The death penalty remains legal in Lebanon. The last executions took place in January 2004.
The number of prisoners sentenced to death was estimated at 66 in February 20151. Amnesty International, in its report on the use of the death penalty, expressed concerned about the resurgence of death penalties imposed, which numbered 28 in 2015. Most of these sentences were handed down to those accused of terrorism.
The death penalty is applied for intentional or premeditated crimes such as murder, terrorism, robbery, treason, espionage and military offences. Executions are carried out by hanging or by firing squad2.
The practice of torture persists in spite of the 2000 ratification of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The fact that the criminalization of acts of torture is not in compliance with international law was pointed out in the November 2015 Universal Periodic Review of Lebanon before the United Nations Security Council. The Lebanese government responded that it had initiated a process of amending the Penal Code, which has yet to be materialized.
The United Nations Committee against Torture conducted a review of Lebanon from May 2012 to November 2013. In its 2014 report, it explained that: “Torture in Lebanon is a pervasive practice that is routinely used by the armed forces and law enforcement agencies for the purpose of investigation, for securing confessions to be used in criminal proceedings and, in some cases for punishing acts that the victim is believed to have committed”. The people who are most often targeted are those accused of terrorism, espionage, prostitution, drug use, or lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, intersexuals people (LGBTI) and Syrian and Palestinian foreigners. Acts of torture are usually committed during times of arrests and interrogations.
According to the following Human Rights Watch report, forced confessions obtained under torture are used as the main, and even the only, evidence to convict someone. Investigations required into cases of alleged torture are not carried out.
According to the 2016 annual reports of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, a video released on 20 June 2015 on social media shows Roumieh prison guards torturing a dozen prisoners. The government has confirmed the accuracy of this video.
In June 2013, Human Rights Watch released a report on the ill-treatment and torture of vulnerable groups of people such as LGBTI, prostitutes and drug users. It denounces the practices of the Internal Security Forces (Forces de sécurité intérieure (FSI). The report is based on more than 50 interviews with arrestees conducted over a five year period. The most common forms of abuse were being punched, kicked, and hit with objects such as sticks, canes and rulers. Seventeen ex-prisoners confirmed that security officers withheld food, water and medication and seized their prescribed medications. Nine stated they were handcuffed and forced to stay in extremely uncomfortable positions for long periods of time. Eleven said that the authorities forced them to listen to the screams of the other prisoners in order to make them cooperate and confess. A former detainee, accused of homosexuality, said he was sexually assaulted.
Arbitrary or secret detention
Many organizations denounce the systematic and abusive recourse to pre-trial detention1.
Arbitrary arrests are frequent, as are trials and excessively long pre-trial custodies. The law permits preventative custody for a maximum of four months for minor offences and one year for crimes. Exceptions are allowed for crimes of homicide, drug trafficking, endangering State security, or those related to terrorism, which are not subjected to any set legal duration (Art. 108 CPP). In practice, pre-trial detention could last an average of one year. It is three and a half years for accusations of murder, according to the Lebanese Centre for Human Rights (Centre libanais des droits humains (CLDH)).
The Lebanese Association for Education and Training (L’Association libanaise pour l’éducation et la formation (ALEF)) confirmed in 2013, that some prisoners were accused of further infractions during their detention. According to the report, a former prisoner was accused of a new offence two years following his detention. Prisoners can be detained for several months without trial or charges against them.
The ALEF added that only about 20% of Roumieh and Tripoli prisoners have been convicted. Most of them (80%), are in pre-trial custody, or are retained past the end of their sentence time. Because of the lack of follow-up, some were even “forgotten”. Some had their detention extended in order to hide visible signs of torture.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions made a statement in November 2014 regarding the cases of 72 prisoners. They were arrested between May and September 2007 during confrontations in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp. Secretly detained for several days, and even weeks, they were subjected to torture and forced to sign confessions implicating them in the Fatah al-Islam armed radical group. The first accusation was not established until July, 2012. Only 12 people had been convicted and sentenced on the day of the Working Group’s decision. This Group called for the immediate release of these 72 arbitrarily detained persons.