Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were no reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings during the year. Islamist extremist groups, however, committed numerous unlawful killings.
The country was increasingly affected by the Syrian crisis, which further polarized its politics, paralyzed many state institutions, generated a massive humanitarian refugee crisis, depressed the economy, inflamed sectarian tensions, and degraded national security. The continued spillover of violence led to the unlawful deprivation of life throughout the country, particularly in Tripoli, Arsal, and the southern suburbs of Beirut, by nonstate actors, including gangs and terrorist organizations.
On June 27, eight suicide bombers attacked the predominantly Christian village of Qaa near the Syrian border, killing five and wounding at least 28 others. There was no official claim of responsibility.
In 2014 clashes erupted between army personnel and Islamist militants aligned with Da’esh and Nusra in Arsal. Nineteen Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) members and 40 to 45 Syrians and Lebanese died; 90 to 100 individuals were injured. Islamist militants took 29 LAF and Internal Security Forces (ISF) members hostage, executed four, released six, and kept the remainder prisoner. In December 2015 Nusra released 16 Lebanese service members in a prisoner exchange with the LAF; nine service members continued to be held captive by Da’esh.
In 2013 the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which operated based upon an agreement between the United Nations and the government, indicted Hassan Habib Merhi, a Hizballah member, as a fifth suspect in the 2005 killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri and 22 other individuals. In 2011 the STL indicted four individuals, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Hussein Hassan Oneissi, Salim Jamil Ayyash, and Assad Hassan Sabra, all of whom were Hizballah operatives suspected of collaborating in the 2005 killings. Due to the incidents’ similar nature and gravity, the STL also established jurisdiction over the 2005 killing of former communist party leader George Hawi and attacks on former ministers Elias Murr and Marwan Hamadeh. Government authorities, however, notified the STL that they were unable to detain or serve the accused with the indictments in that case. In 2014 the STL opened its first trial in the case of Ayyash and other defendants. During the year the government discreetly paid its dues to the STL, despite rumors that the government would forego paying to avoid provoking Hizballah.
There were no confirmed reports of politically motivated disappearances by the government during the year.
In December 2015 security forces freed Hannibal Qadhafi, the son of late Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi, in Baalbek, but it was unclear where or when he had been kidnapped. Media reported that his captors kidnapped him to obtain information about the fate of Imam Moussa Sadr, a prominent Shia cleric, who was last seen in Libya in 1978. At year’s end Qaddafi’s whereabouts were unknown.
Syrians who fled to Lebanon from civil war, including political activists and other refugees, risked being targeted, harassed, and arrested by Lebanese security services, as well as by others. Syrian opposition activists asserted that Syrian agents in Lebanon targeted them. They claimed they had to operate clandestinely for their protection. Additionally, retaliatory sectarian kidnappings occurred because of Da’esh’s and Nusra’s actions in Arsal.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law does not specifically prohibit all forms of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, and there were reports security officials employed such practices. The penal code prohibits using acts of violence to obtain a confession or information about a crime, but the judiciary rarely investigated or prosecuted allegations of such acts. According to domestic and international human rights groups, security forces abused detainees and used torture to obtain confessions or encourage suspects to implicate other individuals.
Human rights organizations reported that torture occurred in certain police stations and in the Ministry of Defense’s detention facilities. The government denied the use of torture, although authorities acknowledged violent abuse sometimes occurred during preliminary investigations at police stations or military installations where suspects were interrogated without an attorney. Such abuse reportedly occurred in multiple units despite national laws prohibiting judges from accepting confessions extracted under duress.
Reports that the ISF threatened, mistreated, and tortured drug users, persons involved in prostitution, and LGBTI persons in their custody were common. The most common forms of abuse reported were blows from fists, boots, or implements, such as sticks, canes, and rulers. The ISF responded to similar claims in prior years and stated the reports defamed the organization and called for verification of unproven allegations, although evidence in some cases, including video evidence, proved the use of torture in some facilities.
Former prisoners, detainees, and reputable local human rights groups reported that methods of torture and abuse included continuous blindfolding, hanging detainees by wrists tied behind their backs, violent beatings, blows to the soles of the feet, electric shocks, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, immersion in cold water, extended periods of sleep deprivation, being forced to stand for extended periods, threats of violence against relatives, and deprivation of clothing, food, and toilet facilities. Allegations that the ISF specifically targeted the LGBTI community for abuse were common.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison and detention center conditions were harsh, and prisoners often lacked access to basic sanitation. In some prisons, such as the central prison in Roumieh, conditions were life threatening. Facilities were not adequately equipped for persons with disabilities.
Physical Conditions: As of August there were approximately 6,500 prisoners and detainees, including pretrial detainees and remanded prisoners, in facilities built to hold 3,500 inmates. Roumieh Prison, with a designed capacity of 1,500, held approximately 3,150 persons. Authorities often held pretrial detainees together with convicted prisoners. Authorities held men and women separately in similar conditions, and ISF statistics indicated that 158 minors and 296 women were incarcerated.
Sanitary conditions in overcrowded prisons were poor, and they worsened in Roumieh following a destructive riot in 2011. According to a government official, most prisons lacked adequate sanitation, ventilation, and lighting, and temperatures were not regulated consistently. Prisoners lacked consistent access to potable water (as do many Lebanese citizens). Roumieh prisoners often slept 10 in a room originally built to accommodate two prisoners. Basic medical care at Roumieh improved with better equipment and training, but staffing continued to be inadequate, and working conditions were poor. Additionally, the medical facilities were extremely overcrowded. According to ISF statistics, 13 prisoners died from natural causes during the year. Some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) complained of authorities’ negligence and failure to provide appropriate medical care to prisoners, which may have contributed to some of the deaths. The ISF reported that none died of police abuse and that there were no cases of rape in prisons during the year. On August 22, authorities fined a woman 11,000 Lebanese pounds ($7.33) for alleged slander against the army. She had claimed army officers raped her while in detention in 2013. Authorities detained the woman for a month in 2015 for the alleged slander against the army.
There were reports of female prisoners exchanging sex in return for “favors,” such as cigarettes, food, more comfortable conditions in their cells, or a more lenient police report.
Administration: Recordkeeping was not adequate. In many prisons authorities did not release inmates who completed their sentences due to poor recordkeeping. Some juveniles benefitted from alternative sentencing. Although there is a legal means to impose a sentence of probation or supervised release for adults in lieu of incarceration, authorities did not apply it. A person sentenced to imprisonment for more than six months may obtain a sentence reduction upon demonstrating that he had good behavior, that he does not pose a threat to himself or others, and that he met certain conditions depending on the category of crime and the release order. The Commission on the Reduction of Sentences considered sentence reduction requests. A chamber of the Court of Appeals, which made the final decision on whether to reduce a sentence, reviewed the commission’s recommendations.
There were no prison ombudsmen. Authorities did not implement a 2005 law establishing an ombudsman to serve on behalf of citizens. The ISF, however, posted signs in detention facilities stating detainees’ rights and had an inspection unit. The minister of interior assigned a general-rank official as the commander of the inspection unit and a colonel-rank official as the commander of the medical and human rights unit. The units were instructed to investigate every complaint. After completing an investigation, authorities transferred the case to the inspector general for action in the case of a disciplinary act or to a military investigative judge for additional investigation. If investigators found physical abuse, the military investigator assigned a medical team to confirm the abuse and the judge ruled at the conclusion of the review. There were no statistics available at year’s end regarding the number of complaints, investigations, and disciplinary or judicial actions taken.
Families of prisoners normally contacted the Ministry of Interior to report complaints, although prison directors could also initiate investigations. According to a government official, prison directors often protected officers under investigation.
The ISF’s Committee to Monitor Against the Use of Torture and Other Inhuman Practices in Prisons and Detention Centers conducted a minimum of one or two prison visits per week. The parliamentary human rights committee was responsible for monitoring the Ministry of Defense detention center.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison and detention conditions by local and international human rights groups and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and such monitoring took place. The ICRC regularly visited 23 prisons and detention centers.
Nongovernmental entities, such as Hizballah and Palestinian militias, also operated unofficial detention facilities, but no information about these facilities was available.
Improvements: The ISF reported improvements in Roumieh prison that included rehabilitating the jails in the juvenile’s building as well as rehabilitating the sewage system, installing new water tanks with a filtering system, completing the rehabilitation of the third floor of Block “D,” beginning rehabilitation of the second floor, rehabilitating the main entrance of the prison and installing new equipment, and beginning work on the new private security building. Authorities rehabilitated Zghorta, Halba, and Baalbak prisons and began rehabilitation of Douma prison. Authorities installed power generators in a number of prisons and renovated the entrance of the Qobbeh prison.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The law requires judicial warrants before arrests except in cases of active pursuit. Nonetheless, the government arbitrarily arrested and detained persons.
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
The ISF, under the Ministry of Interior, is responsible for law enforcement. The General Directorate for State Security, reporting to the prime minister, and the Directorate of General Security (DGS), under the Ministry of Interior, are responsible for border control. The LAF, under the Ministry of Defense, is responsible for external security but also may arrest and detain suspects on national security grounds. All of these organizations collected information on groups deemed possible threats to state security. Each security apparatus has its own internal mechanisms to investigate cases of abuse and misconduct. A 2012 ISF code of conduct defines the obligations of ISF members and the legal and ethical standards by which they must abide in performing their duties. Various security forces underwent training on the code. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over security forces. Government security force officials, however, reportedly enjoyed a measure of implicit impunity due to the lack of publicly available information on the outcome of prosecutions. The government lacked mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There are internal complaint mechanisms within the security forces.
In accordance with UN Security Resolutions 425 and 426, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was established in 1978 to confirm the Israeli withdrawal from the southern region of the country, restore peace and security, and assist the government in restoring its authority over its territory. UN Security Resolution 1701 stated UNIFIL was to monitor (per UN resolutions) cessation of hostilities between Israel and Hizballah after their 2006 war, accompany the LAF in deploying in the south, assist in providing humanitarian access to civilians and safe return of displaced, and assist the government in securing its borders.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
The law generally requires a warrant for arrest and provides the right to a medical examination and referral to a prosecutor within 48 hours of arrest. If authorities hold a detainee longer than 48 hours without formal charges, the arrest is considered arbitrary, and authorities must release the detainee or request a formal extension. The code of criminal procedures provides that a person may be held in police custody for investigation for 48 hours, unless the investigation requires additional time, in which case the period of custody may be renewed for another 48 hours.
By law bail is available in all cases regardless of the charges, although the amounts required may be prohibitively high.
The code of criminal procedures also states that from the moment of arrest a suspect or the subject of a complaint has the right to contact a member of his family, his employer, an advocate of his choosing, an acquaintance, or an interpreter, and undergo a medical examination on the approval of the general prosecutor. It does not mention, however, whether a lawyer may attend preliminary questioning with the judicial police. In practical terms the lawyer may not attend the preliminary questioning with judicial police. Under the framework of the law, it is possible for a suspect to be held at a police station for hours before being granted the right to contact an attorney. If the suspect lacks the resources to obtain legal counsel, authorities must provide free legal aid. The law does not, however, require the judicial police to inform an individual who lacks legal counsel that one may be assigned through the Bar Association, whether in Beirut or Tripoli.
The law does not require authorities to inform individuals they have the right to remain silent. Many provisions of the law simply state that if the individual being questioned refuses to make a statement or remains silent, this should be recorded and that the detainee may not be “coerced to speak or to undergo questioning, on pain of nullity of their statements.”
The law states the period of detention for a misdemeanor may not exceed two months. This period may be extended by a maximum of two additional months. The initial period of custody may not exceed six months for a felony, but the detention may be renewed. Excluded from this protection are suspects accused of homicide or with a previous criminal conviction, drug crimes, endangerment of state security, violent crimes, and crimes involving terrorism.
Officials responsible for prolonged arrest may be prosecuted on charges of depriving personal freedom, but authorities rarely filed charges. The law requires authorities to inform detainees of the charges filed against them. A suspect caught in the act of committing a crime must be referred to an examining judge, who decides whether to issue an indictment or order the release of the suspect.
Authorities failed to observe many provisions of the law, and government security forces, as well as extralegal armed groups such as Hizballah, continued the practice of extrajudicial arrest and detention, including incommunicado detention. Additionally, the law permits military intelligence personnel to make arrests without warrants in cases involving military personnel or involving civilians suspected of espionage, treason, or weapons possession.
Arbitrary Arrest: According to local NGOs, cases of arbitrary detention continued; however, most victims chose not to report violations against them. NGOs reported that most cases involved vulnerable groups such as refugees, migrant workers, drug users, and LGBTI individuals. Civil society groups reported authorities frequently detained foreign nationals arbitrarily.
Pretrial Detention: As of December 2015, ISF reported 3,853 of the 6,502 persons in prison were in pretrial detention. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern about arbitrary pretrial detention without access to legal representation and refused to support construction of prisons until authorities resolved the serious problem of arbitrary pretrial detention. According to a study by the Lebanese Center for Human Rights, detainees spent one year on average in pretrial detention prior to sentencing. Individuals accused of murder spent on average 3.5 years in pretrial detention. Many Salafist prisoners remained in prolonged pretrial detention, including detainees from the Nahr el-Bared fighting in 2007.
State security forces and autonomous Palestinian security factions subjected Palestinian refugees to arbitrary arrest and detention.
Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Lawyers infrequently challenged the lawfulness of their client’s detention, despite a defendant’s rights to do so. As a result the defense mainly focused on presenting evidence and arguments to challenge the prosecutor’s verdict.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Although the constitution provides for an independent judiciary, authorities subjected the judiciary to political pressure, particularly in the appointment of key prosecutors and investigating magistrates. Influential politicians and intelligence officers intervened at times and used their influence and connections to protect supporters from prosecution. Persons involved in routine civil and criminal proceedings sometimes solicited the assistance of prominent individuals to influence the outcome of their cases.
Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Trials are generally public, but judges have the discretion to order a closed court session. Defendants have the right to be present at trial, to consult with an attorney in a timely manner, and to question witnesses against them. Defendants may present witnesses and evidence, and their attorneys have access to government-held evidence relevant to their cases. Defendants have the right not to be compelled to testify or confess guilt; they have the right of appeal. Defendants have the right to free interpretation; however, interpreters were rarely available.
The Military Court has jurisdiction over cases involving the military as well as those involving civilians accused of espionage, treason, weapons possession, and draft evasion. Civilians may be tried on security charges, and military personnel may be tried on civil charges. The Military Court has a permanent tribunal and a cassation tribunal. The latter hears appeals from the former. A civilian judge chairs the higher court. Defendants on trial under the military tribunal have the same procedural rights as defendants in ordinary courts. Human rights groups expressed concerns about the trial of civilians in military courts, the extent to which they were afforded full due process, and the lack of review of verdicts by ordinary courts.
Because of an agreement struck between the Lebanese government and late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Lebanese security forces do not enter Palestinian camps; they remain outside the entrance and check vehicles and identification. As a result the camps, particularly Ain el-Helweh, had the reputation of being lawless enclaves, and authorities stated that foreign and local jihadists found refuge within them.
The Palestinian factions that theoretically provided security in the camps often fought each other for control, and these groups generally controlled the justice systems in the camps. Governance varied greatly, with some camps under the control of joint Palestinian security forces, while local militia strongmen heavily influenced others. Palestinian groups in refugee camps operated an autonomous and arbitrary system of justice outside the control of the state. For example, local popular committees in the camps attempted to resolve disputes through informal mediation methods but occasionally transferred those accused of more serious offenses (for example, murder and terrorism) to state authorities for trial. Several Palestinian factions formed a joint security force to help maintain stability and security within the Ain el-Helweh camp, but Islamist groups increasingly challenged this force for control of the camp in 2015. Beginning in August a large number (reportedly more than 30) of extremist militants surrendered to the LAF outside Ain el-Helweh because of reported cooperation between the army and Palestinian factions within the camp.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
There is an independent judiciary in civil matters, but plaintiffs seldom submitted civil lawsuits seeking damages for government human rights violations to it. During the year there were no examples of a civil court awarding a person compensation for such violations. There is no regional mechanism to appeal adverse domestic human rights decisions. The country has reservations on individual complaints under any human rights treaty, body, or special procedures. Appeals to international human rights bodies are accessible only after exhausting all domestic remedies.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The law prohibits such actions, but authorities frequently interfered with the privacy of persons regarded as enemies of the government. There were reports security services monitored private e-mail and other digital correspondence.
The law provides for the interception of telephone calls with prior authorization from the prime minister at the request of the minister of interior or minister of defense.
Militias and non-Lebanese forces operating outside the area of central government authority also frequently violated citizens’ privacy rights. Various nonstate actors, such as Hizballah, used informer networks and telephone monitoring to obtain information regarding their perceived adversaries.
LAF forces raiding Syrian refugee settlements caused destruction of physical property while making arrests and in some cases forced refugees to move their informal settlements away from LAF positions.
Personal status was legally handled by religious courts, which applied religious laws of the various confessions and occasionally interfered in family matters such as child custody in the case of divorce. Refugee birth registrations require families to register birth certificates with Lebanese ministries, which remained inaccessible because the ministries require proof of legal residence and legal marriage.
g. Abuses in Internal Conflict
After suicide bombings in the village of al-Qaa on June 27, media reported that some security personnel used excessive force to detain refugees during raids looking for the bombing suspects; however, other sources, including the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), claimed the media reports were exaggerated and not widespread.