"The State of Human Rights in Lebanon: An Overview"
Foundation of Human and Humanitarian Rights-Lebanon
The publication of the Taif agreement prompted the FHHR/L to assess the settlement plan as to whether it promotes or undermines human rights and freedoms. Our study, which was published in 1989, concluded that human rights were not among the blessings the settlement agreement promised. Instead, we detected alarming tendencies to curb some of the basic individual rights- freedom of the media, of education, and of political organization and the trade unions. On the collective rights we noticed that the independence and sovereignty of Lebanon would be sacrificed for Syria's benefit.
The present report shall examine the individual freedoms (mainly political and judicial) in a first section, to be followed by the collective freedoms (social and economic) in a second section, while the third and final one shall deal with the environment.
Although the Constitution provides for freedom of assembly the government restricts this right. Any group wishing to organize a rally must obtain the prior approval of the Interior Ministry, which does not render decisions uniformly. The government banned all rallies in 1996 but made an exception during the parliamentary elections. Various political factions, supportive of the government or of opposition tendencies held rallies without obtaining government permission.
These recent developments mark a progress in comparison to the first phase of post-Taif Lebanon. In September 1993 the government ordered the security forces to open fire on a peaceful demonstration organized by Hizbullah in the southern suburbs of Beirut. Nine were killed and over 40 were injured.The labor unions, in particular, encountered throughout the past years difficulties to obtain permission to exercise their constitutional right to demonstrate. A case in point is the following incident extracted from the record for 1996.
In General Confederation of Labor (CGTL) submitted a request to hold demonstrations on February 29. The government refused to grant permission, and called on the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) to control the situation. The LAF was accorded a 90-day grant of exceptional powers necessary to maintain public order. Under this authority it imposed a nationwide curfew on February 29, which lasted 16 hours. The LAF also imposed a temporary ban on the public display of weapons by those licensed to carry arms. Several persons were arrested for violating the curfew, including three journalists. The three were accused of photographing a military installation , but were released after 24 hours. The others, about 30 persons, were sentenced from 5 to 10 days in jail.
On 4, the government prevented the CGTL from staging a sit-in in front of the Parliament building during the visit of the French President Jacques Chirac. The Lebanese Army encircled CGTL headquarters and prevented the Union leaders from leaving their offices, keeping them under provisional arrest for about 6 hours.
n the latter part of 1996, the minister of interior disclosed some of the ideas entertained by the government in its draft on the "law on political party organization". His declaration triggered an outcry when it was made known that all parties must provide the ministry of interior with a register of all members as well as the minutes of all party meetings. The Army Intelligence Service monitors the movement and activities of the opposition groups.
Unlike the first decades of independent Lebanon when the government in general did not interfere with the establishment of social, cultural, sports and private associations, post Taif Lebanon makes a privilege out of this right. A case in point is the refusal of the Ministry of Interior in 1996 to grant a permit to the Lebanese Association for the Democratization of Elections, an independent monitoring group, declaring it nonexistent.
Niether Israel nor Syria allows groups openly hostile to them to operate in
areas under their control.
The Constitution states that citizens have the right to change their government in periodic free and fair elections. However, in the course of history of the Lebanese parliamentary life, those elections were never entirely "free" nor "fair". Yet, in comparison, the pre-Taif elections were less tarnished with irregularities than the post Taif ones. As stipulated in the Taif settlement, a number of deputies were appointed, and not elected, to make the number of Muslim MPs on par with the Christian ones. Shortly after the appointment of MPs a general election was called for in the summer of 1992. Less than 15 percent of the Lebanese voted while the rest boycotted, the majority of whom did so for political reasons.
The August-September 1996 parliamentary elections represented a small step forward, the electoral process was flawed by significant shortcomings, as the elections were not prepared or carried out impartially. The most flagrant irregularities were the delineation of the constituencies which tipped the balance in favor of the Muslim communities who managed to elect not just the bulk of their MPs but also to bring to the Chamber a score of Christian MPs on the Muslim lists who displayed very little zeal in defending the rights of the Christian base they nominally represent as it played a very limited part in their electoral success.
Unlike the previous elections, losing candidates can challenge results through the Constitutional Council. Several candidates have submitted such demands, and the Council has 2 months in which to issue its irrevocable decisions. The period stipulated by law elapsed and no decision is out at the time of preparation of this report.
Women have the right to vote and there are no legal barriers to their
participation in politics. No women hold Cabinet positions. Three women were elected to
Parliament in 1996. This poor performance of Lebanese women is amplified when one takes
into consideration that the source of power in each case is a male; one is the sister of
the Prime Minister while the remaining two filled a parliamentary seat vacated by their
The Constitution provides for freedom of the press, but the government partially limits this right in practice. Freedom of the press declined significantly during post Taif Lebanon as the government prosecuted newspapers, passed a new media law to restrict radio and television broadcasting, and intimidated journalists and broadcasters into practicing self-censorship. The government also imposes direct censorship on satellite broadcasts originating in Lebanon. In March 1997 the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International protested against an arbitrary slashing of its satellite news bulletin.
Lebanon has a long history of freedom of opinion, speech, and the press. Although there were repeated attempts to restrict these freedoms throughout post Taif-Lebanon, daily criticism of government practices and leaders continue. Dozens of newspapers and magazines are published throughout Lebanon, financed by various Lebanese and foreign groups. While the press is normally independent, press content often reflects the opinions of these financial backers. This situation prompted some to say: "There are no free journals in Lebanon but there are free journalists."
The government uses several tools at its disposal to control the freedom of expression. The Surete Generale is authorized to approve all foreign magazines and non-periodical works including plays, books, and films before they are distributed in the market. The law prohibits attacks on the dignity of the head of state or foreign leaders. The government may prosecute offending journalists and publications in the Publication Court, a special court empowered to try such matters.
Moreover, the 1991 security agreement between Lebanon and Syria contained a provision that effectively prohibits the publication of any information deemed harmful to the security of either state. Under the threat of prosecution, Lebanese journalists censor themselves on matters related to Syria.
Over the years since 1990, the government severely attacked press freedoms by filing charges against several newspapers. In one 10-day period in 1996, three dailies (ad-Diyar, al-Liwa' and Nida'al Watan) and two weeklies(alKifah al -Arabi and al-Massira) were charged with defaming the President and the Prime Minister, and for publishing materials deemed provocative to one religious sect. The daily ad-Diyar alone was indicted five times and both the owner and editor-in-chief faced sentences of between 2 months' and 2 years' imprisonment and fines equivalent to 30,000 to 60,000 US dollars if found guilty.
In September 1996, the government provoked widespread protests when it moved suddenly to implement its controversial Media Law. The stated purpose of the law is to impose order on the largely unregulated airwaves and to reduce religious and political tensions by forcing the country's many small, sectarian- oriented stations to combine into a much smaller number of pluralist stations.
Most civilians, however, view the implementation of the law as political in nature. It would reduce 52 television stations to 4 stations, and approximately 100 radio stations to 11, only 3 of which would be permitted to broadcast news programs. All four television stations approved so far are owned by, or closely associated with, important government figures. Some of the approved stations are not yet operational, while a number of popular stations associated with opposition to the government have been refused licenses, ostensibly for failing to comply with the law.
A score of books were banned by the Surete Generale. Some French books on the current situation, especially those which displayed sympathy to General Michel 'Awn, are not allowed to sell in Lebanon. A book in French on the future of Christianity in the Middle East is on the list of banned books. A whole series on Islam, printed in Arabic by Abou Mousa al-Hariri, were confiscated in 1994. An anti-Maronite book by Muhammad Za'ayter was banned in the same year. In 1995 a poetry book by Abdo Wazin,"The Garden of Senses", was judged by the censor to be obscene and was banned.
In May 1996 the Surete Generale confiscated all issues of the book entitled "Remove Paul's Mask from the Face of Christ," by the Saudi Arabian author Ahmad Zaki. The book was determined by the Surete Generale to defame Christianity. This list is far from being exhaustive. It is practically impossible to draw a complete list of the books which are printed abroad and are not allowed to sell in Lebanon. Even the list of books by Lebanese authors which is banned or confiscated is partial as many authors will re-edit the manuscript in accordance with the suggestions of the official of the Surete Generale.
The Interior Ministry's Public Security Department is empowered to censor movies . All movies dealing with Israel are banned. No distinction seems to exist between movies on Israel and those which deal with Jewish themes. "Shindler's List" was never screened in Lebanon . In 1996, this department reportedly twice censored the scenes from the foreign movie "Independence Day" to remove scenes with Jewish characters, and Hizbullah later demanded a complete ban on the film because one of its heroes (played by actor Judd Hirsch) is a Jew. Two Egyptian movies which criticize Muslim fundamentalism were initially banned but later on were allowed.
In September 1996 a public prosecutor charged a singer, Marcel Khalife, with demeaning religious rituals. The same prosecutor also charged Andre Yousef Haddad with demeaning religious rituals in his book The Entrance to Arab Unity.¾ However, on September 21, facing rising criticism from various factions, the Prime Minister asked the Justice Minister to drop the charges brought against Khalife. The charges against Haddad were dropped by an investigating judge on January 8, 1997. Lebanon has a strong tradition of academic freedom and a flourishing private educational system. In many, though not in all, universities, the students are entitled by the university by-laws to elect representatives. These elections were never entirely free of attempts by the government to influence the results. We have solid grounds to assert that in post Taif-Lebanon these attempts are intensified.
Freedom of expression is never a license to incite racial and religious hatred.
Article 22, para. 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is
violated by Lebanese officials almost on a daily basis. Religious hatred is not restricted
to anti-Semitism but encompasses derogatory statements by many politicians and religious
leaders against other communities and individuals.
The Constitution provides for the freedom of religion and this right is
respected inasmuch as the concerned religions and denominations are recognized. But what
is the legal status of those who find their religious truth outside the list of recognized
creeds? There is room for improvement on this score. Many religions, Jehovah's Witnesses
and the Bahais for instance, are obliged to circumvent the Lebanese law to enjoy some of
their basic rights.
Lebanese Armed Forces and Syrian troops maintain checkpoints in areas under their control. In South Lebanon, the Lebanese Army, the Israeli Army, and the South Lebanon Army (SLA) all maintain tight restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Israel's zone of occupation.
There are no legal restrictions on the right of all citizens to return to the parts of Lebanon from where they were ousted in the course of the Lebanese war. Many of the displaced, however, are reluctant to return for a variety of political, economic, and social reason, not to mention security and personal safety. The government has encouraged the return to their homes of over 600,000 persons displaced during the civil war. Although some people have begun to reclaim their homes abandoned or damaged during the war, the vast majority of displaced persons have not attempted to rehabilitate their property. The resettlement process is slowed by psychological factors, as well as political and financial restrictions.
Most non-Lebanese refugees are Palestinians. The United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) reported that the number of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon registered with UNRWA was 352,668 as of June 30, 1996. The government estimates the number of Palestinian refugees at 361,000, but this figure includes only the families of refugees who arrived in 1948.
The government issues laissez-passe (travel documents) to Palestinian refugees to enable them to travel and work abroad. However, after the government of Libya announced in September 1995 its intent to expel Palestinians working in that country, the Lebanese authorities moved to prohibit the return of Palestinians living abroad unless they obtain an entry visa. Many Palestinians were unfairly stranded for some time until a solution was worked out.
The government seeks to prevent the entry of asylum seekers and undocumented
refugees. There have been no known asylum requests since 1975. There are legal provisions
for granting asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 Convention relating to
the status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The government cooperates with the office of
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and (UNRWA).
The security agencies, particularly the Surete Generale and the Army Intelligence, monitor the telephones of those the government considers foes or security risks. In March 1997 a parliamentary opposition bloc accused the government of tapping the cellular telephone system. Though these measures did not reach the endemic proportions of the rest of the Middle East, interference with the privacy of the citizens is growing.
Minister Elias Hubeika admitted that the telephone calls of a number of Lebanese citizens are tapped. In May 1996 the Parliamentary Salvation Bloc issued a communique asking the government to stop telephone tapping. While the government did not deny the charges of the opposition bloc, the general feeling is that nothing was done to lift the monitoring of telephones.
The wife of Samir Geagea, (former commander of the outlawed Lebanese Forces Party), is known to be placed under strict surveillance. An army check-point in the vicinity of her residence takes down the names of all those who call on her. Her goings and comings are also recorded.
All those who call on the Maronite Patriarch will have their names registered by an army check-point placed at the entrance of the Patriarchal See in Bkirke. The officials, citing security as a pretext, justify their measures as necessary precautions to protect the life of the head of the Maronite Church.
The violation of privacy is not restricted to the Lebanese government agencies.
Hizbullah and the Syrians have their own monitoring networks while the SLA and the
Israelis behind them violate the privacy in the zone under their control.
Wholesale Political killings, a prominent feature of the war years, are no more. Yet this type of human rights violation is not completely eliminated. Sporadic cases are recorded the most recent of which are the assassination of the Amal Movement leader in Beqa' and the assassination of a follower of the Druze leader Talal Arslan by Druze foes.
In February Lebanese Army Intelligence abducted Ahmad al-Hallak from inside the Israeli-defined security zone. Hallak was convicted in absentia by a military court in June 1995 for the 1994 death of Hizbullah figure Fu'ad Mughnieh and two others in a car- bomb explosion. Tawfiq Nasser, who was also sentenced to death in the same case, gave himself up to the Lebanese Embassy in Argentina and was brought back to Lebanon for trial. In August 1996 the military court found Ahmad al Hallak and Tawfiq Nasser guilty and sentenced Hallak to death while Nasser received a 10-year prison sentence with hard labor. Hallaq's sentence was carried out.
In May the Criminal Court of Beirut found Samir Geagea and codefendent Rafik Saadeh guilty of the 1990 murder of former Kata'ib party member Ilyas Zayek. Geagea and Saadeh were sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to life with hard labor. Two others were sentenced in absentia to death but their sentences were commuted to life imprisonment with hard labor.
On March 14,1996 the Court of Cassation found Bassam al Fakih and Namiq Kamal
not guilty of murder for their role in the assassination of the US ambassador Francis
Meloy and his driver Muhammad Mughraby in 1976. The court ruled them eligible for amnesty
under the 1991 Amnesty Law.
The Lebanese government resorts to arbitrary arrests and detention. The law requires security forces to obtain warrants of arrest before making arrests. However, military prosecutors, with their extensive jurisdiction, reportedly issue blank warrants of arrest to be completed after a suspect has been arrested.
Arresting officers must refer a suspect to a prosecutor within 24 hours of arrest, but this provision is often disregarded. The law requires the authorities to release suspects after 48 hours of arrest if they do not bring formal charges against them. Some prosecutors flout this requirement and they detain suspects for long periods in pretrial confinement without a court order. The law authorizes judges to remand suspects to incommunicado detention for 10 days with a possible extension of an additional 10 days. Bail is only available to those accused of petty crimes, not to those accused of felony. Defendants have the right to legal counsel, but there is no public defender's office. The Bar Association has an office to assist those who cannot afford a lawyer.
Security forces continue to practice arbitrary arrest, detaining mainly the opponents of the government. In March 1966 security forces arrested five persons for distribution of anti-government leaflets. The five, who were members of the Lebanese Popular Convention, an opposition forum, were charged and later acquitted for lack of evidence.
On July 13, 1966 the Lebanese Army arrested 88 supporters of Samir Geagea, in the village of Bsharre, in north Lebanon. Several were beaten by the Army Intelligence. Even the priest was not spared. The military court sentenced 65 of the 88 to from 5 to 10 days' imprisonment and acquitted the others.
After the December 18,1996 rifle attack on a Syrian bus, the Army Intelligence detained and interrogated scores of citizens, including the executive director of the FHHR/L, Wa'il Kheir. These measures were done without warrants and the detainees were not given access to lawyers. They were all released and no charges were leveled against them except a journalist Pierre Atallah and Hikmat Deeb, secretary general of the National Association of Lebanese Engineers,another fellow who are charged with distributing leaflets that disturb Lebanon's relations with Syria and having friendly contacts with Israeli agents. They were released on bail and up to the preparation of this report, no date is set for the court hearing.
There are credible allegations that a certain category of detainees is handled from the outset by Syrian security agents and transferred to Syrian detention centres, whether in Lebanon or Syria proper. The number of these detainees cannot be accurately determined. The only official admitttance of the presence of Lebanese datainees in Syria came on November 24, 1996 when P.M. Hariri gave the number of Lebanese datainees in Syria's prisons to be 210. The President of the Republic had given a more reduced number earlier.
The authorities often detain for short periods and without charges political opponents of the Syrian and Lebanese governments.
Local militias and non-Lebanese forces continued to conduct arbitrary arrests in areas outside central government control. The SLA detains an estimated 100 to 200 Lebanese citizens and an undetermined number of Palestinians at al Khiyam prison in South Lebanon. Since 1995 the SLA has allowed the families of the prisoners as well as the ICRC to visit the detainees. Some 82 detainees were released last year.
Abduction of civilians by non-government armed groups subsided since the end of the Lebanese war in 1990. However, this barbaric act which claimed victims among Lebanese and non-Lebanese, was not stamped out completely. Sporadic abductions are reported particularly between the Hizbullah and the SLA. In many cases, though not in all, the abducted are released.
Israel does not deny the charges that its forces abducted from the Lebanese territories several Lebanese citizens including a prominent Shi'ite religious leader Sheikh Abd-el Karim Obaid and one of the leaders of the military unit of Hizbullah, Mustafa Dirani.
The main victims of arbitrary arrest, detention, and harassment by the state security forces, the Syrian security, the various militias and the rival Palestinian organizations are the pro-Arafat Palestinians. In the Palestinian camp of 'Ayn al Hilweh, where the pro-Arafat Palestinains enjoy relative security, assassination of opponents is more common than their arrest.
A new type of punishment was resorted to in post-Taif Lebanon: exile. This
punishment, which is neither stipulated in the Lebanese Criminal Code nor is based on a
court ruling, was applied in 1991 against the former Prime Minister of Lebanon General
Michel Aoun and two of the ministers in his cabinet. All three were banished to France for
a period of 5 years.
Independent Lebanon inherited an independent and impartial judiciary from the French. These qualities were by and large safeguarded despite some partial tarnishing of this reputation.(the Emile Edde Affair, the Anton Saade Affair, and the Emir Nuhad Arslan Case , all in the mid-late 1940s.) A major breach was registered in 1967 when a Military Court was set up as a permanent part of the judicial structure. Another drawback we find in the Judicial Council, which lacks the necessary independence of the judiciary from the Executive and the Legislative powers as all members are jointly appointed by the cabinet and the parliament and their right to review cases is restricted to those referred to them by the Council of Ministers. There is a further flaw in the Judicial Council as its rulings are not liable to any form of appeal. Another shortcoming is that all complaints against the Judicial Court would be considered by the Court itself rather than by an impartial tribunal.
The Ministry of Justice appoints judges on the basis of a confessional formula. The shortage of judges has impeded efforts to adjudicate cases backlogged during the 15 years of war. Trial delays are also caused by the government's inability to conduct investigations in areas outside its control.
In May 1996 the Judicial Council started to try 17 persons charged with the August 31, 1995 killing of Sheikh Nizar al-Halaby, a Sunni cleric who headed an Islamist socio-political organization. The leader of the 17 defendents, Ahmad abd al-Karim al-Sa'di (Abou Mahjan) is still hiding in the Palestinian Camp of `Ayn al-Hilweh near Sidon. Three of the defendants received capital punishment which was carried out in March 1997.
In July the Judicial Council issued its ruling in the 1994 al-Zuk church bombing. The tribunal acquitted Samir Geagea of charges of bombing the church but sentenced him to 10 years' imprisonment for creating illegal military cells.
The SLA maintains a separate and arbitrary system of justice. Palestinian groups in refugee camps operate an autonomous and arbitrary one. Hizbullah applies Islamic law in areas under its control.
The government dismisses charges that some are facing trial for their political
persuasions. However, by the standards of a democratic system of government, many of those
arrested and are facing trial for distribution of leaflets or taking part in labor
demonstrations, will be considered acting within their right of freedom of expression as
in all these cases there were no acts of violence related to the activities they are
Politically motivated disappearances did not vanish completely. In 1992 Boutros Khawand, a prominent member of the Kata'ib party, was kidnapped from his house in the suburbs of Beirut and his whereabouts are not known. It is widely circulated that he is detained by the Syrians, probably in a detention center in Syria. Another case involves the disappearance in 1994 of Rafik Abou Younis, a prominent figure in the pro-Iraqi Baath Party. Abou Younis is also presumed to be in Syrian custody.
The government took no judicial action against groups known to be responsible
for the kidnapping of thousands of people during the unrest between 1975 and 1990. In May
1995, Parliament approved a law that allows those who disappeared during the Lebanese War
to be officially declared dead. The law stipulates that interested parties may declare as
dead any Lebanese or foreigner who has disappeared in Lebanon or abroad and for whose
disappearance death was the most probable explanation. Petitioners may apply for a court
certification 4 years after a declaration of disappearance and may not benefit from any
properties inherited until 6 years after such a court certification. The law facilitates
the resolution of inheritance claims and of second marriages.
Not acceding to Optional Protocol No.2 (O.P.2) on the abolition of the death penalty is no reason for the government to handle lightly a basic right such as the right to life. ( Many legal experts and human rights organizations urge the government of Lebanon to accede to O.P.2 , not to mention the less controversial need to accede to O.P 1. which empowers the citizen to file complaints against his government before the Committee).Article 6, para.2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is binding, states that: "äsentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes". Throughout the pre-Taif period (1943-1990) only 11instances of applying capital punishment were recorded. In post-Taif Lebanon the situation is different. In 1994 the President of the Republic announced that the "era of the gallows" has begun, and true to his word in a period of a little more than two years 12 persons were executed. These sentences, let alone the actual executions, raised a number of disturbing questions in the circles of jurists, lawyers and judges. In one case the defendant was clearly a psychopath requiring medical treatment. One of the three presiding judges on the bench openly dissented. One can easily pinpoint irregularities in most of the other cases. What is greatly disturbing is the deletion of the provision of extenuating circumstances thus rendering capital punishment an automatic sentence for all cases of homicide regardless of the motives or circumstances.
The 1994 death of Tarik Hasaniyeh occurred allegedly under torture by authorities at Beiteddin Prison. In the same year Fawzi al Rasi died while in custody, and it was widely rumored that he met his death under torture.
In 1994 the security forces arrested four Iraqi diplomats assigned to Beirut and charged them with the murder of an Iraqi dissident. According to press reports the four Iraqis admitted their guilt but no trial was held throughout the period of detention . Three were released in February 1996 while the fourth died in prison. The detention of the Iraqi diplomats was an obvious violation of the Vienna Convention.
There continued to be credible reports that Lebanese security forces used torture on some detainees. In January 1996 some members of Parliament accused the Internal Security Forces of torturing detainees by beating them, especially during interrogation, and called on the Ministers of Justice and Interior to investigate. At least one prisoner reportedly suffered paralysis as a result of security force violence during interrogation. The authorities charged three policemen, but the case is still pending.
Torture is not restricted to the police. In fact, cases of police torture are less widespread and infinitely lighter than those reported in the places of detention of other security organs such as the Military Intelligence, and the Surete Generale in the case of the foreigners, especially nationals of Africa and Asia.
Abuses also occurred in areas outside the state's authority, especially in the Palestinian refugee camps. The various Palestinian groupings, especially the "Ten Allied" with Syria, control much of the camp population and administer their own justice against their opponents.
Prison conditions are poor and do not meet the internationally recognized minimum standards. There are only 18 operating prisons with a total capacity of 2000 inmates. Conservative figures set the number over 5000 (the occasional detainees not included). The most acute problem is overcrowding and the inevitable consequence of locking people together with little or no regard for age and health. For example, the Zahle prison for males consists of 4 rooms with a total of 194 prisoners. Of the 142 juvenile detainees in prison, only 9 were charged; the others are awaiting trial. The other acute problem is that of hygiene. It is reported that the cells lack heating and a shortage of toilet and shower facilities is detected.
In addition to the regular prisons, the Surete Generale, which mans border posts, operates a detention facility. Hundreds of foreigners, mostly Egyptians and Sri Lankans, have been detained pending deportation. They are reportedly held in small, poorly ventilated cells.
The government does not permit prison visits by human rights monitors.
The (SLA) operates its own detention facilities in al-Khiyam Prison, and there are frequent allegations of mistreatment of detainees. The SLA permitted relatives to visit the detaineess since October 1995.
Hizbullah also detains SLA members and suspected agents at locations within
their controlled areas. There are reports of mistreatment of detainees by Hizbullah.
In 1994 the government issued a Naturalization Decree. This two-line decree
increased the total population of Lebanon by 8 to 10 percent. The question of
naturalization is a long-standing problem in Lebanon dating back to the 1920s. The anomaly
of stateless persons in Lebanon had at some point to be addressed. However, this 1994
solution of the naturalization issue created, according to some critics, a new set of
problems. The selection of persons to be naturalized was largely arbitrary. While the
problem of the stateless was settled, a good majority of those naturalized, as indicated
in the Decree itself, are possessors of non-Lebanese nationalities (not just Syrians).
This arbitrary naturalization unfairly disturbed the delicate demographic balance among
the various Lebanese religious communities. Moreover, the registration of these newly
naturalized in carefully selected districts throughout the country upset the balance of
electoral voter lists, a problem that was evident in the summer 1996 parliamentary
An undetermined number of civilians continue to be killed in South Lebanon, as Lebanese and Palestinian militias on the one hand, and Israeli forces and SLA on the other, engage in a cycle of violence. These paramilitary groups attacked SLA and Israeli troops deployed in Lebanon, and also launched rocket attacks against northern Israel. Isreali forces conducted repeated air strikes and artillery barrages on populated areas and on guerrilla targets inside Lebanon.
There were numerous incidents in the cycle of attacks and reprisals. For example, in April 1996 after Israeli aircraft raided several villages in both the western and central sectors of Lebanon and two Lebanese civilians were killed in two other incidents, Hizbullah began firing Katyusha rockets at settlements in northern Israel, and the Israelis launched a large-scale military operation dubbed "Grapes of Wrath."
During the 16-day operation, hundreds of thousands of civilians in southern Lebanon fled their homes and sought refuge in safer parts of Lebanon in the north. About 164 Lebanese, primarily civilian noncombatants, were killed. Israeli planes hit two Beirut civilian power stations. During the operation, Katyusha attacks against northern Israel intensified.
On April 18 a number of Israeli shells struck the UN compound in Qana killing 102 civilians who had sought shelter there, and wounding others.
In February 1996 the Israeli navy detained three fishermen off the coast of Tyre in south Lebanon. On June 13, 1996 the Israeli Defense Forces seized journalist Ali Daya, the Agence France Press (AFP) correspondent in the Israeli-occupied zone. An Israeli army spokesman accused Daya of working for Hizbullah. He was released on July 18 of the same year.
In August 1996 the Israeli air force raided Baalbeck and damaged the building of the Voice of the Oppressed, the radio station of Hizbullah.
On September 21, 1996 the SLA expelled a family of 12 from the village of
Mays-al Jabal allegedly due to the desertion from the SLA of one member of the family.
Eighteen others were expelled from the security zone during the year 1996.
Several human rights groups operate in Lebanon. An extremely reduced number is recognized by the Ministry of Interior while the bulk are either not registered or registered not as societies but as corporate organizations. The attitude of the government towards these groups is not uniform. On one end of the scale there is one which is often praised by the authorities and whose founder was elected a member of the 1992 parliament and died as a cabinet minister. Other human rights organizations are frowned upon, while on the other end of the spectrum there are two which are not spared the wrath of the government. All government or government-controlled media apply a blackout on the activities of the out-of-favor organizations. In the month of December 1996 the managing director and two members of the FHHR/L were detained from 2 to 14 days. It was the ensuing international outcry which made their release possible.
All workers, except government employees, may establish and join unions and have a legal right to strike. Worker representatives must be chosen from those employed within the bargaining unit. About 900,000 persons form the active labor force, 42 percent of whom are members of the Unions, with about 200,000 workers, are represented in the General Confederation of Labor.
The unions in Lebanon are not government institutions. However, the union leaders supply convincing evidence of the security organ's intervention in elections of union officials. In post-Taif Lebanon the Ministry of Labor issued permits for pro-government unions to form a labor federation in a bid to weaken the General Confederation of Labor.
Palestinian refugees may organize their own unions, but restrictions on their right to work make this right more theoretical than real. Few Palestinians participate actively in trade unions.
Unions are free to affiliate with international federations and confederations, and they maintain a variety of such affiliations.
The right of workers to organize and to obtain bargains exists in law and practice. Most worker groups engage in some form of collective bargaining with their employers. Stronger federations obtain significant gains for their members, and on occasion have assisted non-unionized workers. There is no government mechanism to promote voluntary labor-management negotiations, and workers have no protection against anti-union discrimination. The Government's ban on demonstrations diminished the union's bargaining power.
Forced labor is not prohibited by law. Children, foreign domestic servants, or other foreign workers are sometimes forced to remain in situations amounting to coerced or bonded labor.
The 1946 Labor Code stipulates that workers between the ages of 8 and 16 may not work more than 7 hours per day, with 1 hour for rest provided after 4 hours. They are also prohibited from working between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. There is a general prohibition against jobs out of proportion with the worker's age.¾ The Code also prohibits certain types of mechanical work for children of ages 8 to 13, and other types for those of ages 13 to 16. The Labor Ministry is charged with enforcing these requirements, but the ministry does not rigorously apply the law.
The Government sets a legal minimum wage, which was raised in April 1996 to 300,000L.L (about $200US) per month. The law is not enforced effectively in the private sector. In theory the courts could be called upon to enforce it, but in practice they are not. The minimum wage is insufficient to provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family.
The Labor Code prescribes a standard 6-day work week of 48 hours, with a
24-hour rest period per week. In practice workers in the industrial sector work an average
of 35 hours per week, and workers in other sectors work an average of 30 hours per week.
The law includes specific occupational health and safety regulations. Labor regulations
call on employers to take adequate precautions for employee safety. Enforcement, the
responsibility of the Labor Ministry, is uneven. Labor organizers report that workers do
not have the right to remove themselves from hazardous conditions without jeopardizing
their continued employment.
The Constitution calls for "social justice and equality of duties and
rights among all citizens without prejudice or favoritism." In practice, aspects of
the law and traditional mores discriminate against women. Religious discrimination is
built into the electoral system. Discrimination based on the other listed factors is
The press reports cases of rape with increasing frequency; what is reported is thought to be only a fraction of the actual level of this abuse. There are no authoritative statistics on the extent of spousal abuse. Most experts agree that the problem affects a significant portion of the adult female population. In general, battered or abused women do not talk about their suffering for fear of bringing shame upon their families or accusations of misbehavior upon themselves. Doctors and social workers believe that most abused women do not seek medical help. The government has no separate program to provide medical assistance to battered women. It does not provide legal assistance to victims of crimes who cannot afford it, regardless of the gender of the victim.
The legal system is discriminatory in its handling of "crimes of honor." According to the Penal Code, the killer of a spouse may receive a reduced sentence if that partner demonstrates that the crime was in response to the defendant's surprising the female victim, wife or close relative "in a compromising state". Since 1991, however, the government has begun to increase sentences on violent crimes in general. No crimes of honor were reviewed by criminal courts in the past years.
In 1994 the Parliament removed a legal stipulation that a woman must obtain her husband's approval to open a business or engage in a trade. Husbands have a legal right to block the travel of their wives outside the country.
Only males may confer citizenship on their spouses and children. This means that children born to Lebanese mothers and foreign fathers may not become citizens. In late 1995, the Parliament passed a law allowing Lebanese widows to confer citizenship on their minor children.
Religious groups have their own family and personal status laws administered by
religious courts. Each group differs in its treatment of marriage, family, property
rights, and inheritance. Almost all these laws discriminate against women. Women are not
treated on par with men when it comes to their rights as wives, mothers, or divorcees. By
and large, their inheritance rights in the Muslim law are half that of the male.
There are few legal and far less practical protections of children in Lebanon. Education is not compulsory, and many children take jobs at a young age to help support their families. In lower income families, boys generally get more education, while girls stop their education to work, or remain at home to do housework.
An undetermined number of children are neglected, abused, exploited, and even sold to adoption agencies. There are hundreds of abandoned children in the streets nationwide, some of whom survive by begging, others by working at low wages. According to a UN Children Fund (UNICEF) study, 60 percent of working children are below 13 years of age and 75 percent of them earn wages below two-thirds of the minimum wage. Juvenile delinquents wait in ordinary prisons for trial and remain there after sentencing. Although their number is very small, there is no adequate place to hold delinquent girls, and they are currently held in the women's prison in Baabda. Limited financial resources have hindered efforts to build adequate facilities to rehabilitate delinquents. However, the Higher Relief Committee allotted some funds to the Association for the Protection of Juveniles to lease a two-story building in Ba'asir in order to accommodate 50 juvenile delinquents.
There are neither child welfare programs nor government institutions to oversee
the implementation of children's programs. The Committee for Children's Rights has been
lobbying for legislation to improve the conditions of children. The Parliament passed a
law to drop the use of the word illegitimate¾ on the identity cards of children
born out of wedlock. The Ministry of Health requires the establishment of health records
for every child up to 18 years.
Over 100,000 people sustained disabilities during the Lebanon war. Care of the disabled is generally a function performed by families. Most efforts to secure education, independence, health, and shelter for the disabled are made by some 100 private organizations for the disabled. In general, these organizations are poorly funded.
Building requirements have no specifications for ease of access. However, the
private Solidere¾ project imposed requirements for disabled access.
Most Palestinian refugees live in overpopulated camps that have suffered heavy damage as a result of the fighting. The government has instructed relief workers to suspend reconstruction work in the camps, and refugees fear that in the future the Government will reduce the size of the camps or eliminate them completely.
The government officially ended the practice of denying work permits to Palestinians in 1991; however, in practice, very few Palestinians receive work permits. Palestinians still encounter job discrimination, and most are funneled into unskilled occupations. They and other aliens may own land of a limited size but only after obtaining the approval of five different district offices. The law applies to all aliens, but for political, cultural, and economic reasons it is applied in a manner disadvantageous to Palestinians and, to a lesser extent, Kurds. The government does not provide health services to Palestinian refugees, who must rely on UNRWA and UNRWA-contracted private hospitals.
In recent years, Palestinian incomes have declined as the Palestine Liberation Organization(PLO) closed many of its offices in Lebanon, which formerly employed as much as 50 percent of the Palestinian work force. Palestinian children have reportedly been forced to leave school at an early age because UN relief workers do not have sufficient funds for education programs. The UN estimates that 18 percent of street children are Palestinian. Drug addiction and crime reportedly are increasing in the camps, as is prostitution.
The public awareness of environmental issues is relatively new compared to other developing nations. Until recently, the notion of sustainable development, the right of people to know about the consequences of development in their neighborhoods, cities, and towns, the right of people to participate in the decision making process for such development was almost non-existent. Environmental activism was to the Lebanese public some occasional campaigns to plant trees along major highways, or cleanliness campaigns to pick up trash sitting in the streets.
With the proliferation of environmental NGOs in the country, the awareness situation is changing although at a very slow pace. The public generally now realizes the direct correlation between environmental degradation and public health. Air pollution from cement factories, and electric power generation plants is being directly linked to respiratory problems while ground water pollution is a function of the lack of sewer networks and wastewater treatment plants. It was the environmental activists who were behind the government's declaring three protected areas for biodiversity preservation.
The situation is totally different at the decision making level. The government development policy- making process is severely centralized and held in the hands of a few politicians with interests conflicting with those of the public. Almost all development projects from zoning laws to highway design are planned and implemented with no prior environmental impact assessment. Decisions, even when made with public interest in mind, are made on antiquated assessment methods, mainly, the more concrete poured the more viable is the development.
It can be asserted that integrated development policies are lacking in all major areas among which are:
(a) The economic value of environmental protection such as the benefits in terms of eco-tourism to clean beaches, healthy air, and protected forests.
(b)The lack of participation on the part of the general population through local government institutions is robbing the country of valuable human resources available and willing to participate in environmental protection.
(c)Lack of sound management in water resources is causing a major loss to GDP whereby surplus resources which could be sold to more needy areas of the Middle East in return for a major increase to national income are being wasted out to sea, or spoiled as a result of pollution.
It is important to note that a World Bank assessment issued in January of 1966 estimated the net loss due to health problems caused by air pollution and the impacts of bad water quality, and bad wastewater management to be in the order of $300 million annually. Losses would be much higher when all environmental losses are incorporated into the calculation, particularly in the area of tourism losses due to prevailing environmental conditions.