International News

Amnesty International, Annual Report 2000 on Lebanon
by Amnesty International
Posted: Sunday, June 25, 2000 03:14 pm CST


Lebanese Republic
Head of state: Emile Lahoud
Head of government: Salim al-Huss
Capital: Beirut
Population: 3.1 million
Official language: Arabic
Death penalty: retentionist

Scores of people were arrested on political grounds, including students arrested after demonstrations, who were prisoners of conscience. Dozens of people accused of "collaborating" with Israel received trials which fell short of international fair trial standards. There were reports of torture and ill-treatment. At least 12 people were sentenced to death; no one was executed. Armed opposition groups, such as Hizbullah and al-Takfir wa'l-Hijra, also killed civilians and took prisoners.

BACKGROUND

Several officials were arrested as part of President Emile Lahoud's continuing anti-corruption campaign. Four judges were shot inside a court in Sidon in June by unknown gunmen.

The government introduced a number of reform bills, but none had been adopted by the end of the year. Among them was a proposed new Code of Criminal Procedure. AI was concerned that a draft law to reform the judiciary might reduce the independence of the judiciary if adopted. During the year tensions increased between Palestinian refugees and the Lebanese authorities.

A strip of south Lebanon about 15 kilometres wide continued to be occupied by Israel and was policed by Israel's proxy militia, the South Lebanon Army (SLA). Syria continued to maintain a large military and intelligence presence in Lebanon.

ARRESTS

Scores of people, including prisoners of conscience, were arrested on political charges during the year. Among them were students who were detained for distributing leaflets on behalf of opposition groups; they were usually released after a few hours or days. Dozens of people were arrested, accused of involvement in armed attacks against Lebanese or Syrian officials or of "collaborating" with Israel.

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION

Journalists and artists continued to be charged for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

  • Three journalists Melhem Karam, publisher of several journals and Chairman of the Journalists' Association, and Paul Elie Salem and Jamil Jamel Mroué, owner and managing editor respectively of the journal The Lebanon Report were charged in July in connection with the publication of excerpts from and interviews with the author of the book From Israel to Damascus. The book contained references to the alleged participation of a former militia leader and government minister in human rights violations during the civil war in Lebanon. The charges were later dropped.
  • Marcel Khalifeh, a well-known musician, was brought before the Beirut Court of First Instance in November on charges of blasphemy. The charges related to his song entitled "I am Yusuf, my father" which was based on a poem by the famous Palestinian poet Mahmud Darwish and cited a verse from the Qur'an. He was acquitted in December; the judgment stated that the song was sung solemnly and did not insult the Qur'an.

TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT

There were some reports of torture and ill-treatment, including instances of brutality or excessive use of force by the army and military police against demonstrators.

  • In February Mahmud Ahmad Jallul, a cameraman for the television station Tele-Liban, was pulled out of his car as he was driving to work in Beirut. He and his wife were beaten by men in plain clothes and he was taken away in a car. It was reported that he had been detained by Hizbullah who handed him over after two days to Lebanese Military Intelligence who also beat him. He was detained in various detention centres and his family and lawyer did not have access to him for a month. He was found guilty by a military tribunal on charges of collaboration with the enemy, but acquitted on appeal and released in August.
  • A number of students were detained in October for several hours following a protest organized by Greenpeace against pollution from a chemical fertilizer company in Salata. There were reports that police beat protestors with rifle butts; one protestor was said to have had his arm broken during the demonstration.
  • A student, Walid Achkar, secretary of the Free Patriotic Movement, which supports former President Michel 'Aoun, was arrested without warrant by the General Intelligence in Amioun in December and transferred to the Military Intelligence Centre in Kebbeh in Tripoli. There he was reportedly tortured for three hours by being beaten and forced to stand on one leg. He was transferred to Beirut and released without charge after four days' detention.

UNFAIR TRIALS

Dozens of political prisoners were tried by the Justice Council and the Military Court whose proceedings such as summary proceedings in the Military Court and the lack of judicial review for the verdicts of the Justice Council failed to meet international fair trial standards.

  • In June the Justice Council convicted 12 defendants of the killing of former Prime Minister Rashid Karami in 1987. Among them was Samir Gea'gea', former leader of the banned Lebanese Forces the main Christian militia during the civil war who was sentenced to death, later commuted to life imprisonment. Samir Gea'gea' was already serving two other life sentences imposed by the Justice Council in 1995 and 1997. He and about 15 others, mostly former members of the Lebanese Forces, continued to be detained in the Ministry of Defence in cruel, inhuman or degrading conditions; all were said to be held in solitary confinement in damp basement cells with almost no access to exercise or visits. (http://www.lebanese-forces.org)

JEZZINE ARRESTS AND TRIALS

More than 160 former members of the SLA surrendered to the Lebanese authorities in May after the SLA withdrew from Jezzine. Most were brought to trial in the following months before the Military Court in Beirut charged with "collaboration" with Israel or with the enemy" and were sentenced to up to a year's imprisonment. During their interrogation they were reportedly kept hooded and not allowed access to family or lawyers.

  • One trial before the Military Court in June of 19 people from Jezzine lasted for six hours before those accused were found guilty solely on the basis of their own confessions and sentenced to up to six months' imprisonment.

RELEASES

Antoinette Chahin and Jihad Abi Ramia were released in June after five years' imprisonment. They were acquitted by the Criminal Court of Cassation in a retrial. In 1997 Antoinette Chahin had been sentenced to death, commuted to life imprisonment with hard labour, and Jihad Abi Ramia to 12 years' imprisonment, in connection with the politically-motivated killing of Father Sam'an Boutros al-Khoury; the court had based its decision almost entirely on confessions by the two defendants extracted under torture. AI welcomed the acquittal but regretted that the Court had not ordered a proper inquiry into the torture allegations.

DEATH PENALTY

More than 12 people were sentenced to death, including at least two women. No one was executed.

SOUTH LEBANON

The village of Arnun on the edge of the zone occupied by Israel was disputed between Israel and the SLA, and Lebanon. In February, after being "annexed" by Israel and the SLA, the village was "liberated" by a mass demonstration of Lebanese students. It was reoccupied by Israel in April. In May and June the SLA withdrew from the Jezzine salient.

During the year 23 Lebanese and two Israeli civilians were reportedly killed in the military conflict in south Lebanon, most as a result of deliberate or indiscriminate attacks.

  • In June, at least eight Lebanese civilians were killed in Israeli air raids. The raids were in retaliation for the killing of two Israeli civilians in a rocket attack by the Hizbullah armed group and were followed by further Hizbullah shelling of northern Israel.

KHIAM DETENTION CENTRE

At least 130 people, including women and children, were held in the Khiam detention centre; some had been held for up to 14 years. The Khiam detention centre was run by the SLA in cooperation with the Israel Defence Force (see Israel and the Occupied Territories entry). Those detained were not charged or tried and had no contact with lawyers, although they were allowed to meet families once every three months. Detainees were routinely tortured and ill-treated in Khiam and in other SLA detention centres.

  • Suleiman Ramadan and Riyad Kalakesh, arrested in 1985 and 1986 respectively, were still detained in Khiam at the end of 1999.
  • Fatima Ja'afar, aged 16, was detained overnight in October at the SLA's No.17 Detention Centre. During interrogation she was reportedly struck on the head and knocked unconscious. The next day she was hospitalized in Sidon with multiple fractures of the skull and memory loss. Following her release the SLA also reportedly arrested her parents and detained them overnight. Ten other villagers from 'Ainata were detained in October, apparently in an attempt to find those who sympathized with the resistance to Israeli rule.
  • In November, 13 detainees including 'Ali Tawbeh and his father Mustafa Tawbeh, arrested in 1997, were released from Khiam Detention Centre. They had both been tortured in Khiam by methods including severe beating all over the body. Mustafa Tawbeh had spent seven months in hospital while imprisoned; 'Ali Tawbeh had been about 15 years old when arrested.

'DISAPPEARANCES'

Despite repeated calls for investigations by the families of victims, there was no investigation during the year into the fate of more than 17,000 people, including Palestinians, Lebanese and other nationals, abducted by armed groups in Lebanon during the civil war (1975 to 1990).

AI COUNTRY VISIT

In November AI delegates met Prime Minister Salim al-Huss and Minister of the Interior Michel al-Murr.



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