Lebanon: Two detainees die in Roumieh prison despite human rights NGOs call regarding prison conditions

سجن رومية

Two prisoners held in Roumieh prison, east of the Lebanese capital, Beirut, died in less than 48 hours due to very poor detention conditions, detainees being denied of minimum necessities of living, Alkarama learnt from its sources. 

The prison in which conditions are further deteriorating is marked by an increasing frequency of deaths and alleged suicides. 

The General Directorate of Internal Security Forces was quick to issue a statement stating that "after the examination by the forensic doctor of the body of the unregistered minor prisoner A.K., born in 2007 and arrested for theft, it was found that he had died by hanging, noting that there were no signs of possible violence." 

As for the second prisoner, "A.T., a Palestinian national born in 1991, who was arrested for drug offenses, died on 8 May 2023 after being transferred to the hospital. Upon examination of his body by a forensic doctor, it was found that the cause of death was a cardiac arrest." 

"The number of deaths recorded in Lebanese prisons has reached about 25 prisoners since 2022, without the Lebanese government moving a finger or opening an investigation into the causes, despite reports submitted by local and international humanitarian organizations, the latest of which is a detailed report about the reality of prisons in Lebanon and the inhuman treatment of prisoners, which was submitted by 14 local and international organizations to the Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations about 4 months ago.”, stated human rights lawyer Muhammad Sablouh. 

Alkarama and several NGO’s call 

On 26 December 2022, Alkarama and Lebanese human rights organizations launched an appeal to the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT) and relevant UN Special Procedures mandate holders to call on them to take urgent action on the situation in Roumieh prison and other Lebanese detention facilities. 

"As access to food, clean water and minimal healthcare becomes increasingly difficult for prison inmates across the country, this is significantly impacting those who are already the most vulnerable, including migrants and refugees," the organizations added in their statement. 

In its recent concluding observations, the Committee against Torture expressed concern "at the large number of persons detained before trial, many of whom are in prolonged pre-trial detention.” The Committee against Torture recommended that Lebanon "improve conditions of detention and alleviate overcrowding in prisons and other detention facilities, including through the application of non-custodial measures." 

However, to date, the authorities have consistently failed to take any concrete steps to address overcrowding and implement the recommendations of the Committee against Torture. 

Following their recent visit to Lebanon, members of the Sub commission also expressed concern about "the prolonged pre-trial detention, overcrowding and appalling living conditions in places of deprivation of liberty." 

In this context, civil society has documented regular reports of deaths in custody due to torture, ill-treatment, and denial of adequate care and nutrition. 

None of these deaths in custody led to an impartial, effective and thorough investigation, in violation of the country's international obligations under the Convention against Torture.