Lebanon pledges to probe alleged prisoner abuse

Minister promises transparent investigation after riots and leaked video of prison guards at Roumieh beating inmates.

Lebanon prison Al Jazeera
Two Danish men say when they refused to work for intelligence services, they were arrested and tortured in Lebanon [Al Jazeera]

Lebanon’s interior minister has promised a full investigation after a video emerged showing guards beating and kicking detainees at Roumieh, the country’s largest and most infamous prison. 

Nihad Mashnooq made the pledge as he visited the prison on Tuesday following riots over conditions there. 

He vowed to bring to justice guards seen beating prisoners in the online video. Mashnooq told reporters that two guards whose faces were seen in the footage had been arrested and referred to military prosecutors.

“I condemn these violations and will not cease to pursue the case for a second. The results of the investigations and the rulings on them will be made public and nothing will be kept secret,” he said.

Scores rioted inside Roumieh prison on Tuesday demanding concessions and better living conditions, damaging several cells and injuring fellow inmates in the process. An elite unit of security forces was dispatched to quell the riot.

The leaked video shows a room full of detainees stripped down to their underwear. In one clip, a prisoner lies on a floor covered in water, with his hands tied behind his back.

This brought to the forefront the issues of torture, abuse and mistreatment of inmates held on terrorism-related charges in Lebanon.

Al Jazeera has been doing its own investigation of torture in Roumieh, using videos and pictures given to the network by prison inmates.

In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera, current Roumieh inmate Fayez Abadan calls for help from inside the prison. Abadan says beatings and cruel treatment are a daily practice there.

Meanwhile, a former inmate has described to Al Jazeera the gruesome torture methods used in the prison.

The Lebanese Center for Human Rights told Al Jazeera that despite efforts to retrain the officers in the Lebanese detention facilities to respect human rights, there is still a culture of impunity – an acceptance of torture as a tool in investigation.

Lebanon’s prison system is endemically overcrowded and mismanaged. Roumieh, located in the outskirts of Beirut, was built with a capacity for 1,500 inmates, but currently holds more than 5,000.

The Al Jazeera investigation also uncovered how three Danish Muslims ended up in Roumieh following the alleged cooperation between Danish and Lebanese intelligence services.

Click here to access the interactive story exposing a Denmark at odds with its image as a world leader in the fight for human rights, a Denmark with secret military and intelligence ties with the US, and a quiet role in the so-called “War on Terror”. 

Source: Al Jazeera