Lebanon: Two Syrian Asylum Seekers Tortured by the Military to Confess "Joining a Terrorist Organisation"
On 6 December 2016, Muawiya Harba and Sultan Harba, two Syrians from the same family living in refugee camps in the border city of Arsal, east Lebanon, will have their next trial session before the Military Court in Beirut. They are facing terrorism charges based solely on information extracted under torture during their secret detention at the premises of the Ministry of Defence in Yarzeh, Baabda.
In view of these facts, on 21 November 2016, Alkarama sent an urgent appeal to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (SRT), Nils Melzer, asking him to call upon the Lebanese authorities to open an investigation into the acts of torture they were subjected to and drop all charges based solely on confessions obtained through torture.
On 11 March 2015, Muawiya and Sultan, who had both escaped from Al Qusayr, their hometown in Homs governorate, Syria, after being injured in a bombing of the town, were in a car leaving Arsal when they reached a Military Intelligence checkpoint and were arrested.
Brought to the premises of the Ministry of Defence in Yarzeh, Baabda, they were detained without any access to the outside world for eight days and interrogated while severely beaten and hanged by their wrists tied behind the back, a torture method known as "balanco". They were forced to confess to being part of a terrorist armed group and having attacked the Lebanese army in Arsal on 2 August 2014 and Ras Baalbek on 23 January 2015.
On 16 April 2015, Muawiya and Sultan were indicted by the judge of the Military Court under the Antiterrorism Law and the Lebanese Weapons law for "joining a terrorist organisation" and participating in the attacks against the Lebanese army on the sole basis of the confessions extracted under torture. During their trial, Muawiya and Sultan both denied having participated to the said attacks and despite having even denounced the acts of torture they were subjected to, their allegations were not taken into consideration but simply dismissed by the military judge. Their next trial session will take place on 7 December 2016.
"It is extremely worrisome to note that Muawiya and Sultan's cases illustrate this pattern of secret detention and torture of Syrians asylum seekers accused of terrorism Alkarama has been recently documenting. Bitter twist of fate for those two who escaped violence and abuses to just find it in their host country," comments Inès Osman, Alkarama's Regional Legal Officer for the Mashreq. "Should they be investigated and brought to justice, their fundamental rights not to be subjected to torture and fair trial guarantees must be fully upheld. As the Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights (SRCT) recalled in its recent report about refugees and terrorism, policies that respect human rights, justice, and accountability are an essential element of effective counterterrorism policies."
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