Report of the workshop concerning Roumieh prisonWorkshop report on the uprising of Roumieh prisoners and required action
Within the framework of the NSA project funded by the European Union and in partnership with the IRCT, the Khiam Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Torture carried out a workshop entitled "Uprising of Roumieh prisoners and required action " on Tuesday, April 19, 2011 in the Commodore Hotel, Beirut.
The following persons and associations attended the workshop: The president of the Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering, Mr. Ziad Qaidbai (representative of the Minister of Interior and Major General Ashraf Rifi), Ms. Naziha El Amin, member of prisons’ committee, in addition to representatives of the following associations: The Social Movement, Al Karama, the Assembly of Loyalty to Persons with Disabilities, Dignity Association, Caritas, a member of the Committee Human Rights in the Syndicate of Lawyers in Lebanon, the mother of the victim Jamil Abou Anni, and the family of the prisoner Zafer Shreim.
In the beginning, the Secretary General of Khiam Rehabilitation Center welcomed the attendees and stressed on the importance of this workshop and the need to pursue efforts until the improvement of prisoners’ humanitarian situation and to consider prisoners on the basis of human rights. Then he concluded with some recommendations and emphasized that the rehabilitation process is the basis of any treatment procedure.
Afterwards, Ms. Antoinette Haddad, the mother of the victim Jamil Abu Anni, who died in Roumieh prison during the recent events, raised the circumstances of her son’s detention and which accompanied his death. At the end of her speech, she called up for the prosecution of all who were responsible of her son’s death in prison.
Afterwards, the brother of Zafer Sharif raised his problem. His brother, aged 40, has two children and has been in prison since 5 years. He was sentenced for 8 years despite his poor medical conditions (serious lung disease) while prisons and prisons’ hospitals are not eligible to give that kind of treatment.
He also added that when he was 14 years old, he was conducted to Hbeish police station, was subject to torture and made confess of a murder crime that he did not commit.
The Interference of Mr. Ziad Qaidbai, the representative of the Minister of Interior the Major General Ashraf Rifi:
“In the beginning, I would like to clear that investigations are carried out in Roumieh prison and there are two types of arrangement. The first type is procedural and is being conducted by the General Inspector where he listens to the prisoners and their families, officers and guards. Whereas the second type is justice investigation oriented and is conducted by the Government Commissioner. Additionally, the Government is working on a program to improve prisoners living conditions. Commenting on Ms. Antoinette’s data about her son’s death, Mr. Ziad said that the needle was in the victim’s pocket but the mother refused this information.
Additionally, the Committee on Administration and Justice, the Commission on Human Rights, his Excellency the Minister of Interior and Municipalities, the Minister of Justice and representatives of civil society and associations working in the prisons held a meeting to discuss the prison problem. They acknowledged that the main reason behind these uprisings is overcrowding and that cannot be easily solved at this stage. They also agreed that the Internal Security Forces should not be in charge of the prisons’ security, but rather the Ministriy of Justice. But even if granted, that will not solve the problem because of the following existing gaps: The lack of jurisdiction in the prison’s administration, punitive administration and lack of psychology clinic of prisons.
As for the destruction caused by the uprising that occurred in Roumieh prison, the damage was mainly among the prisoners’ health files, and that means that prisoners are the most affected by this loss.
Mr. Qaidbai added: “Rehabilitation started in April 2011 in the “arrest area” and in Baabda Palace of Justice.
During January 2009, the Minister Ziad Baroud, submitted a comprehensive plan to solve the prisons problem and transferred it to the Lebanese Council of Ministers, and has given recommendations to expedite the formation of protective mechanism to prevent torture. But the suggested plan stayed at the council desk and no further action was taken.
Intervention of Mr. Abdul Rahman Al Mubasher, a member of the Commission on Human Rights in the syndicate of lawyers:
Suggestions and propositions:
- It’s better to submit prosecution demand on a personal level
- Submit a complaint to the United Nations specialized in prisons issues
- Reconsider the punitive policy
Mr. Al Mubasher was shocked by the fact that death in prison is declared as a heart attack whereas that was not the case, and he wondered why and how could this happen.
And, according to the five-year plan that will end in 2013, the Government should send officers to France to train them on prisons’ management.
Intervention of Saad Eddin from Dignity Association:
He expressed the need to amend the trial law and to apply the proposed prisons reforms submitted by Deputy Ghassan Moukheiber
Intervention of Mariam Abboud, representative of the Social Movement:
After introducing the Social Movement work in prisons that is mainly concerned with capacity building, she brought up the subject of the existince of minor prisoners in Roumieh prison
Intervention of Lawyer Nehme Joumaa:
Since 1963, the Government is still unable to put prisons’ administration under the Ministry of Justice and provide an efficient working staff. The uprising in Roumieh prison is not a first and seemingly not the last. There will other uprisings in other jails because there are many violations regarding prisoners’ rights and their families’ dignity.
Mr. Joumaa accused humanitarian associations to participate in the coverage of the neglect that is occuring in prisons and the prisons need radical reforms. In spite of all workshops and conferences that were held in prisons, they did not change anything in the situation. He asked the Government to create a solution and stop neglecting this issue, and to ensure a general amnesty because prisoners cannot wait forever
Intervention of Ms. Joumana Merhi, the president of the Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering:
Mr. Merhi expressed her solidarity with all men and women prisoners. She said that prisons’ conditions should be examined carefully and that NGOs should be more active in prisons reform. On the other hand, she stated that neither Government nor Lebanese people are willing for this reform. She has provided the Interior Minister with several projects regarding reform in prisons, women granting the Lebanese Nationality to her children and to modify the electoral law, but none has been taken into consideration.
The Ministry of Health dispose of big quantities of drugs that can be used instead to cover the prisons needs. Furthermore, all Lebanese ministries should take part in the prisons reforms and not only one (health, social, education, etc.).
As for women prisoner, the situation is dramatic, especially that there is a wide ignorance of subjects related to reproductive health, motherhood, pregnancy and childbirth.
There should be periodic inspection of drugs in prisons and the need to control the promotion process
Intervention of Ms. Naziha El Amin member of prisons’ committee:
Ms. El Amin mentioned that there are standards for the construction of prisons and the need for specail buildings for minors. As for Tripoli’s prison, the situation is dreadful and inmates’ families get insulted and are searched 3 times before they enter the prison. And there is an insult to the people. The essence of reform is through the application of international agreements.
Intervention Dima Shreim:
Ms. Shreim stressed on the lack of prior study on prisoners status, the reasons for committing the offense and their social and economic conditions that preceded the crime. Additionally, Lebanese prisons are not qualified and they graduate criminals instead of rehabilitating them.
Intervention of Mona Mermel, Psychologist:
Ms. Mermel said: Psychological and social follow-up are not found in Lebanese prisons, and called for the need to ensure psychosocial staff to work in prisons because the current workers and supervisors are not qualified. Additionally, she claimed specialized centers for minor prisoners.
Intervention of Mr. Radwan of Kherideh News:
In the beginning, he expressed that prisons problems will persist as long as overcrowding continues, he also added that there are injured from the recent uprising that are still without required treatment.
Intervention of the Secretary General of the Khiam Rehabilitation Center Mr. Muhammad Safa:
Mr. Safa said that prisons’ issue is large and complex. There is a need to deal with prisoners as human beings and respect their dignity and work on rehabilitation. The basic problem is that the Government does not consider the prisons’ issue as priority and he requested the Human Rights Commission and the Committee against Torture to visit all prisons one after one.
He handed the representative of the Minister of the Interior a recommendation to carry out a workshop at the Ministry of Interior, and accordingly invite all ministries, associations, the Commission on Human Rights, and municipalities to discuss how to work around the prisons problem.
Intervention of Nizar Saghia, Lawyer:
Mr. Saghia said: First there is a complex problematic in prisons that was not taken into consideration and should be delicately studied. Additionally, we need to emphasize on the importance of the judiciary role and to consider the issue of foreign prisoners that adds up and worsen the overcrowding. Also, we need to identify the benefit of imprisoning criminals. What exactly is the benefit? At last, there is an urgent need to have a qualified staff working in prisons.
At the end of the workshop, the following recommendations were approved:
1 - Conduct a judicial inquiry
2 – Compensate the victims’ families
3 - Provide personal complaints
4 – Carry out prisons rehabilitation and build new prisons
5 - Separate prisoners according to their health status, age and type and size of crime
6 – Link the offered prisons health benefits to the Ministry of Health through the presence of doctors, public health specialists and psychologists in prisons 24 hours a day
7 – Invite the ministries of Education and Justice, Social Affairs and the Interior to carry out its duties in cooperation with the civil society
8 – Have the Prosecutor of Appeal and the investigating judge visit prisons on monthly basis as it is stated in Article 15 of the prison system
9 - Reconsider the sanction law and procedural systems
10 – Develop the alternative sanctions
11 – Take the prisoners’ severe medical conditions into consideration and opt to release them.
12 - Give particular attention to minor prisoners
13 – Carry out a drug screening to prisoners before entering the prison to make sure that they are drugs free
14 - Review all prisons systems and ask the Parliament to apply the dormant and postponed projects
15 – Consider that prisoners’ rehabilitation is the foundation of treatment
16 - Prison administration must be specialized management and should be conscious of legal issues. It should also follow a written entrance exam before being accepted
17 - Form a protective mechanism to prevent torture in prisons
18 - Put end to arbitrary detention of refugees who finished their sentence period
19 – Submit a study on prisons to the Human Rights Council at the United Nations
20 – Require the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Interior in cooperation with civil societies to hold a national conference about prisons conditions
21 – Insist that the government forms a ministerial committee to plan a comprehensive and radical prisons reform and work on the previously approved projects that are put on hold
22 – Invite the Civil Society to enter and work more in prisons