Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2006 - Lebanon
|Publisher||International Federation for Human Rights|
|Publication Date||14 March 2007|
|Cite as||International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2006 - Lebanon, 14 March 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48747cf240.html [accessed 18 September 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Continued judicial harassment of Ms. Samira Trad17
On September 10, 2003, Ms. Samira Trad, head of the Frontiers Centre, an NGO that defends the rights of non-Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, was arrested and questioned by the General Security of the Beirut General Directorate. She was then questioned on the Frontiers Centre's statutes and a report that had been published by the organisation on Iraqi refugees seeking asylum outside Lebanon. Ms. Trad was released the following day, but was charged with "defamation against the authorities" (Article 386 of the Criminal Code) in connection with this report.
The case was initially heard on November 14, 2005, then adjourned until April 14, 2006. The hearing was further postponed on two separate occasions until November 20, 2006, when the Court stated that the proceedings did not fall under its territorial jurisdiction and thus declared it was not competent to hear the case. In late 2006, the case was remanded to the attention of the Prosecutor, who is required to decide, within a reasonable period, on whether to drop charges or bring it before another court.
Registration of PHRO and harassment of its members18
In February 2006, the Palestinian Human Rights Organisation (PHRO) was ultimately granted legal recognition with the Lebanese authorities, following numerous requests for registration.
However, four different banking institutions denied the organisation the possibility of opening a bank account, making it impossible for PHRO to access or receive the funds necessary to carry out its activities.
Following numerous steps, the organisation was eventually able to open an account with one of the above banks. However, the access to the account is strictly limited as the bank, pleading financial "problems", systematically requests all documents issued by the donors.
PHRO subsequently decided to file a complaint in relation to the numerous obstacles infringing its right to access and receive funds.
Charges dropped against Mr. Muhamad Mugraby19
On April 15, 2006, the Military Supreme Court of Appeals ordered that the charges pending against Mr. Muhamad Mugraby, a lawyer at the Beirut Bar, be dropped. Mr. Mugraby was charged with "defamation of the army and its members" (Article 157 of the Military Criminal Code) in February 2005, in connection with statements he had made before the European Parliament in November 2003. The Court held that these statements constituted "general criticism [...] and [did not] show the intention of slandering" the army and its officers, and ruled that the Permanent Military Court, which had declared itself competent to try him on March 20, 2006, did not have the "jurisdiction to look into such cases".
However, four sets of legal proceedings initiated by Mr. Mugraby remained pending as of the end of 2006. Indeed, he lodged two separate appeals challenging the decisions of the disciplinary commissions of the Beirut Bar (dating back to 2002 and 2003) that resulted in the withdrawal of his right to exercise his profession. He also filed two legal actions with the Court of Appeal, respectively against 13 judges involved in his arrest in August 2003 and against the National Bar Association that filed the complaint that led to his arrest.
Harassment of SOLIDA and its members20
On the night of October 4/5, 2006, the headquarters of the Support for Lebanese Citizens Arbitrarily Detained (Soutien aux Libanais détenus arbitrairement – SOLIDA) in Dora were broken into. Numerous work-related documents as well as an Internet modem were stolen.
This burglary occurred a few hours before SOLIDA was due to hold a press conference on the occasion of the launching of its report on the abuses perpetrated by military intelligence services during questionings in the detention centre of the Ministry of Defence21.The next day, soon after the departure of Internal Security Forces (Forces de sécurité intérieure – FSI), which had come to make a record of the robbery, three military officers came to the office and questioned SOLIDA members on these events.
On October 6, 2006, three local police officers came to enquire about the organisation's mandate. A few hours later, a SOLIDA leader was called by the general security forces on his mobile phone and questioned on the legality of SOLIDA's establishment in Lebanon and its potential "political enemies".
The FSI officer in charge of the case stressed that he could not guarantee SOLIDA members' safety as military intelligence services were "furious" about the public disclosure of these abuses.
In addition, several journalists cooperating for many years with the organisation were reportedly "dissuaded" from publishing articles relating to the burglary. Some of them further told SOLIDA members that they did not wish to comment on the reasons for their refusal.
On November 12, 2006, SOLIDA headquarters were once again visited by an individual who introduced himself as a member of the intelligence services of the Ministry of the Interior. He questioned them on the possible existence of backup files for the stolen documentation. When one of the staff members requested official identification, the man produced a badge issued by the Ministry of National Defence.
In addition, several times since August 2006 unidentified individuals have entered the home of Ms. Marie Daunay, SOLIDA director, in Beirut. On various occasions, Ms. Daunay found her front door unlocked, sometimes wide open, and objects moved in her house, without any apparent signs of break-in. In mid-August, the front door of her home was broken open from the inside, but no items had gone missing.
[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]
17. See Annual Report 2005.
19. See Annual Report 2005 and Urgent Appeal LBN 001/0005/OBS 033.3.
20. See Press Release, October 5, 2006.
21. This report, entitled Le Centre de détention du ministère de la Défense : un obstacle majeur à la prévention de la torture, describes the ongoing impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of acts of violence or torture, and draws an appalling assessment of the violations committed in the past 14 years in what SOLIDA has called "the underground prison".