UN Committee against Torture Calls Torture in Lebanon a “Pervasive Practice” and Paves the Way Forward

Geneva/Beirut, 10 October 2014

Alkarama welcomes the publication by the United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) of its conclusions and recommendations concerning the inquiry on the practice of torture in Lebanon, following the communication submitted by Alkarama in 2008 establishing the systematic use of this practice in the country. Concluding that "torture in Lebanon is a pervasive practice that is routinely used" for the "purpose of investigation" and "securing confessions to be used in criminal proceedings", the Committee formulated 34 recommendations paving the way for the authorities to eradicate the practice of torture.

Following the Nahr al Bared crisis in mid-2007 during which Alkarama documented numerous human rights violations in particular the systematic use of torture, our Organisation requested the Committee against Torture to examine the situation in Lebanon. Pursuant to this request under Article 20 of the Convention against Torture, the Committee considered that the information was "reliable" and contained "well-founded indications that torture was being systematically practiced". Indeed, under Article 20 of the Convention, to which Lebanon is a party since 2000, the Committee – a body of 10 independent UN experts who monitor the implementation of the Convention – can undertake a confidential inquiry if it receives indications that torture is being systematically practiced in a State party.

The findings of the Lebanese inquiry were predominantly based on observations assessed during the UN experts' visit to the country in April 2013. During their mission, conducted with the cooperation of the Lebanese authorities, they were able to discuss with officials and representatives of civil society organisations, as well as victims of torture and detainees, in particular during their visits to no fewer than 20 detention centres.

"Serious allegations of torture in Lebanon were brought to our attention following the Nahr al Bared clashes in 2007, and again in 2013 after the events of Abra. With the ongoing clashes in Arsal, we do not want to see history repeat itself," says Saadeddine Shatila, Alkarama's Lebanon Country Representative. "Lebanon is facing alarming challenges due to the regional turmoil and spillover of the Syrian conflict. We understand that the security services and the army are under a lot of pressure, but safeguarding our country's security must not be done at the expense of the most fundamental human rights and the obligation to respect the physical integrity of the person."

Commenting on the reaction of the authorities to the inquiry report, Inès Osman, Mashreq's Legal Coordinator, explains: "the report of the Committee should be seen by the authorities as an encouragement to move forward. So far, Lebanon has undertaken a number of positive steps to combat the use of torture, but this political will needs to translate into concrete facts. The UN is giving Lebanon a tool box to tackle the issue of torture, and I hope the authorities and the local civil society will work together towards the eradication of this practice."

In this regard, the Committee called upon the Lebanese authorities to urgently reaffirm the absolute prohibition of torture, including by criminalising it and strengthening legal safeguards, and issue a clear warning to the perpetrators that they will be held personally responsible for such acts. The UN also requested that the designation of a National Preventive Mechanism be completed, and that NGOs be allowed to undertake prison monitoring activities.

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For more information or an interview, please contact:
- Alkarama's Office in Lebanon: s.shatila@alkarama.org (+961 3 217 949 or +961 1 653)
- Alkarama's Media team: media@alkarama.org (+41 22 734 1 810 or +41 79 129 79 15)

The Alkarama Foundation is a Geneva-based, non-governmental human rights organisation established in 2004 to assist all those in the Arab World subjected to, or at risk of, extra-judicial execution, enforced disappearance, torture and arbitrary detention. Acting as a bridge between individual victims in the Arab World and the United Nations human rights mechanisms, Alkarama works towards an Arab world where all individuals live free, in dignity and protected by the rule of law. In Arabic, Alkarama means 'dignity'.

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