Lebanese Forces Party
Human Rights Department
Human Rights in Lebanon 1999
At the end of a seminar for the Euro-Mediterranean training program on Human Rights held in Lebanon (September 29 - October 2, 1999 and unattended by the Lebanese Government), Mr. Patrick Baudouin president of the International Federation of Human Rights (F.I.D.H.: a Paris Based NGO with some 150 branches worldwide) stated: "Lebanon has the conventions and the strong basic elements of democratic institutions, but much progress is needed for Lebanon to become democratic, especially that his sovereignty is compromised by the occupation of its neighboring country, Syria."
Mr. Baudouin added: " There is no paradigm for a nation under partial or complete occupation by a neighboring state that can adopt legislations and practices that conform with international standards. It is impossible. The occupying force must withdraw first to allow for the establishment or re-establishment of a system of total freedom."
Perhaps those words, spoken eloquently, express the true reality of the situation in Lebanon. Hardly a day passes by without hearing a Lebanese Official reiterating the respect for Freedoms, Human Rights and the reign of "the Government of Law and Institutions" While in reality each one of these principles has been violated. In fact, the year 1999 has witnessed tangible deterioration in domains that were until then free from restraints and censorship such as Culture, Education and Arts.
It is worth mentioning that Lebanon in general and Beirut in particular were the beacon of freedom for Intellectuals, Researchers, Artists and Politicians who came to Lebanon either as visitors or as victims of censorship and repression in their native countries or as seekers of a better environment where the elements of inspiration and Cultural creativity were made easily accessible.
Part 1: Political and Legal Rights
The Parliamentary Election, provided by the Constitution every four years, will be held in the summer of year 2000. The elections of 1992 and 1996 witnessed many violations characterized by forgery and rigged lists of candidates in addition to an election law that fundamentally violated the principle of fair and equal representation for Christians and Muslims. These elections resulted in the vast majority of Christian deputies being elected by non-Christian voters destroying their credibility and community standing.
Despite the repeated promises by the Government to offer a more just an
equitable election law for year 2000, the one issued on December 14, 1999 did not fulfill
The new election law fails in the following areas:
Disparity in the number of deputies in the circumscriptions (The West Bekaa and Beirut have each six deputies while the second North circumscription has alone seventeen deputies).
Disparity in the numbers of casas (Kadaa) in each circumscription (One circumscription with one single casa as in the case of both the Shouf and the Northern Maten, while another circumscription encompasses five casas as in the case of the second North circumscription including Zgharta, Batroun, Koura, Tripoli and Al Minnieh).
Partitioning a number of districts and dissecting their electorates to distribute them into different circumscriptions in order to falsify the representation of their constituents. This occurred in the following:
Dividing the cada f Tripoli into two sections, (Al Minnieh and Al-Dnnieh). Each was joined to a separate circumscription.
Tallying the casa of Besharreh, (a totally Christian and staunch supporter of the Lebanese Forces Party) to the casa of Akkar-AlDinnieh, (a predominantly Muslim Sunni area), despite the fact that the two areas are not geographically contiguous or connected in any way).
Dissecting the predominantly Christian casa of Jezzine from its historic and traditionally established district of the South in order to append it to the Nabatieh district (where the vast majority of the constituents are Muslim Shiites).
Separating Beirut into a totally unreasonable three circumscriptions aiming to dissipate the blocks of Christian votes and provide the Muslim majority constituents of the newly formed areas with determining control over the Christian seats.
It is thus evident that the new election law is not leaving any Christian circumscription within its own natural electoral environment. The Jezzine District, for example, which was historically connected to Saida and now attached to Nabatieh is under the tutelage and control of Amal and Hizbollah; the newly formed Beirut circumscriptions would lead to the marginalization of the Christian votes whilst in the past they had a sizable and determining influence. In the Mount Lebanon district where the vast majority of the constituents are Christians, the projected divisions would essentially diminish the Christian electoral power in three circumscriptions out of four; The Shouf circumscription is kept under the control of the Druze leader Walid Jumblat; the Alay and the Southern Maten circumscriptions are kept under the control of the Shiite and the Druze; while the Northern Maten is especially created to provide an area of influence to the Interior Minister, Michel al Murr and his partners in the electoral list.
Moreover, it is quite obvious that joining Besharreh to Akkar and AlDinnieh is designed to sabotage the true representation of its constituents as was demonstrated in the results of the 1998 Municipal Elections where the regimes allies suffered a total defeat.
The Judicial System
The debate over Judicial Independence does not center solely on regulating judicial laws but also on the total consent and willingness to free the Judicial System. Though the present laws insure such independence in principle, the problem resides in implementation. Article 20 of the Lebanese Constitution provides for Judges to be independent in the exercise of their functions but this article has been violated repeatedly and with impunity.
It is fruitless to debate the issue of Judicial Independence when the Investigative Magistrate is bound to the will of the Minister of Justice and when the Council of Ministers, without taking heed of any independent recommendation, is appointing the Prosecutor General in the same way they appoint an army officer or an administrative director. The fact remains in Lebanon today that those who possess the power to appoint and to promote are the ones with the means to control and influence the Judicial System.
There is no doubt that the Judicial Council should make use of administrative and security apparatus to function properly but when political interference allows for the Lebanese and Syrian Security Forces to prevail over the judiciary, corruption becomes inevitable.
The Military Law Courts:
The Investigative Magistrates: (A)
The authorities continue to ignore the constitutional rights of suspects, of the accused and of the convicted. The Investigative Magistrate appoints a lawyer for the defendant without his/her consent and the Investigative Officers act beyond their specific jurisdictions (spying, betrayal and possession of weapons) and investigate misdemeanors and crimes.
Breaching of rules: (B)
Suspects often spend the duration of their sentences in jail before attending trials either for lack of available judges or complications in procedures even though many are found innocent at later trials. When a trial is held and the accused is found innocent, no compensation is offered nor the Investigative Magistrates are questioned (as was apparent in the case of Antoinette Chahine and Jihad Abi Ramia in June 24, 1999 for example).
The Judicial Police: ©
Much controversy encircled the extent of authority given to this unit and its practices that violated the legal proceedings transcendent by the Office of the Attorney General. It is virtually impossible to hold this unit accountable for actions committed by its members because the majority of them belong to the security apparatus (Army Intelligence, Military Police, Security Forces and Internal Security). They answer only to the Attorney General who, in turn, is himself subject to political manipulation and works under the directives of the Security Apparatus.
The violations committed by this unit are too many to be detailed but
here are few examples:
Undertaking interrogations without any warrant or authorization from the Office of the Attorney General (Often the State Prosecutor obliges either with a blank and pre-signed warrant or with the authorization and warrant at a later date).
Summarizing the initial interrogations in statements that do not reflect the actual facts of the investigation and using all forms of torture and intimidation to extract pre-arranged confessions from victims.
The Office of the Attorney General:
Moreover, he intervenes directly in Court cases pertaining to the pro-regime political class even if they fall beyond his jurisdiction. For example, Mr. Addoum interfered and "filed" the court case brought by the lawyer Jihad Fadil against the Interior Minister Michel al Murr and Colonel Maroun Abou Diwan. The case charged the two Regime instruments with excessive misuse of power and influence and inflicting intimidation and bodily harm
Furthermore, on October 10, 1999 a heated debate erupted between State Prosecutor Addoum and Judge Walid Ghamra, head of the Judicial Investigative Committee who issued an inquiry report detailing and criticizing Addoums overstepping his jurisdictions, especially in the field of interrogating suspects without due process and authorization. Despite brining this conflict to the attention of the Supreme Judicial Council, political influence was deployed and the matter was "classified".
The Executive Power, the custodian of the Judiciary: (A)
Maintaining the Judges under the influence of the Executive Power. The Lebanese experience shows that many Judges prefer to assume the positions of Attorney General and Investigative Magistrate at the expense of other Judiciary positions. Facilitating Political Interference in all the functions of the Office of the Attorney General and Investigative Magistrates
The Administrative Courts Magistrates: (A)
Furthermore, on December 23, 1999, sixty-six well-trained judges were drafted into military service. This new development worsened the pre-existent deficiency in the number of judges serving the different courts and destroyed the administrative independence of the Judiciary as a separate Constitutional Authority.
Part 2: Civil Liberties
Freedom of Expression and of Press (1)
In May 1999, the Ministry of Information issued a decree banning the circulation of the book "From Israel to Damascus" by Rober Hatem known as Cobra. This book reveals the involvement of several Lebanese and Syrian Officials in political assassinations and in cases of bribery, intimidation and corruption.
In August 1999, the Regime brought a libel suit against a number of Journalists: Milhim Karam, the president of the Journalists Union in Lebanon and owner of two weekly magazines, "Al-Hawadeth" and "La Revue De Liban", Mr. Paul Salem, owner of "Lebanon Report", Mr. Jamil Merouweh, owner of "Daily Star" Newspaper, and Mrs. Viviane Dagher along with Ms. Salam Gharishi from Al-Massira Magazine for interviewing Rober Hatem or publishing excerpts from his book. (which was already widely available on the Internet).
In August 1999, The Regime brought a libel suit against two journalists, Ibrahim al Khoury and Walid Choucair, "publicly exposing" and accusing them with squandering money while serving on the board at the State Owned Television, Tele-Liban. These public accusations were circulated prior to any judicial process, causing a wave of objections voiced by the Unions of Journalists, news reporters and other professional Unions.
In July 1999, Paul Khalifeh, a Journalist at "LOrient Le Jour" Newspaper was physically assaulted and threatened by members of the Security Apparatus and instructed not to criticize the Regime again. Khalifeh had written a series of articles criticizing the Governments stand on the issue of Jezzine and its reluctance to fulfill its duties after the Withdrawal of the South Lebanese Army (SLA) from the area.
In May 1999, Hiam Al-Koussaifi, a journalist from the AlNahar Newspaper was summoned before Judge Riad Talii who asked her not to evoke the dismal conditions at Roumieh Prison.
In August 9, 1999, The Minister of Information, Anwar Al-Khalil threatened to suspend the publication of Al-Massira Magazine, claiming it is operating under an unlicensed name. Al-Massira has been operating under this name for almost 20 years and it is licensed under the name Al-Najwa. This was preceded by tremendous pressures and threats exerted by the security services upon advertising agencies, Publishing Houses and businesses to stop and remove their advertisements from the magazine and consequently force it to shut down.
In September 1999, The State suspended a political program produced by the journalist Samir Kassir for National TV (Tele-Liban) on the grounds that it is "compromising Civil Peace".
In May 1999, "The Arabic Cultural Club" in Beirut was raided by security forces. Club Officials were questioned and were forced to fill questionnaires on all the Clubs activities and members.
On October 10, 1999 Security Forces imposed censorship on the film "Civilisees" by the Lebanese-French Producer Randa Chahal Sabbagh and removed several scenes, which made it impossible for Sabbagh to present it in movie theaters.
On November 8, 1999 Security Forces imposed on Maurice Bejart, the founder of "Ballet Bejart" company radical changes to his show under the pretext that some scenes "are offensive and contradict religious rites". It is noteworthy that the same show was exhibited in its entirety and without any omissions in Egypt.
On November 2, 1999 the case against the Lebanese Musician Marcel Khalifeh was reopened. Khalifeh was accused of insulting Islam when he recorded a song by a renowned Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, which contained a verse from the Koran. It was only after the intervention of several Human Right Organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that Khalifeh was acquitted.
On November 7, 1999 the Cultural "Ashkaal Alwaan" Society was forbidden from opening its Painting and Sculpture Art Exhibition on the grounds that it "failed to fulfill the necessary legal requirements" despite the fact that the Society obtained a permit from the Ministry of Culture.
On November 10, 1999 the political satire TV show "Ta Rir" was suspended on the grounds that it impersonated, criticized and offended a number of Government Officials.
Despite the Governments constant assurances of total freedom of press and of Opinion and despite the fact that many cases were dropped against several journalists, the Media in Lebanon, especially TV and Radio, has become similar to those in dictatorial regimes. Under the notion of self-censorship, all forms of control, suppression and expurgation are exerted especially in the political programs making the news in all the different medias similar and analogous and allowing very rarely for the display of opposing opinions.
A new legislation is being prepared in order to control and regulate advertisements. This law stipulates the creation of a committee to overlook the statistical procedures and to control the allocations of advertising funds. The Regime would thus acquire great influence upon this sector and would obtain ample opportunities to meddle in the domain of private institutions.
Prison Systems (1)
Roumieh Prison is the main prison in Lebanon, built in 1971 and remains under construction till today. It accommodates approximately 4 thousand prisoners, i.e. 50% of total prisoners in Lebanon. Roumieh Prison consists of four buildings, 3 or 4 stories each with one occupied by the Lebanese Army.
The cells originally equipped to hold two prisoners are used to cram 8 to 12 prisoners and although the rooms are equipped with toilet facilities, the use of water is strictly limited to half an hour between 3:00 and 3:30 PM. Inmates are obliged to stock water in containers for drinking and bathing. There is neither heating in the prison nor any playgrounds for sports or facilities for libraries and places of worship.
The official statistics on the number of inmates could not be obtained but are estimated to fall between five to eight thousand prisoners placed in facilities designed to host a maximum number of two thousands. Prisoners are placed indiscriminately in rooms and are not separated according to age or nature of crime. In Zahleh Prison for example, an estimated number of 400 prisoners are hosted in 4 narrow corridors without any triage or separation.
Women prisoners are held in Zahleh and Baabda without any special provisions available for pregnant inmates or for mothers with infants.
Although the Lebanese constitution provides for separate facilities for adult and juvenile prisoners, Men and young boys are kept together in the same cells at the Police stations, and young girls are not separated from the rest of the female prisoners during the whole duration of their sentences.
The right of Defense is not respected. To request a Defense lawyer is subject to the approval of the authorities and incur a fee of 50 American Dollars representing 30% of the minimal wage in Lebanon. Whilst the Constitution provides for the right to private consultations with lawyers, this right is often violated. In the Roumieh prison, for example, Lawyers often meet their clients in halls in the presence of other prisoners and under the watchful eyes of the prison guards.
Nutrition in Prisons is also lacking: A prisoner receives one meal a day at noon often cold and consisting of rice and vegetables. No provisions are made for prisoners with diabetes or with other medical ailments.
Furthermore, healthcare facilities are almost nonexistent. The number of doctors attached to the prisons is vastly underprovided and medical equipment and medicines are scarce and inadequate. In Roumieh prison for example there are 4000 prisoners with only one attending physician visiting the prison three times a week.
In mid 1998, a delegation from the "International Prison Watch" (OIP) visited Lebanon to check the conditions of prisons and prisoners. The delegation succeeded in raising awareness to these conditions and despite its call for improvements, no measures were taken to remedy the situation.
The antiquated Lebanese Penal Code does not limit the period of "provisional arrest" awaiting trial. Tragically, due to the great shortage in the number of Judges, many victims may spend a number of years in prison before they are brought to Court. Until today, the practice of the law does not distinguish between an accused awaiting trial and a convicted prisoner.
On a humanitarian level, Prisoners, with time, often lose their sense of identity. Instead of being rehabilitated the prisoners are deprived from their dignity.
Torture is another aspect of prison life in Lebanon. During interrogation, prisoners are beaten up and tortured until they "confess" to crimes they often did not commit. Najwa M., for example, imprisoned in Baabda, was beaten severely until she confessed to murdering her husband. Irrefutable evidence was discovered later and proved that she was innocent.
From 1994 to 1998, a number of detainees died in Lebanese jails as a result of torture. Fawzi al Rassi, a Lebanese Forces member, died from acid immersion and electric shocks while held at the Ministry of Defense Jail and Tariq Hasaniyah was beaten to death in Bayt Al-Din Prison.
The Right to Protest and Arbitrary Arrests and Detention (1)
The arbitrary arrests and detentions in 1999 are numerous. The
following cases are but an example:
The regime continues to summon periodically officials and members of the Lebanese Forces Party for interrogation. Toufiq Al Hindi, Silman Semaha, Milad Assaf and others were intimidated into signing declarations in which they agree to cease all political activities.
On September 11, 1999, the Union of Tele-Libans workers issued a press release demanding the release of Milad Hayek, an employee accused of damaging a turnstile at the TV stations Hazmieh building. Hayek who is deaf and mute was not allowed proper representation nor was able to defend himself during interrogation.
In July 6, 1999, Mustafa Kanso was arrested and charged with dealing and smuggling drugs. Kanso died during interrogation at the Office of Drug Control. The report filed by investigators indicated that his death was due to a drug overdose. His family was denied any access to medical reports or Laboratory results performed on the deceased.
On November 22, 1999, Joseph Mansour from Koura, North Lebanon, was detained without a warrant for belonging to the Aounist Movement. He was transferred to the prison of a military barracks in Tripoli. Mansour was only released after signing a statement undertaking that he will cease all political activities.
On December 2, 1999, security officers wearing civilian clothes arrested Walid Ashkar, a student who belongs to the Aounist Movement, at the entrance oh his university in Balamand (North Lebanon). They led him to a military compound and from there to the Military Police Headquarters - Noura Palace in Beirut. Four days after his illegal detention, his fellow students gathered in front of the building carrying banners and demanding his release. Two hundred and fifty military officers responded by indiscriminately beating and assaulting the students. A big number was injured and required hospitalization (Tony Irian, Marteen Abi Nader and several others). Local and International Human Right Organizations voiced their concern and condemned the regularly executed waves of arbitrary arrests and the oppression methods employed by the Security Services.
On December 23, 1999, two students from the American University in Beirut, Alexander Hawat and Rami Abou Alaf were summoned to the Police Station in Houbeish on the charges of distributing political leaflets inside the University.
On October 11, 1999, the engineer Wadih Youssef Saaid was detained and questioned in Jbeil Police Station without due process and without allowing the presence of a representative from the Engineers Union as required by the Law in this case.
Three doctors were brought before the Military Court on charges for medical negligence. The Doctors Union staged a protest accusing the authorities of following improper procedures and ignoring the law, which provides for consultation with a committee of professionals to look into cases of negligence prior to any legal action.
Furthermore, the Lebanese Security Apparatus along with the Syrian Intelligence Agency working in Lebanon succeeded in creating an ambiance of terror effecting a tightly controlled grip on public life and interfering in day-to-day minutiae and practices. The following are few examples:
The Lebanese Security Forces demanded of school administrations to provide them with names of all their newly employed teachers.
Representatives of the Security services are positioned in various Ministries preparing daily reports and submitting them to the Department of Affairs at the Presidential Palace.
Prisoners in Syrian and Israeli jails (1)
The last Lebanese victim of illegal detention in Syrian jails was the 52 years old Adel Khalaf Ajouri. He was abducted at a Syrian checkpoint on the road to the Lebanese National Airport on May 5, 1999. It took two years for his family to discover that he was detained in Tadmur jail in Syria and subsequently moved to Saidnaya jail without any trial or right for a defense lawyer. Mr. Ajouri died on September 22, 1999 under suspicious circumstances. His body was delivered to his family for burial on October 23, 1999.
A large number of Lebanese are also detained without a proper trial in Israeli prisons and in the Khiyam Prison under the control of the South Lebanese Army (SLA).
The Trials of Dr. Samir Geagea and the Lebanese Forces (1)
A number of Human Right Organizations criticized the "politically motivated trials", the "process of the initial investigations", the "gathering of proofs", the "interrogations", "threatening witnesses" etc leading to the unfair Judicial Council prerogatives and Court processes. The Karameh trial took a clear and obvious political perspective due to the arguments and political background inherent to the case. It was used and utilized to put a whole period of the Lebanese war on trial and showed the extent of political revenge and prejudice born against the Lebanese Forces. It is important to note that the Judicial Council verdicts are final and complete and are not subject to any review or appeal.
Apart from the aggressed judicial rights, Other Human Right perspectives are also assailed. Dr. Geagea remains confined to a tiny cell, three stories underground, devoid of any sunlight or fresh air at the Ministry of Defense Jail. He is kept in solitary confinement and denied any form of contact with the outside world either through correspondence or through exposure to any news Media. When he is moved out of his cell, he is handcuffed and blindfolded.
Recently Dr. Geagea suffered from severe pains in his stomach and teeth without obtaining the required medical care or the proper investigation tests that are performed in these instances.
On October 11, 1999, Green Peace activists were assaulted and arrested
when they staged a peaceful protest in front of Port Selaata in North Lebanon against
dumping toxic waste in the Mediterranean Sea. The Security Forces attacked the peaceful
protesters and reporters covering the events and confiscated their films and broke their