and intimidation are two faces of the same coin". We hope that Lebanon shall not in the year 2002 adopt a police regime which many countries have abandoned years ago.

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