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Lebanon:Human Rights groups call for torture prevention
Lebanon: Human Rights Groups Call for Torture Prevention

14 March 2011

Today, 10 Lebanese and International Human Rights NGOs raised the grave issue of the practice of torture in an open letter to the Lebanese Prime Minister designate, Mr. Najib Mikati. The letter requested concrete undertakings on the implementation of Lebanon’s obligations under the Convention against Torture (CAT) and it’s Optional Protocol (OPCAT) in Mr Mikati’s upcoming ministerial statement and during the Human Rights Council session about Lebanon on Friday 18 March in Geneva. A copy of this letter was sent also to the HR parliamentary committee.

The signatories called on the Lebanese authorities to take the necessary measures to put an end to the practice of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in detention centers and prisons in Lebanon, and to comply with all their international obligations with regards to torture.

In particular, the letter requested the rapid adoption of the draft law submitted on 30 September 2009 by a committee designated by the Ministry of Justice to create an independent National Prevention Mechanism (NPM), a body of experts which would visit detention centers to ensure torture is not practiced. The creation of the NPM is an obligation under the OPCAT, which Lebanon ratified on 22 December 2008, becoming the first Arab state to ratify this protocol.

The Ministry’s decision 2036 of 20 June 2009 designated a committee of officials, independent experts, and representatives of NGOs, who subsequently drafted the law. The designated committee held several consultative meetings and, on 30 September 2009, submitted the draft law to the Minister of Justice. Since this date, no action has been taken by the Lebanese Government to establish the NPM. Numerous cases documented by NGOs and cases treated by the United Nation human rights bodies, including a number mentioned in the latest report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture which was submitted to the Human Rights Council on 25 February 2010, provide strong evidence that security officials are still practicing torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment in Lebanese detention centers.

Lebanon is a party to the relevant international human rights instruments; a founding and active member of the United Nations system and, as stated in the preamble to the Lebanese constitution, has undertaken to abide by its obligations under the international covenants and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Despite this, Lebanese legislation fails to abolish torture, since the definition of torture, according to Art.1 of the CAT, still has not been included in Lebanese legislation.

In the letter addressed to the Prime Minister designate, the signatory NGOs requested that the following recommendations be taken into consideration in the ministerial statement:

· Incorporate the provisions of the CAT into the domestic laws according to article 4 of the Convention

· Include the definition of torture into the Lebanese legislation as provided by the first article of the CAT and thus modify the penal law so as to explicitly criminalize all forms of torture, and not just physical torture

· Ensure that the conditions of detention in detention centers and prisons are according to the standards of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, adopted by the General Assembly resolution 43/173 of the United Nations in December 1988.

· Ensure that foreigners, whether they served their sentences, were acquitted or released, are not sent to their countries or any country where they risk being tortured, according to the Article 3 of the CAT.

The NGOs have also called upon the incoming Lebanese government to present its periodic reports to the United Nations Treaty Bodies, most importantly its initial report to the CAT in accordance with article 19 of that convention which is nearly 10 years late. They also recommended that independent investigations be conducted into allegations of torture, according to articles 12 & 15 of the CAT.

The CAT came into force on 26 June 1987, while Lebanon ratified it on 5 October 2000 under law 185. Despite its ratification, the provisions of the convention have not been put entered into Lebanese legislation, despite Article II of the Lebanese Code of Civil Procedure which states that the clauses of the convention should be superior to domestic law.

The signatories of the open letter are:

. Restart Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture - Restart Center

. Alkarama Foundation -ALK

. ALEF- Act for Human Rights

. Khiam Rehabilitation Center for victims of Torture – KRC

. Palestinian Association For Human Rights- Witness

. Palestinian Human Rights Organization - PHRO

. Lebanese Center for Human Rights - C.L.D.H

. L’Association Justice et Miséricorde- AJEM

. Middle East Council of Churches, Unit on Diakonia and Social Justice- MECC

. Frontiers Ruwad Association- Frontiers