Torture and ill-treatment remain a serious problem in Lebanese detention facilities and jails. Documented cases range from security forces beating a janitor suspected of theft during his interrogation, to members of the intelligence services subjecting security suspects to systematic torture over several days. An October 2014 UN report found that “Torture in Lebanon is a pervasive practice that is routinely used by the armed forces and law enforcement agencies.” Lebanese authorities should establish a national mechanism to visit detention facilities, monitor the treatment of and conditions for detainees, and develop a national strategy to prevent ill-treatment. Legislation to create such a body has been stalled in parliament for several years.
No country can move forward without addressing its past. And one of Lebanon’s open wounds is the issue of those who disappeared during and after the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War and whose fate remains unknown. In October 2012, Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi put forward a draft decree to the cabinet to establish a national commission to investigate the fate of those who had disappeared. The cabinet formed a ministerial committee to examine the draft, but no further action was taken. The Committee of the Families of the Kidnapped and Disappeared in Lebanon as well as other civil society groups are advocating for a draft law to create a national commission to investigate the fate of the disappeared. Lebanon needs to create an independent national commission that would include representatives of the victims’ families as well as civil society experts to investigate the issue of the missing and the disappeared in Lebanon, and those abducted from Lebanon. The adoption of the draft prepared by the Committee of the Families would be a good place to start.
Despite women’s active participation in all aspects of Lebanese society, discriminatory provisions continue to exist in Lebanon’s laws. Women cannot confer nationality onto either their spouses or children, and Lebanon’s religion-based personal status laws discriminate against women across the religious spectrum and don’t guarantee their basic rights when it comes to issues such as divorce, property rights, or custody of children. It is time for Lebanon to amend its laws in order to treat women equally. This country will not move forward if 50 percent of the population are legally considered second class citizens.
The bigger the crime in Lebanon, the less the likelihood of punishment. When was the last time anyone was held accountable for a political assassination? When was the last time an official went to prison for corruption? Since the end of the Civil War (when the country’s warlords adopted an amnesty to cover all their crimes), impunity has been the norm. This impunity extends from top leaders to local police officers, all protected by their respective leaders. The only way to break this vicious cycle is to reform the judiciary and allow the many promising young judges to exercise their oversight role. Without rule of law, there are no rights.
Rights of migrants and refugees
There are many non-Lebanese living in Lebanon today. From the 1.2 million registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon, to the estimated 300,000 Palestinian refugees and the 200,000 domestic workers. These migrants and refugees are unprotected by local laws and accordingly subject to exploitation and frequent abuse. It is time to provide them with their basic rights. This is the right thing to do but also a wise policy to adopt. Otherwise, we risk waking up one day with large numbers of disenfranchised, angry residents. Key reforms include removing the kafala system for domestic workers, easing residency requirements for Syrian refugees, and allowing Palestinian refugees – most of whom were born in Lebanon – to work and own property in the country.