Contributor(s)Prison Insider

Specific population

In December 2015, the prison population increased to 6,502. In November 2014, people in pre-trial detention centres represented 66.2% of the prison population.

The prisons are over-crowded, with an occupation rate of 185.8% in December 2015. When questioned about this, in November 2015, by the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Lebanese government responded that the massive influx of refugees was hindering their efforts to reduce prison overcrowding.

Untried prisoners are not separated from convicted prisoners, and perpetrators of minor offences are placed with criminals. This co-habitation leads to discrimination. In its 2013 report, the Association libanaise pour l’éducation et la formation (ALEF) reveals the system of hierarchy present in the prisons, based on a person’s nationality and the type of conviction.

The “shawish” or “senior prisoners” are at the head of this organisation. These are the prisoners with influence, who have many contacts inside the facilities with other prisoners and with police officers. They manage the drug business and the sex trade developed in prison.

Islamic prisoners, especially members of the Fatah al-Islam group, are given preferential treatment, thanks to Saudi support. They live in separate units, have better food, a television and conjugal visits. However, they are subjected to more acts of torture from prison officers because of their terrorist status, unless they have the money and political connections to corrupt officials.

Foreigners, especially Palestinians, are at the bottom of the hierarchical ladder and are exploited. However, they are better off than people convicted of sexual offences, prostitutes, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and intersexuals (LGBTI).

Pre-trial detainees

66.2 %

/ World Prison Brief

There were 286 female prisoners as of December 2015. There is no exclusive women’s prison. Women are detained in separate units from men in the four facilities where they are admitted.

More than half of them are tortured, according to the Lebanese Centre for Human Rights (LCHR). They are sexually abused by investigators and guards. All the security services have female staff, yet, interrogations, surveillance and searches are conducted by male guards1.

Women who are suspected of taking drugs, or of prostitution, are subjected to further sexual violence, from rape to sexual intercourse, in exchange for “favours” (cigarettes, food, more comfortable cell conditions, and more lenient police reports), according to the June 2013 Human Rights Watch report.

  1. Lebanese Centre for Human Rights (LCHR), “Women behind bars: arbitrary detention and torture”, Lebanon, April 2015 

Female prisoners

4.4 %

/ World Prison Brief

According to the 6 July, 2002 Law 422, Juvenile Courts are for children aged 7 to 21(the age of majority). Incarceration is to be used only as an exceptional measure. The priorities must be education, re-integration and protection.

The number of incarcerated minors has decreased considerably since the application of the law. The recidivism rate is also lower (30 to 40%).Most of the offences committed by minors are slight or are contraventions. Ninety percent (90%) of the offences are a result of socio-economic disadvantage, (70% are stealing offences)1.

A minor must be accompanied by a social worker during the first six hours of custody, at least while a case is being developed on the misdemeanours. This right is honoured in only 60% of cases.

Juvenile prisoners

2 %

/ World Prison Brief

Palestinians, Sudanese, Iraqis and other foreigners are considered to be at “the bottom of the food chain”. One former Palestinian prisoner told about having to do humiliating tasks for the “shawish” prisoners who have influence with the guards. He was tasked with cleaning the toilets. He explained how happy he was to see Sudanese and Iraqi prisoners arrive, because this work was assigned to them and he could relax1.

  1. Association libanaise pour l’éducation et la formation (ALEF), “Guilty until Proven Innocent: Report on the causes of arbitrary arrest, lengthy pre-trial detention and long delays in trial”, January 2013 

Foreign prisoners

36 %

/ World Prison Brief

Homosexuality is not explicitly punished. Article 534 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes all unnatural sexual acts, is used as the basis to convict many LGBTI persons. This text was denounced by Human Rights Watch in its June 2013 report on the ill-treatment and torture inflicted on vulnerable people. During the November 2015 periodic review government efforts to improve the treatment of LGBTI persons were underscored; some court decisions indicated that the Article 534 did not apply to homosexuals.

Whether they are arrested because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, or due to a conviction for another criminal offence, LGBTI persons suffer discrimination and exploitation and are particularly exposed to torture. The Association libanaise pour l’éducation et la formation (ALEF) pointed out in its 2013 report, that homosexual prisoners are sometimes sold from one cell to another for 40 packets of cigarettes.

The police usually use excessive force to disperse demonstrators. They carry out arrests and imprison activists. The demonstrators appear before military tribunals and are accused of acts of violence1.

Criticising the President, the Army or the system is considered to be an act of defamation and can lead to imprisonment. Mohammed Nazzal was convicted, in October 2015, to six months in jail and a $666 fine. He had criticised the Lebanese judicial system on Facebook. The lawyer, Nabil al-Halabi, was arrested in May 2015 after criticising the government on Facebook. The organisation noted on that occasion, that few bloggers, journalists and activists have been jailed, but it is concerned about the increase in these types of arrests.

  1. Human Rights Watch, “World Report 2016: Lebanon”, 2016