Lebanon orders probe into torture claims of detained Syrians

Amnesty International last week accused Lebanese authorities of ‘cruel, abusive’ treatment of more than 20 Syrians in detention.

Syrian refugees
Lebanon says it hosts 1.5 million Syrians - nearly a million of whom are registered as refugees with the United Nations [File: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters]

Lebanon’s prosecutor general Ghassan Oueidat has ordered a probe into the alleged torture of more than 20 Syrians in custody following a report by Amnesty International.

Amnesty, in a report published last week, accused Lebanese authorities of “cruel and abusive” treatment of more than 20 Syrians it said had been tortured in prison or during interrogation.

It blamed in particular Lebanon’s military intelligence bureau and said the abuse was mostly at a military intelligence centre in east Lebanon’s Ablah district, the General Security bureau in Beirut or at the defence ministry.

Oueidat on Monday called on the government representative at the military court to “open an investigation into claims made by Amnesty International concerning the arrest and torture of Syrian refugees held over terrorism-related charges”, the official National News Agency reported.

In its report, Amnesty cited detainees as saying they faced some of the same torture techniques routinely used in Syrian prisons.

They were hung upside down, forced into stress positions for prolonged periods, and beaten with metal rods and electric cables, according to the rights group.

“Lebanon passed an anti-torture law in 2017 but has consistently failed to implement it, and torture complaints rarely reach court,” the group said.

At least 14 of the 26 cases it reported were detained on terrorism-related accusations made on discriminatory grounds, including political affiliation, it added.

Several detainees said Lebanese security forces made reference to their opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during beatings, indicating the attacks may have been politically motivated, the group said.

“In many cases, refugees who escaped war, ruthless repression and widespread torture have found themselves arbitrarily detained and held incommunicado in Lebanon, where they face many of the same horrors employed in Syrian prisons,” said Marie Forestier, researcher on refugee and migrants rights at Amnesty.

“At every stage, from arrest through to interrogation, detention and prosecution in unfair trials, the Lebanese authorities have utterly disregarded international human rights law,” Forestier said.

The cases examined by Amnesty also included a handful of Syrian women detained “in relation to their male relatives’ alleged activities, or in order to pressure the male relatives to confess or hand themselves over”, the group said.

Lebanon says it hosts 1.5 million Syrians – nearly a million of whom are registered as refugees with the United Nations Refugees Agency.

Nine out of 10 Syrians in Lebanon live in extreme poverty, the UN says.

Lebanese authorities have systematically pressured Syrians to return even though rights groups warn Syria is not yet safe.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies