Lebanese record on human rights could be qualified as average by absolute
standards but becomes laudable when compared to that of the neighboring Arab
countries. This statement maintained its validity all the way from
Lebanon’s independence in 1943 down to the outbreak of the Lebanese War in
1975. In 1989 the Arab League, supported by the international
community, brokered a peace settlement at Taif - Saudi Arabia. On 13 October
1990, Syrian troops completed their control over the Lebanese territories
except for the strip adjacent to the Israeli borders. With the last
obstruction to the application of the Taif reforms out of the way, the
Constitution, laws and regulations, and the whole set of political concepts
and values which followed, compelled many to dub post 1990 Lebanon as 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
24th of November 1998 the Lebanese parliament voted the C-in-C of
the Lebanese Army, General Emile Lahhoud president of the republic.
The inaugural speech promised a set of reforms and a new cabinet was formed.
Many of the excesses of the 9 years of the former administration were curbed
in the first half of President Lahhoud’s constitutional term. The
yield of the fourth year proved inferior to those of the first three years.
The press and media at large were trimmed to fit within a model convenient
to the government. Another setback was detected in the criminal
procedure law and the role played by the courts as an instrument of
political intimidation. The freedom of association and peaceful
assembly had become theoretical rights that can only be applied sporadically
and against the will of the authority. The freedom of thought is
closely monitored by the Prosecutor of the Republic who expressed his
determination to go over every lecture, article, talk show and all forms of
public statements to make sure they are in conformity with the “national
interest”. A few statements issued by the Prosecutor General of the
Republic considering “unauthorized statements” an offence punishable by law.
The by elections in the spring of 2002 were tarnished by irregularities
unmatched by any ballot in the past 50 years.
present report shall examine the individual rights and 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.
POLITICAL AND LEGAL RIGHTS
FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL
ASSEMBLY AND ASSOCIATIONS.
Although the Constitution provides for freedom of
assembly the post- Taif governments restricted this right. Any group wishing
to organize a rally must obtain the prior approval of the Ministry of
Interior, which failed to render decisions uniformly. The government
declared a state of emergency in 1996 banning all rallies. A measure
of the cabinet of President Salim Hoss, which was well received by the human
rights groups, ended the state of emergency that dominated the national
scene for the previous 3 years. However the right to peaceful assembly
was not restored. It remained obstructed by the prohibitive permit
requirements. A peaceful demonstration should meet a number of requirements
set by an edict by the minister of interior. Even when these, almost
prohibitive conditions are met, the minister can still withhold the permit
for “reasons of state”. The most singular of these conditions is the
undertaking of the applicant to be held personally liable for all damage
caused in the course of the demonstration. The application should be
filed five days in advance and, according to an edict by the ministry of
interior, must contain the names of five percent of the estimated crowd.
The FHHRL rejects the law holding the exercise of an
inherent and inalienable right conditional on a permit issued by the
authorities. In democracies the role of the authority is restricted to
cordoning the peaceful demonstration and securing law and order.
very few exceptions, violence is still an inbuilt feature of demonstrations.
Despite the obvious shortcomings, these developments mark a net 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 ban on public demonstration goes back to 1996 and
was originally meant against the labor unions. The General
Confederation of Labor (CGTL) submitted a request to hold demonstrations for
February 29. The government refused to grant permission, and, instead,
called on the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) to control the situation.
The LAF was accorded 90 days of exceptional powers to maintain public order.
Under this authority it imposed a nationwide curfew on February 29, which
lasted 16 hours. 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.
April 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.
current occurrence is the clashes between the students and the state’s
security organs in the course of which excessive violence is often
The last wave of demonstrations was
triggered by the closure of the MTV station. The
employees, in an attempt to draw attention to their plight, assembled
peacefully on September 19 in down-town Beirut. The anti-riot brigade
dispersed the crowd in a ruthless way by a free use of clubs and tremendous
October 16 the police force cracked down on a student sit- in at the St
Joseph University. 4 students were injured and 10 were detained for
few hours before being released.
wise on the 31st of October a sit-in and a demonstration in the
Lebanese University’s Faculty of Science (Fanar) lead to the detention of
some 60 demonstrators who were afterwards released. Provocation and
the inevitable violent reaction by the police marked the event.
Freedom of Association
The Constitution provides for the freedom of association.
This right was generally respected in pre-war Lebanon, particularly in the
1960s when political parties, from the extreme left to the extreme right,
were licensed. In 1992, however, this right was trimmed and dozens of
organizations, including four opposition parties, were dissolved. In
1994, following the dynamiting in February of a Church, the Lebanese Forces
Party was charged and was dissolved. Despite the court ruling in 1996,
which declared the leader of the Lebanese Forces, and by extension his
party, not guilty, the dissolution decree was not rescinded.
A bill to organize political parties is not out yet.
The authorities do not seem in any hurry to pass this law.
Furthermore, the minister of interior disclosed in 1996 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 the proposed draft calls on all parties to file to the ministry
of interior the membership register as well as the minutes of all
party meetings. The Army Intelligence Service monitors the movement and
activities of the opposition groups.
In the year 2002 the government granted permits for three
political parties. However, conditions were attached: The
by-laws should stipulate that a notification must be served to the ministry
of interior prior to all party meetings with the possibility of dispatching
representatives of the ministry to attend. The FHHRL finds that the
permit and the undertaking are in violation of the freedom of association as
stipulated by the human rights charters.
Social and Sportive Associations
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 turns the right
of association into a privilege few enjoy. 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. More recent indications of the obstruction of this right
are the categorical refusal of the ministry of interior to register the
applications for associations. Attempts to notify the ministry of
interior by way of a notary public did not work either.
The Constitution states that citizens have the right to
change their government in periodic free and fair elections. However,
in the course of the history of the Lebanese parliamentary life, those
elections were never entirely “free"
nor “fair”. The minister of interior, in a press release dated October
28, 2002 admitted the role security agencies play in the election process.
“MP Faris Sueid spent days on end in the security headquarters to make sure
he shall be placed on the lists supported by the security agencies,” the
The August-September 1996 parliamentary elections
represented a small step forward; the electoral process was flawed by
significant shortcomings foremost of which is the lack of impartiality.
The most flagrant irregularity was gerrymandering, which tipped the balance
in favor of the Muslim communities. The Muslim communities 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. The latter displayed very little
zeal in defending the rights of the Christian base they nominally represent
as this base played little or no role in their electoral success.
The election law for the upcoming parliamentary
elections in the year 2000 proved more equitable when compared with the
previous two as the disparity is reduced though not eliminated.
A solid reform, which was first introduced in the
elections of 1996, still holds. The candidates who deem their failure
was the outcome of fraud flaws, can file a complaint to the Constitutional
Council. This safeguard measure proved real in 1996 when several candidates
submitted complaints and a repetition of the ballot was ordered and applied.
Unfortunately, in the elections of the year 2000 no court ruling
invalidating the candidacy on the basis of flaw in the ballot process were
In 1953 women were granted the right to vote and run for
election. There are no legal barriers to their participation in
politics. No women so far held a Cabinet portfolio while only three
out of 128 parliamentary seats were filled by women in 1996 which renders
the Lebanese record on women MPs among the poorest in the Middle East.
a consensus that the by-election for the parliamentary seat vacated by the
death of Matn MP, was riddled with flaws. The most flagrant item is
the minister of interior’s interpretation of the role of the curtain.
Minister Elias al-Murr instructed that the use of the curtain is optional
and must be left to the discretion of the voters. Many other
irregularities were observed and reported by the press and the human rights
Announcing the results dragged for over a week and the results in favor of
the opposition candidate was announced by the minister in a lame and
ambivalent way. Shortly afterwards a request for annulment of the
result was filed to the Constitutional Council. On November 4 the C.C
ruled that the results were flawed. But instead of repeating the
ballot, as was the case in numerous precedents, the Council announced that
the winner is the distant third runner.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND PRESS
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 not owned by the public sector, press
content often reflects the opinions of these financial backers. This
situation inspired a fairly accurate description that runs as follows:
“There are no free journals in Lebanon. All what you come across are few
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 the Syrian president, his family, the Syrian army or corruption
In September 1996 the government of president Hariri
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 people, however, viewed the implementation of the
law as political in nature. It reduced 52 television stations to 4,
and approximately 100 radio stations to 11, only 3 of which would be
permitted to broadcast news programs. All four television stations approved
are owned by, or closely associated with, important government figures.
Some of the approved stations were not operational at the time of
authorization, while a number of popular stations associated with the
opposition to the government have been refused licenses, ostensibly for
failing to comply with the law. It is a credit to the Hoss cabinet
that the NTV, an opposition TV station which the preceding government denied
license despite the fact that all the legal requirements were met, is
authorized by a court ruling to go on the air again.
The TV news bulletins and the political talk shows are
more tightly controlled than before. The similarity in the news
reached a level, though familiar in many undemocratic Arab countries, was
till recently unknown in Lebanon. In the summer of 1999 an outspoken
retired judge, Salim Azar, was announced as a guest on a talk show in the
opposition Future TV. The talk show was cancelled and no reasons were
TV stations are discouraged to interview politicians and
intellectuals known to be hostile to the government. The list of the
banned names is growing in size and many that had a chance in the past years
are completely blacked out. However, the screws are less tight in the
press and some, including the former prime minister,General Michel Aoun,
have their releases and interviews with them published.
The titles of the talk shows display the mood dominating
the TV stations. Ziad Njeim found suitable for his show the title
“Ash-Shatir Yihki” which allows for a variety of interpretations including
“Let those who dare speak.” Hikmat Abou Zayd went further and called
his show “Al Kalam Bisirrak”, roughly in English “Keep What Is Said a
Secret.” Zavin Kiyoumjian wished to be noncommittal by calling his
show “Sireh Wa Infathit,” which goes somehow like “While We Are At It.”
A more daring Samir Kasir thought of capitalizing from the cautious attitude
of his competitors and called his show “Bidoun Tahaffuz” “Without
For its part, direct censorship on satellite broadcasts
originating in Lebanon remains tight.
Three out of the five TV stations operating in Lebanon
were brought before the court. On January 17 the Future TV had to appear
before the court on charges of discussing in one of its programs the
disappearance of a young girl. The prosecutor’s case was based on the
fact that the court was examining the litigation.
On August 6 the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC)
was prosecuted for “inciting disorder and fanning religious hatred” for
beaming comments of ordinary people in the aftermath of the gunning down of
eight civilians for religious reasons.
Charges were pressed against the Murr TV (MTV) on August
9. One of the political shows, (Istifta’) had earlier referred to Syria in a
way which the Lebanese authorities judged injurious to the relationship
between Lebanon and “a sister state.”
In a public release on August 14, the committee for
Christian Media expressed the concern of the heads of the Catholic Churches
that the measures contemplated by the authorities might lead to the closure
of Tele Lumiere and Radio Sout al-Mahabba. The two stations are the
most powerful instruments owned by the Church. The government
tolerated the two stations but did not legalize them despite repeated
demands by the Church leaders. The release appeared in the aftermath of a
declaration by the minister of information warning the various stations to
remain within the limits set forth in the official permit.
The measures against the media reached a peak when the
MTV was closed down on September 4 by a court order taken in camera.
The closure was not restricted to the TV station but swept also two radio
stations: Radio Mount Lebanon, that broadcasted the political programs of
the MTV, and Radio Nostalgie, which happened to be located in the same
building. The ban on the latter was lifted some 20 days later. The excessive
decision triggered a score of hostile reactions locally and internationally.
The National Council on Media announced on September 25
its determination to examine a clip on the LBC displaying Einstein giving up
on Lebanon finding a way to pay its public debts. The clip was
withdrawn without waiting for the Council’s decision which does not seem to
The Constitution provides for freedom of the press, but
in practice this right is seriously trimmed. Freedom of the press,
which declined significantly since the Taif agreement in 1989, improved on
certain scores in 1999.
The various cabinets imposed relentless pressure on the
media in the nine years of President Hrawi. 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
It was mainly in this field that improvement was detected
in 1999. No media persons were prosecuted on the account of what they wrote,
but the imposed self- censorship is more tremendous than before according to
the testimony of those who work in the press. A telling fact is that
while the former president was a favorite subject of political caricature,
the absence of any caricature, even a favorable one, of President Lahhoud is
noted. A good illustration of the general climate what runs in an
advertisement campaign run by the weekly al Muharrir. Posters
underlining the motto directing the policy of the weekly stated: “A
calculated frankness where silence reins; and a little courage in the age of
The director general of the General Security issued an
order dated January 3 making the distribution of the daily As-Sharq al-Awsat
in Lebanon conditional on prior revision of its content by the security
authorities. The daily had published earlier that an attempt was made on the
life of Lebanon’s president while vacationing in Niece.
The following day charges were pressed against the paper
and its editor-in-chief, Abdel Rahman al-Rashid, a Saudi national, was held
at Beirut’s airport and denied the right to leave Lebanon. The matter
was settled and al-Rashid left the following day. The case against the
daily is still pending before the Publication Court.
The Beirut daily Ad-Diyar was charged on January 8 for
publishing a complaint against the hearing magistrate Sakr Sakr filed by
former MP. Yahya Shamas.
A legal action was brought against the weekly al-Watan
al-Arabi for an article under the heading “Syrian officers lead sensitive
Lebanese organs; 5 thousand Syrian soldiers in Lebanese Army uniforms.”
The Beirut daily Ad-Diyar decided on September 14 to
suspend publication for three days in protest against the closing down of
In the course of the Francophone summit meeting in
Beirut, a member of the French team, Gideon Cotz, was declared persona non
grata and was placed in what amounted to house arrest for 24 hours before he
was sent off. The reasons given for the decision were his reporting to
some Israeli media. It was widely circulated that no less important
reason, which was not included in the official version, was that Cotz was a
Jew. On September 21 the Publication Court endorsed the decision.
The government uses several tools to control expression.
The General Security monitors all foreign magazines and non-periodical works
including plays, books, and films before they are distributed in the market.
There was an outcry in the fall of 1999 when the General Security suggested
that some modifications be introduced to a Maurice Bijart performance in
Beirut. The popular singer Marcel Khalife ran into trouble with the
Muslim Sunnite authorities by using a verse of the Qur’an in one of his
songs. The court ruling in favour of the singer decided the issue. It
should be recalled that in September 1996 a public prosecutor charged 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.” However, on September 21, facing rising
criticism from various factions, the Prime Minister asked the Justice
Minister to drop the charges brought against Khalife. An investigating
judge dropped the charges against Haddad on January 8, 1997.
The general Security is empowered to censor movies. All
movies dealing with Israel are banned. No distinction seems to exist between
movies on Israel and those that 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 the year 1999 few incidents
were recorded; up to one third of a film by Nahla Shahhal was slashed.
The Security issued a statement claiming that the protection of public
morals prompted the measure. The statement ran a long list of the foul words
and expressions that were censored. Even private movie clubs and
cultural centers were not spared. The Goethe Institute had to reconsider a
German movie program.
The firm control and censorship of every form of artistic
expression was not eased in the course of the year 2002 and none of the
abovementioned restrictions were lifted. The regulations passed in the mid
1970s are still enforced and five copies of proposed books should be filed
to the Security General for inspection. A written authorization is a
pre-requisite for publishing the manuscript. The same procedure
applies to plays and musicals.
In January four Security General officials made a
thorough inspection of Virgin Mega Store, and confiscated a number of
records and video films banned in Lebanon in compliance with the Act to
Boycott Israeli products and sympathizers. The owners of the Mega
Store produced official documents proving that the confiscated material were
cleared and stamped by the Security General before entering the country and
placed on the shelves. Among the material confiscated is “Jesus of
Nazareth”, a film often beamed on many TV screens in Lebanon. The reason
offered to justify the measure was the religion of the producer.
A long list of books remains banned by the General
Security. The list includes books claimed to violate public morals and
public order. While it is fairly easy to establish what public morals
are, public order allows for all kind of arbitrary measures directed against
the opposition to the regime. Books favorable to the former minister
General Michel Aoun are still banned. A book by a former bodyguard of
former minister Elias Hubeika was added to the list. No revision of
the list of banned books is done and those banned in the past remain denied
to the Lebanese inside Lebanon. The list includes a book in French on the
future of Christianity in the Middle East, a whole series on Islam 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 censor confiscated all issues of the
book entitled “Remove Paul’s Mask from the Face of Christ,” by the Saudi
author Ahmad Zaki. The book was determined by the General Security to
defame Christianity. This list is far from being exhaustive. It is
practically impossible to draw a complete list of the books that are printed
abroad and are not allowed to sell in Lebanon. Even the list of books by
Lebanese authors which is banned or re-edited in compliance with the
suggestions of the censor is impossible to draw as many authors withhold
information, as they see no advantage in antagonizing the authorities.
Occasionally these measures are challenged. A number of
publishing houses clashed with the censors. The most famous case
remains that of “Riad – Rayyes Books” on a variety of themes mainly old
manuscripts and Islamic subjects.
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 the post Taif-Lebanon these attempts are intensified.
outstanding development in the academic history of Lebanon was the en mass
authorization to found universities by the minister of education Abdel Halim
Murad. For more than a century, Lebanon had only two universities then
the number was cautiously raised in the second half of the twentieth century
to reach a figure not exceeding ten. In one strike the number of
universities in Lebanon hiked to total 41.
measure was ill received by the academic circles. From the human
rights angle the picture appears less dark as it offers openings for more
young people to benefit of higher education.
other hand Minister Murad withdraw from circulation a history textbook.
The justification of his measure was that the Arab conquest was described in
the book as “the Arab and Muslim invasion.”
Inciting collective hatred
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 are widely violated in Lebanon.
Anti-Semitism is more public in Lebanon than in any other
Arab country. The Syrian Social Nationalist Party displayed anti
Jewish slogans in many parts of the capital and the regions on party or
national occasions. For its part, Hizbullah use of anti –Semitic
slogans declined in 1999.
Inciting hatred against the Maronite community in public
seems on the decline Former minister Walid Jumblat on two occasions in
1999, on the issue of the Syrian Lebanese University, and in December 1999,
made racist declarations against the Maronites.
A programme on the Tele Lumiere TV station, beamed in
1999, is worth noting. Father George Rahme ran a weekly programme on
sects. His favourite boxing bag was the Jehovah Witnesses and other
minor religious sects. While it is well within the rights of religious
communities to defend and propagate their faiths, it is a violation of human
rights when this right degenerates into drumming hatred, appealing to people
to use physical violence against the other sects, and demanding that the
police and the security agents should round them up. These and more
were often repeated in Father Rahme’s show.
The prospect of settling and naturalizing the
Palestinians who sought refuge in Lebanon in 1948 triggered a wave of
comments marked in many cases by an unmasked racial undertone to which
contributed politicians and intellectuals of all shades of the political and
The racist discourse was
trimmed in the last two years. Much of the anti-Semitism of the Syrian
National Social Party was deleted from the foreground. Hizbullah, on
the other hand, did not alter its discourse and lashing out against Jews is
still prominent in many of their literature and public speeches.
Some members of the
Lebanese parliament, in the course of discussing the Bill of Real Estate
Ownership by Foreigners, used forms of hatred and slander against the
Palestinians. Boutros Harb, Naamtallah Abi Nasr and the former
speaker Hussein al-Husseini were particularly harsh in their selection of
Two of the MPs of
Beirut, Basim Yammout and Naser Kandil, warned against Judao-Christianity
and called on the Christian authorities to reconsider their relationship
with the Old Testament.
FREEDOM OF RELIGION
The Constitution provides for the freedom of religion and
this right is respected inasmuch as the concerned religions and
denominations are recognized. But what would be the legal status of those
who find their religious truth outside the list of the recognized creeds?
The Lebanese law concerning religion is based on a theist concept of
religion that fails to cater for other definitions of religion. Any
religious persuasion out side the list is not recognized by the state and,
therefore, not protected by law. Many religions, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the
Bahais for instance, are obliged to circumvent the Lebanese law to enjoy
some of their basic rights.
In the last three months of the year 1999 a number of
acts of violence were reported against church buildings. Two Greek
Orthodox Church buildings were partially damaged in Tripoli and in the last
days of the year some Christians were taken hostage by Muslim fundamentalist
in Dinniyeh and the kidnappers reportedly liquidated two women.
The injustice done to the believers in religions not
included in the official list is not rectified. Sporadic attempts on
places of worship, particularly churches, were reported. Blasting
liquor shops, generally owned by Christians in some Muslim areas, were not
FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
Lebanese Armed Forces and Syrian troops maintain
checkpoints in areas under their control.
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
reasons, 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 restore their property. The resettlement process
is slowed down by psychological factors, as well as political and financial
The termination of the Israeli occupation of South
Lebanon lifted all hurdles in linking that part of the south with the rest
of the country. There is also a reduction in Syrian checkpoints in
many parts of Lebanon, particularly the Beirut-Tripoli highway.
INTERFERENCE WITH PRIVACY,
FAMILY, HOME, & CORRESPONDENCE
The security agencies, particularly 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 mobile 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 in 1999 that the
telephone calls of a number of Lebanese citizens were tapped. In May
1996 the Parliamentary Salvation Bloc issued a statement 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.
Moreover, the Parliament voted a law in 1999 legalizing
tapping of telephones. Those of the ministers and MPs were excluded.
A bold decision by the Constitutional Council declared the law
unconstitutional. However, no steps followed and it is circulated that
the tapping of the telephones is widespread.
The wife of Samir Geagea, (former commander of the
dissolved Lebanese Forces Party), is still placed under strict surveillance.
An army checkpoint 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 checkpoint placed at the entrance of the
Patriarchal See in Bkirke. The officials, citing security as a
pretext, justify the measure as a necessary precaution 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 violated the
privacy throughout their control of the occupied part of South Lebanon.
Printed material types, films, and, in some cases,
correspondence are checked by the General Security.
Wholesale political killings, a prominent feature of the
war years, is gradually phasing out. Four judges, while on duty, were gunned
down in Sidon in 1999 and the assassins managed to escape.
On 24 of
January the dissident former commander of the Lebanese Forces and former
minister Elias Hubeika was the victim of a booby-trapped car placed in the
vicinity of his house. The death toll included three bodyguards; Dimitri
Ajram, Walid Zein and Faris Sweidan. 9 people were wounded in the
I’irani, a prominent figure in the dissolved Lebanese Forces was abducted in
the afternoon of May 7 shortly after leaving his office in the capital.
On May 31 his body, in an advanced state of decomposition, was found in the
trunk of his car which was parked not very far away from the place of
Jibreel, the son of Ahmad Jibreel, the Damascus-based Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine- General Command, was assassinated in the western
part of Beirut on May 31st. The victim of a bomb placed in
his car, is reported to be in charge of the PFLP-GC operations in Israel and
the Occupied Territory.
explosions in July devastated the Akoury building in the Butshay suburb of
Beirut. Maha Akouri died on the spot while her daughter Dolly was wounded.
Investigations suspected that the attempt was directed against Sergeant
George Akouri of the Internal Security Service positioned in Roumieh Prison
who had a part in interrogating the accused of the Muslim fundamentalists of
ambushing an Army patrol in 2000 in Dinniyeh. Before that Sergeant
Akouri was commissioned to carry out the execution of those sentenced for
taking part in the assassination of the pro-Syria Muslim cleric Sheikh
of July a said member of the Shi’ite political movement Amal, Ahmad Mansour,
forced his way into the National Instructor’s Pension Fund. He
selected 8 officials and gunned them down in cold blood. He
confessed later before the court that his motives were confessional as most
of those he killed were openly hostile to Islam.
Saida on July 11 Badi’ Walid Hamadeh gunned down three Lebanese soldiers and
sought refuge with the Islamic fundamentalist Usbat al Ansar in the
Palestinian camp of Ain al Hilwe. Negotiations with the Lebanese
authorities lead to handing him over on 31st of July.
to assassinate MP Mansour al Bon was frustrated and Joseph Akiki was
arrested on September 2. A week later (9/9) George Azzi was charged
with plotting to assassinate the Mayor of Jounieh Adel Abou Karam and was
ARBITRARY ARREST & DETENTION.
The Lebanese government resorts to arbitrary arrests and
detention. The law requires security forces to obtain
arrestwarrants. However, military prosecutors, with their extensive
jurisdiction, reportedly issue blank warrants or oral ones 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
confine 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 and 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
Security forces continue to practice arbitrary arrest,
detaining mainly the opponents of the government. In November 1999 the
security forces arrested over 80 persons in Tripoli following the attempts
on the church buildings. Almost all were arbitrary arrested and later
on were set free.
The authorities often detain for short periods and
without charges political opponents of the Syrian and Lebanese governments.
Rounding up of the activists of the Lebanese Forces and the followers of
General Michel Aoun dwindled in 1999 but gained momentum in the following
years. In almost all cases the activists are asked to sign a
declaration in which they undertake to abstain from all forms of political
activities. In the past two years a new method was applied. The
security agencies found wiser to keep the detainees for no more than few
hours, a time span enough to achieve the desired intimidating effect while
denying the human rights organizations the chance to disseminate the
information seeking protest action. However two exceptions were
recorded in that period; Salman Samaha, a Lebanese Forces activist, was
detained for three days in March of 1999. He was released and no
charges were pressed against him. Walid Ashkar, a student activist and
member of the pro-Aoun group was arrested in November 1999 and was kept for
three days in the detention center in Tripoli before being moved to the
Military Police headquarters in Beirut. Achkar, who claims to be
tortured and has medical reports establishing these allegations, was set
free by the hearing magistrate.
There is credible information that a certain category of
detainees is handled in Lebanon from the outset by Syrian security agents
and transferred to Syrian detention centers, whether in Lebanon or Syria
proper. The number of these detainees cannot be accurately determined.
The only official admittance of the presence of Lebanese detainees in Syria
came on November 24, 1996 when President Hrawi gave the number of Lebanese
detainees in Syria’s prisons to be 210. The President of the Republic
had given a more reduced number earlier. The statement might have
helped the release of 121 Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons.
Local militias and non-Lebanese forces continued to
conduct arbitrary arrests in areas outside central government control.
Minister of Interior declared on 28 of October that “whole villages were
arrested for interrogation in the aftermath of September 11.” Minister
Murr added that the crowds were loaded in trucks and transported to
interrogating centers for sorting out.
Security measures were intensified in the summer and early fall months.On
August 8 a warrant was served for Sharbil Isbir and Yousef al Karih in
theNorth Lebanon town of Shikka
August 9 Faris Samrani (17) and Mark Boutros (16) were unlawfully arrested
in Shikka. They were released after interrogation in the Military
persons were detained for hours on October 13 who were on their way to
attend a requiem mass in down town Beirut for the victims of the Syrian
invasion of part of Lebanon in 1991.
October 16 ten students were detained for a few hours for taking part in the
demonstration and the sit-in which took place in St. Joseph University.
of October 60 students were detained then released for taking part in the
demonstration and sit- in of the Faculty of Sciences of the Lebanese
University in Fanar to protest the closing down of the MTV and other issues
related to freedom.
DENIAL OF FAIR PUBLIC TRIAL
Independent Lebanon inherited an independent and
impartial judiciary from the French. This tradition was by and large
maintained despite occasional departure from these values. (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. A further decline
came about with the establishment of the Judicial Council, which is highly
influenced by political considerations and lacks the independence necessary
for fair trials. The Council can only review cases referred to it 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.
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 defendants, 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 that was carried out in
In July the Judicial Council issued a 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 existence of a Military Court is another gross
violation of fair trial This court is an innovation introduced in 1967 as a
judicial tool to check the declining state of security. The competence
of the court spread in the years that followed on the account of the normal
penal courts. The Military Court applies summary procedures and the
sum total of its rulings that exceed all penal courts put together, are
seriously questioned by jurists.
The normal court structure allows for a degree of
political influence in the judiciary. The Prosecutor General of the
Republic, who directs and supervises all the work of the prosecutions
offices all over the country, receives, by law, his instructions from the
Minister of Justice.
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. A case in point where the delay casts
obvious injustice is that of former minister Shahe Barsoumian who was
detained over 8 months and his file is not yet referred to the court.
The FHHRL’s records contain the more shocking cases where people, especially
nationals of poor Asian and African countries, are in the pre-trial phase
for long periods, in some cases upward of 4 years.
The FHHRL handled a case where an Ethiopian domestic
helper was accused of strangling her newborn daughter. All the phases of her
trial were completed including a stiff sentence without calling in a
translator who could communicate with her in a language she knows.
An attempt on the right to defense was registered in 1999
when the Military Court refused to allow all the lawyers who volunteered to
defend the former SLA people from Jizzin. The court restricted the
right of defense to just a handful of lawyers.
Two developments on the positive side are worth noting:
a growing number of judges are basing their rulings on the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights instruments. The
other laudable development is a ruling by a hearing magistrate in 1999 to
press criminal charges against a member of Internal Security Force when he
came across hard evidence that the official was implicated in torturing a
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 charged for.
The trial of the former members of the South Lebanon
Army, which started in 2000, continued in the year 2002. None of the
irregularities, which the FHHRL criticized in its extensive reports on the
trials, were rectified. The most flagrant of which is the nature of the
court, the procedures followed and the trimming of the rights of defense.
For much of the year the spotlight was moved to the case
of Hindi-Younis and Baseel.
The three opposition figures were sentenced to terms of
imprisonment for “contacts with the (Israeli) enemy.”
Toufiq al-Hindi, a university professor and former
advisor to the leader of the dissolved Lebanese Forces, was among the many
arrested on August 7, 2001. On the 16 and 19 Antoine Baseel and Habib
Younis (both journalists) were respectively detained. All three were
charged with dealings with the enemy and were tried before the Military
In February the court sentenced them to a term of three
years. The three appealed the sentence and on July 12 the Military
Court of Cassation reduced the terms to 15 months for Hindi and Younis and
two years and six months for Antoine Baseel.
The FHHRL considers the trial unfair, as the only basis
of the sentence was the signing of a statement admitting the charges
by the accused in the course of the pretrial phase in the absence of any
legal counsel. Despite the fact that the three insisted that their
signature was extracted by way of intimidation, torture and threats, the
court pronounced them guilty.
In a separate development, Hanna Shallita, who was
arrested in July 1994, was released on August 30. No charges were
pressed against him and in the course of the eight- year detention he was
brought before the hearing magistrate one time and only for 20 minutes.
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 till now not certain. It is widely circulated that the
Syrians detain him, probably in a detention center in Syria. Khawand is not
the only detainee in Syrian prisons. While it is impossible to
establish their exact number, there are no less than 200
Lebanese detained in Syria. Nothing is known about their where about
or the reason for their detention or the duration of their imprisonment.
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 passed a law
allowing 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 latter marriages.
January 3 the Israeli High Court issued a decree authorizing the
administrative detention of Mustafa Dirani and Sheikh Abdel Karim
Obeid.. Dirani was abducted 13 years ago by an Israeli commando unit
from his house in the Baalbeck district of Lebanon while Obeid was, like
wise, abducted and ferried to Israel from his house in South Lebanon 18
release on August 27, the Committee for Parents of Detainees in Syrian
Prisons disclosed that 12 Lebanese were set free by Syrian authorities and
the body of a dead detainee, Khalid Nimr al-Iss, was delivered to his
family. The Committee stated that the 12 are on a list of 95 detainees
the Syrian authorities admitted being held in its prisons.
positive step by the Syrian authorities was granting audience by the
minister of interior to a delegation of the Parents’ Committee. The
Syrian minister promised to receive them after three months if no word is
heard from him. In accordance with the pledge, the delegation headed
towards Damascus on November 3. They were not allowed inside the
Syrian territory on the basis that the minister is out of the country and
shall not be back for a whole month.
parallel committee on the abducted criticized on September 1st,
the Lebanese government. A statutory two-month delay following
collecting information by an official committee chaired by Minister Fuad as-Saad
passed and no report was issued. Minister as-Saad had earlier
promised that the report will be ready and shall be filed to the Council of
Ministers by the end of June.
PUNISHMENT, DEATH UNDER TORTURE, AND PRISON CONDITIONS.
Not acceding to Optional Protocol No.2 (O.P.2) on the
abolition of the death penalty is no excuse for the former governments 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. that
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: “…sentence 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 general Security 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
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 General
Security, 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. Yet n the year 1999 an impressive improvement was
implemented by the Security General. More decent and comfortable centres
were arranged for the foreign detainees until a solution is found. A
fairly well equipped centre is in Mazraat Yashou’. The lack of
cooperation on the part of the states the national carry their passports
makes it unfair to blame the Lebanese General Security for the tragic living
conditions of the detainees.
A number of reforms were introduced by the new director
general of the General Security Department. The one most related to human
rights is appointing a senior official to liaison with the human rights
organizations. This measure proved fruitful and one of the
beneficiaries is a Turk national Augustine Bishu. A decision was taken
to extradite Bishu, who entered illegally the Lebanese territories, to his
country of origin. The Director General, following an appeal by the
FHHRL, reconsidered the decision.
The government does not permit prison visits by human
Hizbullah also detains SLA members and suspected agents
at locations within their controlled areas. There are reports of
mistreatment of detainees by Hizbullah.
improvement is recorded on the detention centers of the asylum seekers run
by the General Security. This by no means should read that their
conditions are ideal. While a lot need to be done, their detention
quarters are, by all standards, superior to those of their former detention
place in Furn ash-Shubbak.
prisons in Lebanon, already congested, are even more so with the influx of
the thousands of detainees who served in the South Lebanon Army.
Experts insist that congestions could be eased, even solved, by
administrative decisions such as speeding up the trials and considering
release on bail, the latter, though existing in the Lebanese law, is
restricted and not of wide application.
are reports of mistreatment and even torture taking place in Lebanese
prisons and places of interrogation. The families of the Muslim
Fundamentalists who are tried for their role in the clash with the Lebanese
Army in January 2000, elaborated, in a press conference they held in the
premises of the FHHRL, on the means and forms of inhuman treatment of the
Sudanese, all in their twenties, died in the course of their detention.
suspending the benefits of the attenuating factor was deleted. The
human rights circles applauded this reform. A number of sentences on capital
punishment were ruled in the course of this year including one by the
Military Court on July 27 sentencing the killer of the three soldiers (Abou
are some 100 persons in the death row.
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 elections and looms over the posterior parliamentary
VIOLATION OF HUMANITARIAN
An undetermined number of civilians were killed in South
Lebanon in the course of the 23-year Israeli occupation, as Lebanese
Hizbulah forces on the one hand, and Israeli forces and SLA on the other,
engage in a cycle of violence. The paramilitary group attacked SLA and
Israeli troops deployed in Lebanon, and also launched rocket attacks against
northern Israel. Israeli forces conducted repeated air strikes and artillery
barrages on populated areas and on guerrilla targets inside Lebanon.
On April 18 a number of Israeli shells struck the UN
compound in Qana killing 102 civilians who had sought shelter there, and
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.
Between May 30 and June 3, 1999 the SLA militia abdicated
Jizzin and retreated to the new frontline just south of Kfar Houne.
More than 200 militiamen opted to remain behind and surrendered themselves
to the Lebanese authorities. They were later given sentences ranging
from three to eighteen months.
The use of banned weapons.
It is established beyond doubt that Israel and the SLA
used weapons, including flechette shells, phosphorus and remote controlled
bombs, which takes indiscriminate toll on civilian bystanders.
Each flechette shell used by the Israelis contained
between 8,000 and 12,000 five-centimeter steel darts. It was fired by
tank cannon and exploded at a height of 500 meters, scattering the darts
over an area of about one square kilometer.
In September 1999 an officer of the UN peacekeeping
mission UNIFIL told AFP that the flechette shells used by the Israelis in
Lebanon fell “indirectly into the category of banned weapons” because they
“are not aimed at a specific target but scatter over wide area inflicting
damage on civilian facilities.
These violations and crimes lay squarely with Israel
regardless of whether they were actually committed by the Israeli army or
its SLA ally as the Israeli army itself acknowledged that it paid the wages
of the SLA militiamen, including the jailers in Khiam prison. The
Israelis also armed and supervised the SLA militia.
The UN Human Rights Commission was more direct. In April
1997 it ruled that Israeli actions in South Lebanon constituted a “serious
violation” of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the protection of civilians in
withdrawal of the Israeli troops in May 2000 and the dissolution of the
South Lebanon Army almost ended the state pf belligerency in South Lebanon.
All what remains is the disputed Shibaa Farms which the Lebanese government
claims to be part of the national territory still under occupation. Until
this particular issue is settled, the possibility of a flare up remains.
RIGHTS OF SPECIAL GROUPS
and lesbian community is still harassed by the police and the laws of
Lebanon. Homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment regardless of age and
circumstances. It is imperative that the Penal Code be amended to
restrict punishment to acts involving a minor and exercised in public.
of August two lesbians were arrested for partaking in “unnatural sexual
acts.” Public Prosecutor Shawki Hajjar ordered that each be held in
custody in separate cell. Article 534 of the Penal Code identified
having sexual relations “contradicting the laws of nature” as a crime
carrying a penalty of up to one year in prison.
THE HUMAN RIGHTS
MOVEMENT IN LEBANON.
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.
A positive development was registered in the year 1999.
On November 29,1999 Amnesty International circulated a statement under the
title “Lebanon President welcomes Amnesty International office in Beirut”
.The statement, while praising “the support and encouragement we have
received for the proposal from the highest authorities in Lebanon, from
human rights activists and from various representatives of civil society,”
added that “the Lebanese authorities have given the go-ahead to set up a
regional office for Amnesty International in Beirut.”
AND THE INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS INSTRUMENTS
adhered and became a party to a number of international instruments on human
rights, most of which are related to labour. In 1972 the Lebanese
government acceded to the two covenants of 1966 while in 1997 acceded to the
International Covenant on the rights of women. TheLebanese government
signed in July 2000 the Covenant against torture which was signed by 101
states. And was enforced as of June 26, 1987.
Lebanon joined a number of states in the “Interpretative Declaration” which
stated the attitude of 28 states on the rights of human rights activists.
The “Interpretive declaration” over and above the fact that is devoid of any
legal significance, emptied the agreement of its main contents. The
embarrassing fact is that no one of the 26 signatories of the
“Interpretative Declaration” is known to be a democracy while 14 out of the
multitude are Arab countries.
Lebanon is behind on many of its commitments to report to the UN related
committees. The government report on the discrimination against women is
long overdue. The government sources state that the report is ready
and is undergoing its final touches.
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC RIGHTS
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
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
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.
Law does not prohibit forced labor. 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.” 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 workweek 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 illegal.
The press reports cases of rape with increasing
frequency; what is reported is thought to be only a fraction of the actual
number 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.
A positive development in the case of battered women,
including wives, is setting up at least one NGO which offers refuge,
medical, psychological and legal assistance to the victims. This type
of violation was beamed on the TV and helped in promoting awareness.
In February 1999 an important amendment was voted by the
parliament in favour of women. The exemption from punishment in the case of
a male killing a female ascendant, descendent or sister when discovered in a
compromising situation is deleted. The legal system remains
discriminatory in its handling of “crimes of honor.” This type of murder
still benefits of attenuating factors. A positive development on the social
level was registered in the late summer of 1999 when a man brutally killed
his teenage daughter. The attitude of his village was very hostile to
him and, when acting the murder, the police force had to intervene to save
him from wrath of his society.
Prostitution is punishable by law. The definition
of prostitution is vague and allows for abuse. Cases were reported of
couples that were subjected to police interrogation on charges of
prostitution for just being alone in an apartment. There is no
distinction between prostitution and the profession of bar maids and the
line between the two is misty. Mixing up between the two professions
does not do justice to bar maids proper. It should be added that
hookers, being outside the protection of law, remain and ideal subject of
all kind of social sexual and police abuse.
It should be noted that 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.
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. Children born out of wedlock to a Lebanese mother are entitled to
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.
improvement on the status of women was recorded. One development might
have been a set back but was quickly rectified by the Council of Ministers.
Council of minister decreed that the married women, duly registered in the
Social Security Fund, are entitled to pass the benefits to their children in
case husbands were not registered in the Fund. The director general of
the Fund countered the council’s decision claiming that the Fund by laws
uses the masculine form of speech to describe the beneficiary. The
dispute dragged on till 31 of October when the Council of Minister issued a
clarification decree mentioning expressly that the word “beneficiary”,
wherever it appears, should read males and females.
There are few legal and far less practical protections of
children in Lebanon. Despite a bill in March 1998 making education
compulsory for the first seven forms, the measure is not yet enforced and
many children take jobs at a young age to help support their families.
In lower income families, boys generally get more education. The reason is
not just the nation-wide economic recession but equally social attitudes
which favors the males. As a consequence of both factors, a growing number
of girls are withdrawn from schools and enter the work market or remain at
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. Solid reforms were
introduced in 1999; the juveniles were moved into a special section
completely separated from the main complex, a rehabilitation center is
active in Baysour while in the later part of 1999 a center to look
after the children rounded up from the streets of the capital was
established in Kahhale. For its part, 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 in 1998 and 65 in 1999. Another center in Fanar with 25
children should also be mentioned.
Two extremely shocking cases were out in the open in the
year 1999. In the earlier part of the year Fatima al Jasim, a child
below 10 of age was brutally tortured by the house lady where she worked.
The press and a number of NGOs campaigned against the perpetrators and the
court sentenced the employer.
In the late summer of 1999 Khodr Kanjo, a boy of 6 need
medical care for injuries inflicted on him. It turned out that the
child was a victim of repeated sexual abuse by his uncle who displayed
There are neither child welfare programs nor government
institutions to oversee the implementation of children’s programs. A score
of NGOs are active in the field of children rights and protection. 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 “illegitimate” 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.
PEOPLE OF SPECIAL NEEDS
Over 100,000 people sustained disabilities during the
Lebanon war. Care of the people of special needs is generally a
function performed by families. Most efforts to secure education,
independence, health, and shelter for them are tended by some 100 private
organizations for the people of special needs. In general, these
organizations are poorly funded.
Building requirements have no specifications for ease of
access. However, the private “Solidere” project imposed requirements
for disabled access.
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. Reliable sources estimate the Palestinians residing in
Lebanon to be around 200,000 as no less than 150,000 have left for
destinations in the Arab world, west Europe, Australia and the Americas.
The government issues laissez-passer (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).
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 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 Palestinians enjoy relative security, assassination of opponents
is more common than their arrest.
The Lebanese Parliament voted in May a bill on Ownership
of Real Estates by Foreigners. The bill excluded the Palestinians from
the benefits of this law. The FHHRL considers this law discriminatory
and sets the grounds for abuse and injustice. There are thousands of
Palestinians who bought property, mainly apartments, in the course of over
50 years of Diaspora. They are not entitled to register their property
in their names. There are thousands of Palestinians of Lebanese
mothers. Again, they are not entitled to register any real estate that
come down to them from their mothers’ side.
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.
Moreover, harassment, detention (though short), and
occasional beating and threats, have become an occupational hazard for
environmentalists. Pierre Malychef, a pharmacist in his seventies, was
summoned before a judge in 1995 and was charged with “compromising Lebanon’s
international reputation” by his releases warning of the presence of toxic
barrels in various parts of Lebanon. The interrogation lasted 9 hours
but Malychef was allowed to return home seven days later. Muhammad
Sareji was physically assaulted by thugs he accused of acting by instruction
of the chief of police in Sidon, and spent two days in hospital for his
attempt to save marine life in Sidon. His efforts were not on vein.
Stiff penalties are meted to those who use dynamite in fishing.
More serious issues were disclosed on the National
Environment Day (16 November) 1998. Nabil Soubra, the president of the
League for the Development of Municipal Work in Beirut, described air
pollution as the “silent killer,” with key sources in the capital being the
traffic and lack of green space. Soubra described open spaces in
Beirut as the lowest among the world’s capitals, with just 600,000 square
meters of open space, including the Pinewood (Horsh). Whereas
the United Nation stipulates that each person requires 40 square meters for
a healthy environment, Beirut’s rate lies as low as 0.8 square meters per
person, the English language Beirut daily, the Daily Star, reported Soubra
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
( 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
( 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
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.
This background remains valid for the year 1999. In fact
the following quick rundown indicate unjustified deterioration:
Green Peace activists were
physically assaulted by the police in the course of a peaceful protest
against dumping toxic material in the sea by a Chemical firm in Salaata.
No measures were taken to protect
woods from the seasonal fire that breaks in September of each year.
Natural sites, water sources, and
air remain unprotected.
While some quarries are closed
down or organized, the bulk of this devastating activity continues
Hunting was controlled for a
couple of years in the mid 1990s. In the past two years all
restrictions, in actual fact, were lifted.
After a promising start in
treating garbage and waste a decline in waste treatment was recorded.
Vehicles run by fuel oil are
authorized following decades of banning. The necessary measure of
engine control is not, or nor sufficiently, implemented.
A set of fertilizers and
insecticides which are banned in many countries are still allowed in
Little is done to build sewage
networks, which are lacking almost everywhere in
Lebanon, and little was done to improve the existing few.
due decision was enforced on October1, 2002. The Lebanese government
closed down the quarries which distorted the landscape in much of Lebanon.
On a track, not entirely unrelated to the quarries, the cement factories in
Shikka are still the subject of complaints by the inhabitants of the
vicinity. It is established beyond doubt that the percentage of lung
cancer is much higher throughout the region affected by the filterless
chimneys of the numerous factories.
positive decision by the Lebanese government was to take out of circulation
the cars run by diesel.
lamentable relapse is detected in hunting birds. For only two years
the ministery of interior managed to enforce a bold decision against stout
opposition from the hunters and the ammunition factory owners.
Unfortunately the ban was lifted. The 2002 season which starts in
September, did not display any restraint or moderation on the part of the
hunters. Some estimates put the number of birds shot every week in the
vicinity of one million. The bulk of the hunted birds are not on the
standard list of hunt. It should be noted that Lebanon is located on
the migration root of many birds from Europe to Africa and back.