A Study on the Victims of Torture and Enforced Disappearance
A Study on the Victims of Torture and Enforced Disappearance
Lebanon has been home to many wars and attacks that resulted in demolished homes and lost lives. The flame of civil war was first lit in 1975, and went on for 17 years. Israeli assaults and invasions, however, date back to the Palestinian calamity and the beginning of Israel in 1948. The assault of July 2006 may not even be the last. The victims of these wars and assaults were in the thousands, both Lebanese and Palestinian; killed, wounded, crippled, along with the destruction of homes, institution and the economy…And while the Lebanese rose above the ashes and debris every time and rebuilt and healed –especially following the civil war and the freeing of the southern lands from Israeli occupation- there remained issues left unsolved that formed an inevitable conclusion to the wars and conflicts with the Israeli occupation. On the other hand, thousands fell in the face of warring Lebanese militias and parties that took part in the civil war. Others fell as a result of the Syrian army’s entry into Lebanon in 1976 –the army later evolving from a force used to break up conflicts into a tool for the forced custody of Lebanon.
The various conflicts resulted in disasters that remain untreated to this day: freed prisoners, those missing in Israeli and Syrian prisons, those missing among civil war victims. After all, the occupation of the south and western Beqaa resulted in the capture of thousands of civilians and resistors in their areas. Yet while the captured are considered prisoners of war according to international treaties, Israel considered them hostages to be exchanged for Israeli soldiers that were either missing in Lebanon or captured by resistances, in return for detainees. The ruling concerning this matter came out in 2/2/1996 in the high Israeli court. This was in response to an appeal several Lebanese prisoners made, asking for the consideration of Lebanese prisoners as hostages and a bargaining chip. In light of that, Israel insisted on the detainment of 24 Lebanese hostages after it pulled back from southern Lebanon in 2000, later having to free them in an exchange with Hezbullah in 2004 and 2008. Prior to year 2000, Israel had freed prisoners in exchange operations or individual and group exchanges of detainees, under pressure of international and local solidarity campaigns.
The file on detainees in Israeli prisons may have been partially closed after the last exchange in 2008, but the issue of the missing and bodies of martyrs remains unanswered.
In Syria’s case, it had taken Palestinians and Lebanese prisoners it considered its foes, without trial and without announcing their arrest to begin with.
This study comes as a project meant for health, psychological and social support for torture victims –funded by the European Union- because the victims of such tragedies do not heal easily, even with time. The study sheds light on these victims and their situation, handling intricate details regarding their health, psychological and social standing in hopes of reaching a comprehensive plan to support and deal with their needs, after considering what has been offered to them from all parties concerned.
Detainees in Israeli prisons:
A study conducted by the ministry of social affairs on freed prisoners included 5,232 persons, and was carried out in year 2001. According to this study, 5,032 detainees were freed, 253 of which were females, while 32 are still missing and 152 died in imprisonment or as a result of it, or as a result of abusive practices.
The first Israeli detainment operation dates back to 1969, when a Lebanese (by the name of Abdullah Zahra from Bastara farm) was captured. A similar operation followed in 1975, and more later and far in-between, between 1976 and 1981. The result of the latter was 43 detainees, most of them freed later, while some were held for questioning.
17 people were still held prisoner in detainee camps when the Israeli invasion came about in 1982, after which detainment operations intensified. In 1982 1,394 people were captured (nearly %26 of the detainees listed in the study). Their numbers varied thereafter between 581 in the year 1983, 1025 in the year 1984, and 671 in the year 1985. After that number dropped to 228 detainees in 1986, and the number kept dwindling gradually until it reached 35 detainees in the year 2000. This study shows that %1 of detainees were captured before the year 1982 -75 of which were caught between 1982 and 1986. %12.3 were captured between 1987 and 1992, and more than %10 were caught since 1993 and until 2000.
1- The Nature and Characteristics of Detainment
Based on the sample the Khiyam center surveyed, the following is clear:
a) The age group (according to the study by the ministry of social affairs dating back to 2001):
Captivity affected all age groups in the following order:
Above 61 years 30 - 60 years 18 - 30 years Below 18 years
% 4 % 22 % 68.5 % 8.4
These percentages are bolstered by the surveyed sample of the Khiyam center (a sample of 231 cases):
1970 - 1990 1960 - 1970 1950 - 1960 1920 - 1940
159 102 48 9
b) Place of detainment:
- Based on (the sample of 231 cases):
In the first degree: the largest percentage is listed for individuals from the two detainee camps in Khiyam, the latter being the oldest of detainee centers in the south (opened in 1958 and closed in 2000) and because it is surrounded by tens of villages under Israeli occupation.
- In the second degree: detainees in Ansar that was opened in 1982 and closed in 1985. At that time, half of the Lebanese lands were under Israeli occupation until the gradual withdrawal to the occupied strip that lasted until 1986.
- In the third degree: those captured in the first Israeli invasion of the south in 1978. Those detainees originated from the border-based villages.
It is also noted that a number of detainees were captured more than once as a result of their remaining in occupied villages after they were threatened the first time, which puts them under constant threat of detainment:
The detainee distribution among detainment areas (a sample of 231 cases):
Detainee centers and military barracks Riji Khiyam Ansar Captured more than once (between the south and inside Palestine, or inside the south
5 2 102 104 18
c) Most notorious Israeli prisons:
Following the first Israeli invasion of the south in 1978, the occupying forces established detainment centers, and they were:
Center number 17 in Bint Jbail or the refugee detainment camp in Bint Jbail, Tal Al-Nahas prison at Kafer Kala triangle, Khiyam, Burj Al-Molouk, the Aynata prison, Alma Al-Shaab detainment camp, and Mar Elias’s prison in Sidon. Those centers were in essence temporary detainment chambers meant to be used for a few days or weeks until the investigative sessions with the detainees concluded.
After the great invasion of 1982:
The Ansar detainment camp, the military governor’s office center in Sour, the Shajara school center, Kafer Falous center, the parliament building in Sidon, Riji’s women center in Nabatiya, Al-Safa factory, and Khiyam’s detainee camp.
i. The military governor’s office in Sour:
Israeli forces took up the Azmi building situated at the northern entrance to Sour city, and made it the military governor’s main office in light of the expansive Israeli invasion of the area in 1982. The occupying forces held civilians temporarily in the buildings lower stories while investigations ended, before it moved the civilians to permanent prisons.
ii. Ansar detainee camp:
After the expansive Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon in June of 1982, the occupying forces opened the Ansar detainee camp in July. In it they tossed thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese, and in April 4th of 1985, the camp was closed in time with the recession in the occupation of the area.
Occupying forces reopened the camp and threw thousand of Lebanese, Palestinians and Arabs within it, until the gradual withdrawal, when the forces moved the prisoners to Atlit’s detainee camp within the occupied lands before setting some of them free, and distributing others among Dakhil prison and Khiyam’s detainee camp, the latter having been renewed for use instead of Ansar, and being situated in the occupied strip –which remained occupied until 2000. The name originates from the town of Ansar, where the camp stood in the Nabateya jurisdiction. It closed the first time in 24/11/1983 after the of freeing the first batch of prisoners (approximately 5,900 detainees) in an exchange operation. The second and final time was in April 4th of 1985.
Martyrs of the Ansar detainee camp:
Mohammad Diab from Baroziah was martyred in 3/11/1983, during a clash between the detainees and the Israeli soldiers. The Jahanam valley massacre happened in the Ansar detainee camp, where a Zionist tractor buried 4 prisoners alive, and these martyrs are: Ibrahim Khadra and Ahmad Sheito from Aitit; Ibrahim Darwish and Abbas Blaitah.
During his escape attempt from Ansar in 17 May of 1983, Ahmad Ali Ramadan was martyred.
iii. Riji detainee camp:
It is the Ansar camp’s double, and about which information leaks rarely every made it into the media. However, the occupying forces took over the large building that was the company of Riji, at the entrance to Nabatia city at the triangle of Nabatia-Kafermoun-Haboush in the early days of the invasion. The latter made the building into the headquarters of the Israeli administration in the area. Soon they turn the place into a detainee camp for Lebanese and Palestinian women, and when the Ansar camp became overcrowded, some detainees are sent to it.
iv. Zaghla headquarters – Hasbaia:
It is situated atop Hasbaia, near the government hospital, and used as the governor’s military headquarters since 1982 to 1985.
After the Israeli invasion, Israel took control of some private properties, including a home and lands belonging to the Shihab family, and another such property consisting of two deserted houses. The house was the security headquarters where assignments were given to the Israeli governor, and here he took people for investigation. Agents took over the headquarters in 1985.
v. Khiyam detainee camp:
It was the largest such camp in southern Lebanon during the period of Israeli occupation in terms of the number of detainees imprisoned within it, and in terms of how long it was used (since 1985 until 2000, the date of the liberation). The building is a barrack, its construction dating back to the twenties. It was built by the French army after its forced trusteeship of Lebanon.
The detainment center is split up into five sections. Three of the main sections in inside the old military barrack that included two rows of cells, every cell with a door that has sails covered in a metal cover. Most cells have no light source, but some does seep in through the small ventilation holes in the roof. The three sections and the main courtyard are separated by a towering wall 3 meters in height and topped by barbed wires. The fourth section holds the detained women’s cells. The fifth building, on the other hand, is the most recent of all, and was built beside the women’s section. Each section holds a bathroom, kitchen and guard rooms on the cells’ side.
Martyrs of the Khiyam detainee camp:
In November of 1989, two prisoners were killed: Bilal Salman and Ibrahim Abu-Izza in a prisoner uprising.
Up until the camp closed down, 11 detainees had died of psychological, physical torture and illness. They are: Abdullah Galmoush, Zakaria Nathar, Ali Hamza, Labib Abu-Geida, Mohammad Termos, Asaas Bazzi, and Hussein Ali Hammoud who died hanging from an electrical post in the camp, and two months prior, the prisoner Ali Ghoul was tortured to death in the 25th December of 1994. The prisoner Mohammad Akeil Salloum, on the other hand, was martyred inside the detainment center. His body was cut up and thrown in a faraway valley, under false ignorance of his fate.
2- Forms of Investigation and Torture Methods Used:
Questioning is carried out in five chambers situated between the first section, and the women’s prison near the prison administrator’s office. Throughout the questioning period detainees are placed in isolated cells, or regulars cells said to have “collaborators or cell agents”.
The investigative period does not end in a trial or a verdict, since prisoners are held illegally and are not treated as prisoners of war. The testimonies of some of the detainees indicate that Israeli employees participated directly in the questioning and the torture.
A. Torture methods:
To torture is to inflict immense physical and psychological pain upon a person, simply out of cruelty or sadism, or in order to frighten and terrorize, or any other reason for the sake of garnering information or forcing the subject to perform a certain task.
A section from the anti-torture agreement:
Reference: the health, psychological and social support project for victims tortured by the Khiyam center in areas of Beirut, the north, and south, and it includes (1,000 cases of those released in Israel and Syria, and the families of missing detainees).
There are surveys filled by detainment victims, as well as detainee testimonies taken from the archives of the committee fighting for detainees in Israeli prisons. These surveys show that the victims were subjected to part or all of the following methods:
1- Exhausting the victim physically to undermine his resistance through forced nudity: stripping him and locking him in solitary confinement for days on end, depriving him of food and water and the use of a bathroom to relieve him, and ignoring his queries about the reason for his detainment.
2- Physical abuse: punching, kicking, the use of a cudgel, iron belt, and axe. Repeated striking of the hands, ankles, and slapping the ears. This method was used on %90 of detainees, and represents %90 of torture methods that victims complain about.
3- Electrocution and electric shocks: while the person is sitting on the floor, handcuffed with his head covered, the questioner connects two electric rods to two of the person’s fingers, or to some other parts of his body –especially the genitals and other sensitive areas such as the tongue, ears, toes, nipples, and nose. The questioner begins to turn the handle on a machine to produce electricity. The faster the handle is turned, the higher the voltage of electricity going through the wires. Torture by electricity results in sudden and violent muscle spasms, in addition to burns.
4- Burns: using cigarettes, hot coals, hot metal, or spraying with a boiling liquid.
5- Choking or suffocating in water: submerging the head in water or wrapping it inside a plastic bag while blocking the nose and mouth with a piece of cloth; forcing the victim to swallow liquids without room for breath. This method was used between sessions of questioning and beating rounds that ended at times in the fainting of the victim.
6- Sexual torture: inserting objects into natural orifices (objects such as a stick), and pulling on and twisting the genitals.
7- Exposure to intensely violet stimulation: deafening noises, over-bright light, extreme cold or heat, prohibiting eating and drinking, distributing spoilt food.
8- Non-physiologic positions: hanging by the wrists or the feet while tied to a rod passing behind the knees, and simultaneously tying the hands and feet to the person’s back with a rope; standing on one foot for hours on end; squatting without any rest or sleep.
9- Whipping with a thick electrical wire or an electric whip: the questioner proceeds to beat the detainee while the latter is prostrated on the ground, the strikes reaching all parts of his body. This is used against detainees waiting in the backyard in-between investigative sessions or as a punishment.
10- Hanging from an electrical shaft: in between questioning sessions, detainees are hung form an electric shaft in the inner yard situated between the first and second sections. The most common method is when the prisoner’s shackles are hung from another pair of shackles or a chain, or a rope hanging from a pole connected to the shaft. Detainees are hung with their toes barely touching the ground, and they are left in this position for hours while being exposed to weather factors and having been stripped of their clothes and beaten –in this case- with electric wires.
11- Painful positions: forcing detainees to keep their arms raised while they stand or kneel, or forcing them to perform strenuous physical exercise.
12- Sleep, food and health facilities depravation: during the long investigation period detainees are deprived of sleep, food, and drink, for the purpose of mentally and physically exhausting them, by making them stand throughout the entire investigative session, or beating them and pouring water over them regularly in one of the passageways or yards. Much of the time, detainees are kept from using the toilet for days on end and are thereby forced to relieve themselves while clothed. In solitary confinement, however, they are forced to relieve themselves in a plastic bucket.
13- Head covering and humiliation: the head is covered with a putrid-smelling black plastic bag to help lose feeling of time and place, and to instill fear. Plastic shackles that are used to tie the hands are twisted, which causes extreme pain, sometimes fusing with skin and shedding blood. Cutting off the person from any sort of stimulation (white torture), or blindfolding and ear plugging.
14- Solitary confinement: throughout the investigation, detainees are in touch only with the investigators and sometimes with the cell agents, in an attempt by investigators to draw information from them. The detainee is placed in a solitary cell sometimes shared by cell agents pretending to be detainees themselves.
15- The henhouse or chicken coop: A small cell used in Khiyam detainee camp until year 1998. In the first section it is named the henhouse, and it is where troublemakers are placed as punishment. The detainee is shoved within it with his head covered tightly while he is in a squatting position, his head on his bent knees. He remains in this position for several hours.
16- The collaborators or agent chamber: in an attempt to garner the trust of the individual under investigation, agents are placed in the cell with him.
17- Verbal abuse and threats: insults are most commonly used referring to the religion of the detainee, his mother, wife, daughters or sisters. Threats are made against him or his relatives, promising death if the prisoner does not confess to the charges attributed to him.
18- Relative torture: to apply ever more pressure on detainees, Israelis capture one of the detainee’s relatives for a short or a long period of time, within earshot of the detainees. This was one of the most effective psychological torture methods used. This is because the detainees oftentimes give in and confesses, losing the will to resist investigators upon hearing their mothers and fathers screaming in anguish.
19- Blackmailing women: male investigators perform the questioning, despite the women being cut off from men and being guarded by female prison wardens. Torture methods against women are not different from the men’s, but there is one addition: threats of rape. However, none of the female detainees questioned by the center have admitted to actually having been raped.
B. Admitting to Torture Practices:
Victims do not usually confess to all torture methods used against them, either to avoid being pitied, or to retain an image of stability before the community. This is especially true of the male victims. It is also true of the female victims, who conceal a large portion of the torture methods used on them, and especially those methods that affect their femininity.
It is clear to psychology specialists in the Khiyam center that most victims evade answering questions about torture methods used on them. Some straight-out refuse to speak of it while others feign forgetfulness.
What they went through shows nevertheless: in their speech, actions, and body language. Victim Z. M. would not meet the social specialist when the latter came on her first visit, and the victim broke down directly upon hearing the center’s name (the Khiyam center) as it reminded her of the detainee camp she was imprisoned within for an entire year. After several visits, she agreed to be integrated into the center’s health, psychological and social activities, without agreeing to fill out a detailed survey on her detainment.
Victim Z. S. was detained with her sister and her friend in the Khiyam camp in year 1991 for a period of 21 days, and after her release the Israelis and agents threatened to imprison her again. She preferred to commit suicide rather than suffer that fate, and her sister drank the poison Demol, but was saved.
C. Daily Life in the Detainee Camp:
It is important to present the daily conditions of detainees, as this has a profound effect on the psychological outcome of torture and detainment:
Prisoners spent their detainment period in regular cells with a daily routine, anxiously awaiting an unveiling of their unknown future, and their release.
i. In the Khiyam detainee camp, for example:
At first, prisoners were allowed to go out into the sun rooms for 5 minutes every two months. There are two courtyards for male detainees, and they are simply a small yard surrounded by walls and a ceiling made of a web of barbed wires. This time increased to 20 to 30 minutes every few days.
Allotted work: detainees were given a few chores, such as collecting garbage, distributing food, cleaning cells and toilets, and participating in kitchen duties.
Before the Red Cross came into the picture in 1995, medical attention was nearly nonexistent and was restricted to administering painkillers for all kinds of illnesses and injuries that resulted from the torture.
Visitations: At first they occurred at a rate once a month for 5 minutes. They were ceased completely in the spring of 1988 for security reasons. Since then and until the permanent involvement of the Red Cross in 1995, visits used to occur only through bribes.
As for clothes and blankets, prisoners used to wear pants, a shirt and a wool jacket. Their families were sometimes allowed to bring extra clothing for them. After the entrance of the Red Cross, blanket numbers increased and a sponge mattress was added.
Cells were overcrowded, filthy and dark, with a single small window.
Oftentimes detainees were not allowed to relieve themselves in the toilet, but in a plastic bucket placed in the corner of the cell. The bucket is emptied out daily by the guards. Bathing, on the other hand, was done at a rate of once a week –and sometimes once a month or every few months.
Food: The early years of the Khiyam detainee camp (from 1985 to 1988) were described as being the years of starvation, where each detainee received two pieces of dry bread each day, with some jam, a few olives or a boiled egg with vegetables and a few spoonfuls of rice, macaroni, or potatoes with beans or other kinds of vegetables for lunch or dinner. In some instances, as many as five prisoners per cell shared one plate of rice, beans or a single egg.
The effects of starvation are still present within some of the individuals surveyed, and in fact one of the survivors mentions that he ate a piece of sponge form his bed to quench his hunger in the time he was imprisoned in February of 1986.
A- Testimonies of detainees freed from the Khiyam camp:
Reference: Archives of the Follow-Up Committee for Detainees in the year 1991:
The prisoner enters a rough stage of rigorous investigative and questioning sessions. These sessions are full of all sorts of incitements and intimidations. The occupying forces plant a number of agents in the cells. This would be the first juncture for the detainee, and upon his entrance they begin to question him in a friendly manner, presenting themselves to be his friends, captured for resisting occupation as he was. If the detainee is simple-minded, then he is in a load of trouble from that first moment; there is daily contact between these agents and the investigators who rely on the information given to them (by agents through detainees), and as such these agents are much more dangerous than any investigator.
The first period of detainment is the hardest of all, and it stretches from the first day to a month and a half. In this period a detainee is subjected to all kinds of torture methods and psychological and physical hardships. It is a period that represents a difficult trial for the detainee that, when passed, give a feeling of greatness, power and endurance that pushes him to easily withstand years of detainment. However, if he fails, then disaster strikes him, his friends, and his reputation because then he has then fallen completely from grace. In this stage, the detainee enters an unfamiliar world he needs help navigating, and when he learns of the number of detainees he realizes that a detainee can, after all, withstand anything in a detainee camp.
As for sections of the camp, it is divided into five parts. Every part is made up of 20 chambers, except the part where women are imprisoned, and which is made up of 7 to 8 chambers situated in a building adjacent to the men’s facility. The women’s prison is called the Fifth Prison.
The main source of news, on the other hand, we got from new detainees that came in every now and again. We relied on that source because the occupation and its agents tended to deliberately fabricate news about resistance operations and political news for the purpose of spreading feelings of defeat and powerlessness among detainees. This disruptive method was used primarily by guards, in a calculated manner and for many purposes.
Food was scarce; for example, the quantity specified for every six people was 6 carrots, 6 potatoes, and two pieces of toast. This situation continued from 1985 until 1987. In April 28 of 1987, three detainees started a hunger strike and demanded an increase in food portions. This strike went on for one day before prison authorities gave in and improved portions slightly. In February of 1988 a second strike was staged that went on for two days. A third strike went on for three days and resulted in exchanging toast for bread. The food was already past its expiration date (canned sardines, jam). In August of 1998 the food was switched from Israeli-made to Lebanese-made and its quality improved considerably until the supply manager stole it. After that the scarcity returned, and in January of 1989 each detainee was given one loaf of bread. Prisoners asked for two and got half a loaf of bread for their troubles. Detainees also suffered from a severe water shortage. In the summer of 1986 the water was cut off for three consecutive days, and out of thirst one of the detainees attempted to drink his own urine, and was transferred to the hospital as a result.
In September of 1989 police used beating as a torture method on detainees. In November, one of the officers entered a cell and severely beat one of the prisoners, which resulted in a strike on the 25th of November that police attempted to end by force. There was a prisoner uprising afterwards and the police fled the prison that housed the detainees who were cheering and singing patriotic songs. The strike started in prison number one and spread to prison number 4 on the same day, and was suppressed by smoke grenades. Firces attempted to suppress it in prison 3 with gunshots. After that the chief of the detainee camp came in and asked the prisoners to cease. The prisoner’s demands were specific: allow the Red Cross to enter the camp.
When the detainees of prison 3 refused to conform to the chief’s demands smoke grenades were thrown in and the uprising ended with the suffocation of several detainees. The guards then wrestled 12 prisoners out and beat them severely; Bilal Salman was martyred as a result of the beating and suffocation. When informed of his death, authorities dragged his corpse on the ground. This spiteful behavior set off the martyr’s comrades and caused them to start another uprising, to which the police once again responded with tear gas, and this resulted in the suffocation of the detainee and martyr Ibrahim Abu Al-Izz, who died on his way to the hospital. In April 13 of 1991, a strike was started with the demand of a better food quality and the introduction of entertainment means. The strike went on for three days before authorities attempted to suppress it by force.
Torture methods were: severe beating, use of electricity that is sometimes applied to reproductive organs, torture by freezing and hot water, and underground cells covered in total darkness. In some instances, the investigator resorted to threatening the detainee’s family, especially those detainees with families within the occupied strip, especially threatening his mother, sister, and wife. To survive this first stage of investigation, we pretended guiltlessness of the allegations presented against us, and that our capture was a random occurrence and completely by chance. That is until we transgressed the first stage and entered the group imprisonment stage. In that stage we share a cell with 3 or 4 detainees, most of them having spent two or three years there, some of them even having spent as many as six years.
Those directly in charge of the Khiyam camp, however, were usually among the more prominant agents. They were supervised by officers from the Israeli army, who perform routine visits once every 10 to 15 days to overlook all goings-on inside the camp, and in order to give instructions to agents there. Some of the guards and kitchen staff there called each other by pseudonyms for fear that detainees would threaten their lives once set free, and in fear that the resistance could get a hold of them outside the camp. Most nurses were also agents, and any medical condition the detainee suffers from was treated with no more than painkillers.
All agents resorted to verbal abuse and to insulting the detainee’s honor in order to provoke him. Even during questioning, electrical torture, hanging detainees from a shaft and severe physical abuse was used. Investigators have also resorted to blackmail, by bringing a number of the detainees’ sisters and threatening to assault them in the event that the prisoner did not confess.
Detainees in Syrian prisons:
According to an official report by the Complaint Committee for the Families of the Lost and Kidnapped, the situation for Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons revolved around several motives of the Syrian army, its intelligence –which took over several Lebanese territories for many years-, and some of its allies among Lebanese organizations that handed prisoners over to Syria later on. Imprisonment was done in large groups for many years following the conflicts the Syrian army dealt with in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, and with the Lebanese army in October of 1990, or following the great Israeli invasion in 1982. Locking Lebanese in Syrian prisons, however, started prior to the entrance of Syrian forces into Lebanon in 1976. In the Kidnapping record of Elias Al-Bitar, he was kidnapped in October 25 of 1975, from the village of Kintari. According to his family, he is now in the Mazza prison, the Palestinian branch. The puzzling thing is that the kidnapping and detainment spree did not cease with the end of the civil wars and the end of the lack of government. In fact, new kidnappings were recorded annually until year 2000, such as the kidnapping of George Yousef Khoury in July of 2000. A year previous, three soldiers from the Lebanese military were kidnapped, and they are: Ali Issa, Mohammad Shoufi, and Izzat Yasine. In 1997, Rashid Hussein, Abdullah Shahadi and Najib Jirmani (the latter sentenced to death) were kidnapped. Jirmani’s sister visited him three times before she was no longer allowed to do so and no more was heard of him.
Detainee regional distribution:
The greater number of detainees were concentrated in the north and Beqaa counties as a result of Syrian forces located mainly in the two areas and their strong hold on them until the Syrian army’s exit in 2005; barracks, stations, road blocks and military inspection points concentration in those areas; the existence of forces and Lebanese parties that approve of or oppose Syrian presence also contributed to the increased number. This is because some of the parties allied with Syrian forces used them to discipline the party’s political opponents and take vengeance. As for those opposing Syrian presence, the members belonging directly or indirectly to those parties or opposing Syrian presence was enough reason for pursuing and detaining them.
Regardless, the harassment families of detainees suffered from during the period of detainment, and what the detainee himself suffered concerning his pursuit, observation and suppression lead many detainees and their families to conceal the truth about the detainment. Not to mention the threats they got from Syrians still spread out in the detainee’s living area. As such, the number of detainees released from Syrian prisons is inaccurate, and is in fact much less than in reality.
Most Infamous Syrian Prisons:
1- Branch of Mar Maroun:
It is situated in Tripoli city, and was named thusly in reference to the name of the church just meters away from it on the same street. The prison was made up of two sections:
Section one: was an apartment situated on the right side of the street, its name the Syrian Intelligence Center for Syrian officers, and it is made up of two chambers.
Section two: is an apartment on the left side of the street. It was used as an interrogation center and temporary detainment, before the detainee was moved to a prison inside Syria, and it is made up of 7 chambers.
2- The American branch:
This branch was a school belonging to the Maronite Association. It was closed down by the Syrians upon their entry into the area in 1976, and which was, at first, a dormitory for soldiers. Later in, two of the chambers were used to house temporary detainees, knowing that the space is 50 meters long and 4 meters wide. This branch was commonly known as a disciplinary center. Many of the area’s residents say that some of the detainees’ bones are still buried in the school’s background.
3- Halba branch:
Situated on the main coastal road of the Halba area, 35 km from Tripoli. This branch was constructed especially to hold detainees from the area and to question them. The cell was no bigger than 20 square meters
4- Ein Al-Burj:
Situated in the Minya area on the beach near Ein Al-Burj’s Boar, which is an old mill in which a large chamber is used for detainment.
5- The Haikaliya branch:
Situated in the Dahr Al-Ein area, 15 km away from Tripoli. The investigation chamber is a large hall, its size 72 meters. It was used as a center for receiving complaints.
6- Anjar branch:
Named thusly in reference to Anjar town on the Lebanese-Syrian borders. This branch was a headquarters for Syrian army administrators and intelligence in Lebanon. It was originally a stables, its area around 1,000 meters. It was divided into 5 chambers used as detainment cells.
7- Al-Mazza prison:
Situated inside Syrian lands. It is made up of two floors, on each one there are 12 cells, each cell 96 meters is size. Around 2,000 detainees are held in this prison.
8- Al-Mantaka branch:
Situated in Damascus, and it is where Lebanese detainees from Anjar are transferred. It is made up of 40 cells.
9- Sadnaya prison:
It is made up of 3 stories or wings, each f then made up of 10 chambers 48 meters in size each, and each in which around 20 detainees are held.
10- Tartous prison:
Named thusly in reference to the city of Tartous, where the prison is situated.
11- Tadmur prison:
Named as such in reference to the city of Tadmur the prison is situated in. The prison is made up of 7 courtyards, each one 73 meters in size. Each courtyard is divided up into 27 cells. The second yard has 20 cells. Th ehtird, on the other hand, is called Hanafiya (faucet).
The fifth yard is made up of 37 graves, each grave 80 cm wide and 160 cm long. A detainee may end up imprisoned within it between one year and 10, maybe more and without parole. Eating, sleeping and the toilet are all in the same place. Generally, the Salloum, or grave, was used for those charged with murder or those sentenced to death. In each cell, around 125 detainees are held.
Health and psychological situation after release:
Psychological and physical torture methods are similar. According to testimonials concerning the practices in Israeli prisons.
The experience of a victim who has benefited from the Khiyam center’s program intersects with experiences of other detainees of the Syrian forces, according to their individual testimonies:
I was working in my office, in the information center of the Lebanese University in Hadath. I received a telephone call from a military personnel at his center, and I was asked to meet him there in the first day of tishrin thani of 1994. AT the entrance to the center, they took my car keys and lead me directly to the interview room. They locked me in and forced me to wait for hours until the person in charge arrived to meet with me. Early the next morning, the door opened suddenly and three men in civilian clothing came in. One of them approached me and put a sack over my head and by means of transportation took me to a center for the Syrian military, according to the accents of its detainees and by the pictures of Syrian officials all over the place. They took me to a room and attacked me, beating, slapping, kicking, and striking me with the butts of their guns, and then they placed me in a dark cell. The next day, they took me to another room and had me lie on my back and took turns whipping the bottom of my feet. At noon they tossed a load of bread, a bowl of broth, and a plastic container cut in half with putrid water inside it. When I knocked on the cell door asking to go to the bathroom, they came in and beat me severely, and so I went without relieving myself for two days. In the evening, I was tortured in a stretched out position, and was naked but for my underpants, my wrists tied with metal handcuffs connected to the roof of the torture room by a chain, the latter pulled tight by a thick pole. They pulled me upwards and started to beat me with sticks until I swung about the room wildly. At night, whenever I fell asleep, someone pounded on the door of my cell violently so that I jerked awake, terrified, I heard many voices and words, and I felt that they were detaining others where I had been held, a place I knew nothing of. While someone led me to the bathroom I glimpsed the face of a young man I knew, but I did not call to him in fear of the consequences for both of us. Afterwards I heard his voice calling for help from the torture.
In another day, they led me to the investigation room. They sat me down on a wooden chair and covered my head with a sack. The investigator accused me of many crimes that I denied, and then he whipped me severely and ordered the guards to take me to the torture chamber, where they stuffed me into a truck tire and began pushing the tire, and it rolled among them while they simultaneously beat me with sticks and kicked me, until the tire hit the wall at the end of the long hall. My head was still covered by the sack while the tire rolled to-and-fro and hit the walls. This caused one of my vertebrates to shift away from my spinal column and tore its cartilage. I have not healed from this injury until today, an injury that requires continuous therapy. In another investigative session, I was placed in the electric chair, naked but for my underpants, with my head in a sack and my hands and feet tied up. They left me in the room, with a microphone against my mouth and earphones pressing against my ears. Low voltage electric shocks started going through my body for about 10 seconds. Meanwhile their voices rang loudly in my head, but I remained silent, enduring the initial shocks and resolved not to say a word. The second round of electricity was stronger and lasted longer, passing through my whole body. I tried to scream but could not, as if every part of me had stopped functioning suddenly, whether it be my eyesight, and even my thinking. My nerves lurched and my muscles shook, until I felt that they were tearing as if I were close to my death. At the beginning of the third round of electric shocks, I passed out and woke to find myself on the floor away from the electric chair and wet with water. When they approached me with a cup of water I could not pry apart my lips as a relut of my clamped jaw. In the end they inserted a straw between my stiff lips so that I can sip the liquid from the cup, but I was unable to do even that while saliva poured out of my mouth and mucus from my nose, flowing heavily and as involuntarily as the urine form my bladder.
Prisoner conditions directly following detainment:
Observations depend on a sample made up of 1,000 detainees that the Khiyam center followed in order to help rehabilitate the torture victims as part of the health, psychological and social support project for the victims tortured in Beirut, the south, and the north between 2007 and 2010.
Firstly: Health conditions:
According to the surveyed sample, the medical team in the center identified the physical effects of torture:
1- Whipping the bottom of the feet: caused partial stripping of the skin of the feet, pain, and difficulty walking. This also causes a disturbance in the blood flow, higher blood pressure, and heart and arterial illness. Bruises, on the other hand, cause higher blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, and colon infection.
2- Bruises: caused by burning.
3- Beating and wrenching limbs out of their sockets causes pain to the skull, the head and arthritis, tendon infection, muscle tearing and spasms, sinus infection, and a misshapen septum. Beating the chest area severely causes chest pain and even a stroke, infected arteries and vein concavity.
4- Tying the wrists too hard for too long cause pan in the extremities and cartilage dislocation in every level of the spinal cord.
5- Continuous strikes to the brain causes seizures.
6- Purposeful noise causes episodes of complex partial seizure.
7- Vitamin deficiency caused by poor food (especially vitamin B deficiency causes nerve infection and difficulty in walking).
8- Striking the ears leads to punctured eardrums, and continuous oozing with gradual loss of hearing until hearing is lost completely. Victim J. H. says that he still lives under the effect of detainment, despite being set free 22 years ago. He experiences pain in his body that stayed with him until today as a result of his detainment: a punctured eardrum, and an aching back.
9- Striking the face may cause eye damage or failure (in cases the cornea, lens, or retina takes a hit).
10- Loss of the senses of taste and smell leads to infected sinuses and infected cranial nerves.
11- Striking the stomach or gut leads to a stomach ulcer, colon infection, and hematoma within the peritoneum that can evolve into cancer. The kidneys can also be harmed. This kind of beating and abusing urinary and reproductive organs can result in a puncture in the urinary tract and bladder fistula, atrophy in one testicle or both, or bacterial infection in the stomach. An example of this is the victim A. A. He was detained in 26/6/1988 and spent 2 years and 3 months in Khiyam. He was set free in October 2nd of 1990. After a year and a half of being imprisoned, he was transferred to Marjoyoun hospital, where he underwent surgery, after which he was returned to the detainee camp, medical tubes still all over his body. After his release, he moved into an unoccupied area and underwent several surgeries. He performed 9 surgeries and they are: 5 for hernias, laser lithotripsy for one of his kidneys, because he was experiencing kidney failure that prevented him –in addition to the pain from operation incisions- from working and supporting his five children.
12- Drinking water, or using polluted or undrinkable water that leads to parasitic illnesses.
13- Imbalance, in drinking water unevenly and losing water and minerals, which leads to blockage in the kidney tracts.
14- Submerging the head in polluted water leads to severe bacterial infection in the lungs. Humidity within the detainee camp can also cause tuberculosis.
15- Depravation from food and drink for long periods of time and without relieving oneself in the toilet. Victim J. H. was detained in Khiyam between years 1983 and 1988 and was subjected to beating by a stick, was kicked, and was tortured using electricity in the tongue and reproductive organs, as well as being placed upon a burning furnace. However, his worst experience, according to him, was the hunger he suffered throughout his detainment period, so much so that he was hungry even while he ate.
Second: An example of health cases:
Reference: The medical records for the follow-up committee (from year 1997 to 2000):
Physical and psychological torture severely affects the health of those released after their release. Those cases suffer an intense amount of illnesses as a result of the