Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 October 2014, 13:06 GMT

U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Lebanon

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1994
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Lebanon, 30 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4b18.html [accessed 21 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis 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.
 

Constitutionally, Lebanon is a parliamentary democratic republic. By tradition, the President is a Maronite, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies a Shi'a Muslim. The 128 deputies are divided equally between Christians and Muslims.

Non-Lebanese forces continue to control much of Lebanon. Their presence impinges on Lebanese central authority and prevents the application of normal constitutional protections in those areas. There are 30,000 Syrian troops in Lebanon. A 1991 security and defense pact establishes a cooperative framework between Lebanese and Syrian armed forces, but Syrian military and intelligence units operate independently. According to the Taif accord, the two governments were to decide in September 1992 to redeploy Syrian troops to the Biqa' Valley, with full redeployment shortly after. Lebanese officials failed to raise the issue with the Syrian Government. They have at times cited a number of reasons, including the army's alleged unreadiness to take over routine security functions performed by Syrian troops. Pervasive Syrian influence over Lebanese politics and Lebanese decisionmakers lay at the root of this unwillingness to engage Damascus. The U.S. Government has publicly called for a decision to redeploy.

Israel exerts control in and near its self-proclaimed "security zone" in southern Lebanon largely through the Army of South Lebanon (SLA) and the presence of about 1,000 Israeli troops. The SLA maintains a separate and arbitrary system of justice in the zone, without reference to central Lebanese authority. Palestinian groups operate autonomously in refugee camps located throughout the country and maintain a separate, arbitrary system of justice for fellow Palestinians.

The Government continued to consolidate its authority in some parts of the country by disarming Christian militias and the pro-Fatah Popular Nasirite organization but was less concerned with disarming others, especially in the south. It made no effort to disarm the Iranian-backed Hizballah and its allies or the Israeli-backed SLA. A decades-old cycle of raids and counterraids in the south continued between Hizballah and allied guerrillas on one hand and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and SLA on the other. Following Hizballah Katyusha rocket attacks against civilian targets in northern Israel in July, the IDF launched an intense, week-long series of attacks, termed "Operation Accountability." Over 150 persons were killed and 500 wounded in Lebanon, and thousands of houses were destroyed or damaged. A chief feature of the operation was a declared policy of depopulating the south. Israeli warnings to civilians to flee led to the dislocation of over 300,000 people for a 1-week period. There were credible accounts of IDF use of phosphorous shells against military and civilian targets.

Lebanon has a free market economy. The country possesses few important natural resources. Before the outbreak of civil war in 1975, Lebanon was an important financial and commercial center, but the war greatly weakened its commercial leadership and inflicted massive damage on its economic infrastructure. In 1993 the economy partially recovered from sharp deterioration in the previous 2 years. The Hariri Government was able to restore public confidence, stabilize the economy, and launch a program to reconstruct the economy's infrastructure.

The human rights situation in Lebanon deteriorated as the Government launched two sets of assaults in 1993. The Government frequently arrested without due process opponents of government and Syrian policy in Lebanon, temporarily closed three newspapers, and indefinitely suspended broadcasting by a television network critical of the Government. The level of violence was at its lowest since civil strife began in 1975, but civilians and their property continued to be victims of artillery and aerial attacks, bombings, abductions, assassinations, and explosions. The Government made a small start in returning to their homes some of the more than 600,000 Lebanese displaced by the civil war.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Political killings continued to occur in 1993, but the number declined as the Government further consolidated its authority over portions of the country. On December 20, unknown persons bombed the east Beirut headquarters of the Kataib Party while a meeting of the party's Politburo was under way; two persons died and 130 were injured, many of them party officials. Numerous dynamite attacks by unknown persons on cars and buildings throughout Lebanon caused some casualties and serious property damage. In June members of the militant Sunni Islamic Grouping tried to blow up a busload of clerics attending a Catholic-Orthodox ecumenical conference in north Lebanon, but their explosive device went off prematurely, killing one of the perpetrators. The authorities arrested six suspects and charged them with inciting sectarian discord and attempting to assassinate clerics, but they have not yet been tried. An official of the Druze Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and a member of the militant Islamic Al-Ahbash movement, among others, were assassinated. In April Israeli helicopters attacked the car of Samir Suwayden, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) commander in South Lebanon, near Yatar. His wife, daughter, and another person were killed.

Rival Palestinian factions continued to engage in a cycle of politically motivated murder, mostly in the southern city of Sidon and nearby refugee camps but also in Beirut. At least 11 such killings occurred during the spring. Most of the targets were officials of Fatah and the Abu Nidal organization (Fatah - Revolutionary Command). Other Palestinians were the object of assassination attempts, including Muhammad Abu Samra of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement.

b. Disappearance

There were no known disappearances in 1993 attributable to state security forces. However, thousands of Lebanon's inhabitants kidnaped during the years of civil unrest remained unaccounted for. Militias and non-Lebanese forces were responsible for most of these kidnapings. Some victims are believed to have been summarily executed. The Government has taken no judicial action against groups responsible for the kidnapings, including those which held Western hostages. The families of the missing formed a group to pursue their cause with the help of a Beirut lawyer and former member of one of the militias, the Sunni Muslim Murabitun.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

There were credible reports of the use of excessive force by the Lebanese army against detained members of the former militia of the Lebanese Forces (LF). Abuse included beatings as well as tying detainees' hands behind their backs and suspending them from the wrists for lengthy periods. Those responsible for the abuse were not punished.

Conditions in some prisons are harsh, threatening the lives and health of the inmates. A former police commander, Brigadier Antoine Saadah, alleged in a study published locally that overcrowding in Lebanese prisons in some instances exceeded four times the normal occupancy. The Beirut-area Roumieh prison, designed to accommodate 246 prisoners, is said actually to house more than 1,000. Saadah and other human rights activists report instances of suffocation resulting from the overcrowded conditions. An eyewitness said overcrowding in Batrun prison was particularly bad, with 40 people jailed in a 15-foot cell.

Abuses also occurred in areas outside the State's authority. There were persistent and credible reports that various Palestinian groups engaged in torture of Palestinian rivals. In June, when Fatah released 95 members of the Abu Nidal group from its prison in southern Lebanon, for example, the prisoners alleged torture and ill treatment.

Supporters of exiled General Michel 'Awn credibly reported that they had suffered torture by Syrian security elements during prief periods of detention in the autumn and winter of 1993. There were also allegations of torture and abuse by the SLA at Al-Khiyam prison in the Israeli-controlled security zone. One international observer has concluded that torture and other cruel treatment is no longer widespread at the Al-Khiyam prison, based on evidence gathered in interviews with released prisoners. The SLA continued to deny access to the facility by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Arrest warrants are required before arresting a suspect. There were credible reports, however, of the availability of blank warrants signed by the military prosecutor. By law, arresting officers must refer suspects to a prosecutor within 24 hours of arrest. A suspect must be released if not charged within 48 hours of arrest. However, some government prosecutors authorized the indefinite detention of suspects for interrogation without reference to a court or a judge. The law permits incommunicado detention at the discretion of the investigating judge. Every person arrested has the right to legal counsel, but there is no public defender's office. The bar association has an office to serve those who cannot afford a lawyer. Bail is permitted in most cases, excluding felonies.

The army ignored due process in a campaign of arbitrary arrests in 1993. Its efforts focused on members of the former militia of the Christian Lebanese forces, sympathizers of the exiled former army commander and self-proclaimed Prime Minister Michel 'Awn, and members of Lebanon's Popular Nasirite Organization (PNO), a former militia noted for close links to Fatah. All these groups were at odds politically with the Syrian and Lebanese regimes and Syrian policies in Lebanon. In the autumn and winter of 1993, the Lebanese army arbitrarily arrested dozens of 'Awn's supporters and turned them over to Syrian Military Intelligence (SMI) units in Lebanon. SMI typically held them briefly in detention, and the detainees provided credible reports of torture during interrogation. These arrests occurred in the wake of attacks with small explosives on Syrian sentries in Christian areas near Beirut. Lebanese authorities arrested a member of an extremist Christian group, the Guardians of the Cedars, in November on the charge of conspiring with 'Awn and the Israeli Government. Military court proceedings were under way at the end of the year.

In the summer, the army arrested 30 members of the LF and held them incommunicado for more than a week without placing charges or referring the cases to the military prosecutor. Later, these members of the LF were accused of threatening state security and of assassinating Lebanese army officers and soldiers in 1990. The LF and an army faction backing Michel 'Awn's seizure of power were fighting at the time. One LF member remains in detention. The army also took steps to purge its ranks of suspected LF members.

Authorities arrested four PNO members July 20 and released them in September. They were never charged.

Amnesty International reported in April that 8 persons were arrested in March for distributing leaflets opposing the Government and the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon. They were believed to be held incommunicado for an unknown period at the Defense Ministry. 'Awn supporters alleged that brief detentions by the army, for periods ranging from a day to a week, were commonplace. In July a leading 'Awnist was arrested for defamation after he issued a press release making exaggerated claims that hundreds of illegal detainees were in Lebanese jails. He was detained for 7 days.

Arbitrary detention by local militias and non-Lebanese forces continued to occur in areas outside the central Government's authority. In March the Israeli navy detained for 24 hours five Lebanese fishermen who were fishing off the coast of Tyre inside Lebanese territorial waters. In March Israeli forces released three citizens it had arrested inside the security zone and held without charges for about 20 days. The SLA continued to hold at least 350 Lebanese and Palestinian detainees at Al-Khiyam prison and denied access to them by the ICRC and family members. Seventeen detainees were released in March and another three in May. In March the Iranian-backed Hizballah militia handed over to the ICRC one person and the remains of another. The party had kidnaped them 2 years ago. No judicial action was taken against Hizballah.

The Government does not normally use exile as a means of punishment. However, in 199l it pardoned former army commander and self-proclaimed Prime Minister 'Awn, along with two aides, on condition that they leave the country and remain in exile for 5 years. They were accused of usurping power.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Each confessional group has its own court for family and personal status cases. There is a separate military court system. In refugee camps, Palestinian elements operate an autonomous and arbitrary system of justice; rival Palestinian factions often try their opponents without due process.

Although Lebanese law provides the right to a fair public trial and the judiciary is considered independent and relatively impartial, influential politicians continued to intervene successfully to protect supporters from detention and prosecution. Government interference in the judicial process and low judicial salaries led to the resignation of several prominent judges and to corruption and bribery of others. The Government took steps to adjust salaries in September. The appointment of judges, like other government appointments, is allocated on the basis of religious affiliation.

The resignations, aggravating an already severe shortage of judges, dealt a blow to efforts to speed adjudication and erase a backlog of cases that had developed during the civil war. An inability to conduct investigations in areas outside effective government control also caused trial delays.

The legal system is discriminatory in its handling of so-called crimes of honor. Men, for example, are typically acquitted of murder charges in cases involving the murder of adulterous wives. By law, in some instances a female's testimony before a notary public carries half the weight of that of a male.

There are no known political prisoners, although political opponents of the Syrian and Lebanese regimes are often detained without charges for short periods of time.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

While Lebanese authorities generally show no interest in controlling personal life, they are not reluctant to interfere with the privacy of some foes. Laws require that government prosecutors obtain a warrant before entering houses, except when the Lebanese army pursues an armed attacker. Militiasand non-Lebanese forces operating outside areas of central government authority frequently violated rights of privacy. Various factions and the Government use informer networks and monitor telephones to gather intelligence on their foes. A Member of Parliament, former Prime Minister Salim Al-Huss, questioned the Government about taps on phones belonging to members of Parliament and politicians but received no response.

g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts

The situation in South Lebanon remained explosive. Hizballah and other Lebanese and Palestinian militias on the one hand, and Israel and the SLA on the other, engaged in a cycle of violence which led to civilian casualties in South Lebanon and the deaths of two members of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). Lebanese and Palestinian militias attacked SLA and IDF troops deployed on Lebanese soil and Israeli civilians in northern Israel. The Israelis directed air strikes and artillery shelling on alleged guerrilla and terrorist targets inside Lebanon.

Events culminated in July when Israel launched land, sea, and air attacks on Lebanon in "Operation Accountability." The Israeli offensive was designed to put an end to militia rocket attacks on northern Israel. The intense, week-long assault included a declared policy of depopulating the south, accomplished by using radio broadcasts and leaflets to warn residents of named villages, towns, and cities to flee by certain deadlines. These tactics resulted in mass panic and the dislocation of over 300,000 southerners, who sought refuge in areas to the north, including Beirut. During the Israeli strikes, about 150 civilians were killed and 500 wounded. Nine hundred houses were completely destroyed and 2,450 were partially damaged.

There were credible eyewitness reports of Israeli use of phosphorous shells with respect to both Lebanese military and civilian targets. International observers found evidence that at least 17 civilians had received phosphorous burns.

On September 13 the Lebanese army opened fire on demonstrators in the southern suburbs of Beirut. Nine civilians were killed and 36 wounded. Hizballah had organized the rally to protest the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian agreement in Washington, despite direct warnings from the Government and Syrian authorities that they intended to enforce a ban on demonstrations. The army said soldiers acted in self-defense after elements in the crowd had opened fire. The Government says it is investigating the incident.

Violations of international humanitarian standards with respect to treatment of prisoners continued to occur.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

Lebanon has a long heritage of freedom of opinion, speech, and press, although many Lebanese journalists have been killed and kidnaped in the past two decades by Lebanese and foreign factions. Although there were repeated attempts to muzzle these freedoms in 1993, criticism of the Government's policies and leaders continued. Dozens of newspapers and magazines are published throughout Lebanon, financed by various Lebanese and foreign groups. While the press is nominally independent, press content often reflects the opinions of these financial backers. In addition, a legal framework exists to impose restrictions on the media. Some restrictive press regulations were imposed during the civil war but remain in place, such as Decree 104 of 1977. Laws prohibit attacks on the dignity of the head of state or of foreign leaders, authorize the prosecutor general to shut newspapers for up to 1 week without reference to the courts if articles appear that, in the view of the authorities, threaten Lebanon's foreign relations or incite sectarian conflict, and prohibit the publication of state secrets. A special publication court exists to try cases involving these matters. The 1991 Lebanese-Syrian security agreement contains a provision effectively banning informational activity that could endanger the security of either State.

In April and May the Government temporarily shut down three newspapers. Nida' Al-Watan, owned by a vocal Maronite critic of Prime Minister Hariri, was accused of inciting sectarian discord and suspended for 38 days. It had alleged that Hariri was buying Christian church property in a bid to Islamize Lebanon. Al-Safir, one of Lebanon's most popular dailies, was closed for publishing alleged state secrets. It had printed the text of an Israeli proposal submitted to the Lebanese delegation to the Middle East peace talks. During the paper's 1-week suspension, it appeared using a valid permit for the moribund Beirut Al-Masa' newspaper. Trials in both cases are under way. Al-Sharq was closed for 1 week after printing a cartoon that was deemed insulting to the President's family. In October the Public Prosecutor charged two newspapers, Al-Liwa and Ad-Diyar, with slandering government officials. The Government also made a new charge against Nida' Al-Watan in October for publishing a story alleging that Japanese Red Army members were present in Lebanon. The authorities denied the story and said it harmed Lebanon's reputation. A pro-Awn publication was closed in October for distributing pornography.

Direct press criticism of Syria and its role in Lebanon virtually vanished in 1993. One leading journalist was subjected to anonymous threats after writing columns critical of aspects of Syrian policy in Lebanon. Other reporters described a widespread practice of self-censorship on matters related to Syria.

Diverse political groups, particularly former militias, operated a wide variety of unregulated radio and television stations. As these groups accepted the spread of state authority and began to manage their broadcasts on a commercial basis, heavily slanted propaganda diminished. The Taif accord calls for the regulation and organization of the broadcast media; this proposal is controversial, however, and the Government has not submitted a draft law to Parliament. Pending passage of new regulations, the Information Minister and major stations signed an honor code in February banning programming which would disturb public order, stir ethnic or sectarian enmity, slander Lebanese leaders or friendly nations, violate moral standards, or promote Israel. The honor code has no discernible impact on broadcasting. Exploiting the absence of a legal framework, the Government moved to close one of its critics, the Independent Communications Network (ICN). The station, owned by the publisher of Nida' Al-Watan, was accused of inciting sectarian discord. In late December, the Civil Court permitted ICN to resume broadcasting and scheduled for February a hearing of the Government's case against the broadcaster. The Public Prosecutor has asked for prison sentences of 3 years for ICN management.

Lebanon's partially state-owned television station, Tele-Liban, had long enjoyed virtual autonomy with respect to its news and public affairs programming. The Cabinet, however, reasserted in August the Information Minister's legal right to monitor and effectively control Tele-Liban's activities.

In 1993 the Government revived police control over all nonperiodical publications, books, foreign magazines, plays, and films, which must be submitted to the Public Security Directorate for approval before distribution. A prize-winning film on national reconciliation was banned for several months and released only after the producer made some changes. The police briefly closed a play, "The Rabbit and the Saints," acting on a request from the Maronite church. Censors later reversed the decision. Police confiscated a novel, "Garden of the Senses," by a well-known local author, saying it had pornographic passages.

Lebanon has a strong tradition of academic freedom and a flourishing private educational system, born from the inadequacy of public schools and an attachment to sectarian affiliations. Students exercise the right to form campus associations, and the Government does not usually interfere with student groups. The Government's arrests of students sympathetic to the exiled General Michel 'Awn and to the Lebanese Forces in 1992 chilled student activism among those students in 1993.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Any group wishing to organize a rally must obtain the prior approval of the Interior Ministry, but this law is not uniformly applied. Some political factions, such as the Shi'a Amal movement, the Christian Kataib Party, and the mostly Druze PSP were permitted to stage rallies during 1993, but some Christian groups were not. The army obstructed a meeting of the Kataib Party Salvation Committee (a group at odds with the policies of the party mainstream), and the Interior Ministry did not grant the Committee a permit for a rally. Other Christian groups opposed to the Government were warned by army intelligence officers against staging rallies.

Hizballah held demonstrations and marches unhindered by the authorities. On September 13, however, the army opened fire on Hizballah demonstrators in an effort to impose a government ban on protests (see Section 1.g.). The rally was staged in opposition to the Israeli-Palestinian agreement. Sunni Islamist groups in Tripoli, foiled by the government ban from making a similar protest, later organized an antipeace process gathering inside a mosque.

Army intelligence monitors the movement and activities of members of opposition groups, some of whom charged that intelligence officers have warned them against holding private meetings with other oppositionists.

Neither Israel nor Syria allows groups openly hostile to them to operate in areas they control.

c. Freedom of Religion

Lebanese practice their various religions freely. There are 17 officially recognized sects, including numerous Christian denominations, Muslims (Sunni, Shia, and others), and Druze. There is no state religion, but Lebanon's confessional political system means that a wide range of government positions are filled on the basis of religion.

There are no restrictions on any particular religious groups, foreign clergy, or places of worship. Religious groups are free to publish religious material, operate schools, and establish charitable organizations.

Lebanese have the legal right to convert from one religion to another, but the confessional character of society makes conversion to another religion difficult. Women, however, often adopt the religion of their husbands. Conversion can mean ostracism from family and friends. Local religious leaders often pressure members of their congregations against taking part in the religious activities of other groups.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Lebanese traditionally have enjoyed freedom of travel, domestic and foreign. The spread of government authority has removed barriers that blocked domestic travel during the civil war, but obstacles remain. Lebanese armed forces and Syrian troops maintained checkpoints in areas under their control. In the south, the SLA and IDF maintained tight restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the security zone.

There are some restrictions on foreign travel by Lebanese citizens. Husbands may block foreign travel by their wives and minor children. The introduction in 1993 of compulsory military service for many males aged between 18 and 21 meant that youths subject to the draft are required to register at a recruitment office and obtain a travel authorization document before leaving the country. Travel to Israel is illegal for all Lebanese citizens, but many do so through Israeli- controlled territory in southern Lebanon. There are no legal restrictions on the right of all citizens to return. Many emigres are reluctant to return for a variety of political, economic, and social reasons. Palestinian refugees with valid residency papers have the right to return to Lebanon.

The Government began the process of encouraging the return to their homes of over 600,000 Lebanese displaced during the civil war. The process was slowed by financial constraints as well as lingering insecurity felt by the displaced. Hundreds of families, however, received keys to their homes and began to repair them. The Government concentrated its efforts on returning Christians to areas of the Shuf and 'Alayh from which they had fled in the wake of Christian-Druze fighting in the mid-1980s.

Lebanon has historically both generated and received refugees. There are approximately 180,000 stateless undocumented persons in Lebanon. Although the families of some of them have lived in Lebanon for generations, they suffer broad discrimination since they are not accorded the legal rights enjoyed by the rest of the population. They include the inhabitants of border areas in dispute between Lebanon and Syria and Lebanon and Israel, Kurds, Syriac Orthodox, and members of other sects. These people do not benefit from such government services as the national social security fund, and cannot be employed by the Government. Concern about preserving sectarian balance was one obstacle to the naturalization of these people in the past. In 1993 political support grew for a plan to naturalize a confessionally balanced group of non-Palestinian stateless persons who have continuously resided in Lebanon for the past 15 years. The Government is reviewing applications.

Most non-Lebanese refugees in Lebanon are Palestinians. The Government has estimated their number at 361,000, but this figure only includes families of refugees who arrived in 1948. Some estimates of the actual number of Palestinians in Lebanon now range from 450,000 to 500,000. Although the Government in 1991 ended its practice of denying work permits to Palestinians, a strong bias against them continues to compel often highly trained Palestinian refugees to take menial work. Palestinians and other aliens may own land only of a limited size and only after obtaining the approval of five district offices. The law applies to all aliens, but for political, cultural, and economic reasons it is applied in a manner disadvantageous to the Palestinians and, to a lesser extent, Kurds. Under Lebanese citizenship law, only Lebanese males may transmit citizenship to their spouses and children.

Lebanon refused to admit 419 Palestinians deported by Israel on December 17, 1992. The deportees remained in an effective no man's land between Israeli and Lebanese controlled territory inside southern Lebanon. The Government turned a blind eye to the supply of relief material to the deportees, despite a ban on such activity. By the end of 1993, all of the deportees had returned to the Israeli-occupied territories except for about 15 deportees who reportedly elected to remain outside the occupied territories to avoid imprisonment.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Lebanon is a parliamentary democracy in which the people have the constitutional right to change their government. However, until the Parliamentary elections in 1992, the people had not been able to exercise this right during 16 years of civil war.

According to the Constitution, direct elections for the Parliament must be held every 4 years. The Parliament, in turn, elects the President every 6 years. The President and Parliament choose the Cabinet. Political parties may form, and some flourish. Since the emergence of the post-1943 state, a relatively restricted group of traditional and sectarian leaders largely have determined national policy. The unwritten 1943 National Pact allocated power on a confessional system based on the 1932 census. The Pact stipulated that the President would be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of Parliament a Shi'a Muslim. Until 1990, seats in Parliament were divided on a 6-to-5 ratio of Christians to Muslims. Positions in the government were allocated on a similar basis between Christians and Muslims.

Efforts to alter or abolish the confessional system of allocating power were at the center of Lebanese politics for more than 3 decades. Those religious groups most favored by the 1943 formula sought to preserve it, while those who perceived themselves to be disadvantaged sought to revise it on the basis of different demographic data or to abolish it entirely. The struggle gave a strongly sectarian coloration to Lebanese politics and to the continuing civil strife in the country. Under the National Reconciliation Agreement reached in Taif, Saudi Arabia in October 1989, Members of Parliament agreed to alter the National Pact to create a 50-50 Christian-Muslim balance in the Parliament and reorder the powers of the different branches of government.

Constitutional amendments embodying the political reforms stipulated in the Taif agreement, which represented a dramatic political and psychological change, became law in 1990. They included an expansion of the number of seats in Parliament and the division of seats equally between Muslims and Christians and the transfer of some powers from the President to the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Parliamentary elections were held in 1992. The elections were not prepared and not carried out in a manner to ensure the broadest national consensus. Because the results do not reflect the full spectrum of the body politic in Lebanon, they cast doubt on the ability of the Lebanese people to change their government through truly democratic means.

Palestinians in Lebanon, with the exception of the few who have gained Lebanese nationality, have no political rights. An estimated 17 Palestinian factions operate in Lebanon, ranging from several characterized as "Islamic" to numerous pro- and anti-Arafat organizations, many built around prominent individual leaders. Most Palestinians live in refugee camps, under the control of one or more political factions. Leaders are not elected, and there are no representative institutions that would permit popular participation in running camps. Fundamental protections and freedoms expected of governments exist in some but not all Palestinian areas.

There are no legal barriers to participation by women in politics, but the culture discourages it. Three women were elected to Parliament in 1992. Two were related to deceased politicians, and the third is the sister of the Prime Minister. Very few women hold policy-level positions in the Government.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

Several local associations are devoted to human rights, including the Foundation for Human and Humanitarian Rights, the Lebanese Association for Human Rights (headed by a Member of Parliament), and the Lebanese Bar Association's Office for Human Rights. The Government does not interfere with the activities of these organizations, according to their leaders. There were no known requests by international human rights organizations to investigate the situation in Lebanon in 1993, but occasional inquiries were made. The SLA has refused requests for access by the ICRC and other international humanitarian groups to visit the prison it operates at Al-Khiyam in southern Lebanon.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

Sixteen years of civil war blocked progress in many social fields, including laws and practices on discrimination. In 1993, the Cabinet and Parliament considered amendments to laws that discriminate against women, children, and the disabled, but no action was taken.

Women

Lebanese women, many of whom have professional degrees, can work outside the home and increasingly do so out of necessity. The idea that women should be supported by men prevails, however, and many, including those with professional training, remain home with their families or until their children are grown. Males exercise considerable control over female relatives, often restricting such activities outside the home as travel or contact with friends and relatives. Women may own property but may not be able to exercise control over it due to legal and cultural restrictions. The law stipulates that a woman must obtain the prior approval of her husband to open a business or engage in trade. The Judicial Institute refused to accept 200 female law graduates in November, offering no grounds for the decision.

Violence against women occurs, and the press reports frequent cases of rape, but judicial authorities have no statistics on the extent of the problem. Doctors and social workers believe most abused women do not seek medical help. The society's emphasis on personal privacy and honor makes it difficult for women to seek legal redress, suggesting that cases reported in the papers are but a fraction of the total number. The Government has neither expressed an interest in the problem nor made an effort to combat it.

Each confessional group in Lebanon has its own family and personal status laws administered by religious courts, and each group differs in its treatment of marriage, family property rights, and inheritance. Many of these laws discriminate against women. For example, Sunni inheritance law gives a son twice the share of a daughter. Although Muslim men can easily divorce, Muslim women can do so only with the approval of their husbands. Divorce is difficult for Christians following Catholic rites, including Maronites. Many seeking divorce convert to an orthodox faith. Parliament approved in November a law that allowed women to testify in matters related to land registry. Previously, a woman's testimony had carried only half the weight of a man's.

Children

The Government has not placed priority on children's rights and welfare. There is no evidence of government spending to protect children, although Lebanon has ratified the Children's Rights Charter. The area of children's rights is one of many demands made on a state that is just emerging from years of social and financial chaos. The plight of children is a growing concern in Lebanon. A huge number of children are neglected, abused, exploited and even sold to disreputable adoption agents at a rate of $5,000 for an infant, according to children's rights monitors. Hundreds of abandoned children are found in the streets, begging and cleaning car windows; others are hired illegally at low wages. Juvenile delinquency is rising. There are 428 cases before the delinquency court in north Lebanon alone, and many delinquents wait in ordinary prisons for trial and remain there after sentencing. Limited financial resources have hindered efforts to build adequate facilities to rehabilitate delinquents.

Religious minorities

Discrimination based on religion is built into the system of government (see Section 3). The amended Constitution of 1990 embraces the principle of abolishing confessionalism as a criterion for filling all government positions, but no steps have been taken to accomplish this.

People with Disabilities

Over 100,000 people were handicapped during the civil war. This traditional society has tended to neglect the disabled and handicapped, and the concept of rights for the disabled is a novelty for it. Most efforts to secure education, independence, health, and shelter for the disabled were made by private institutions dealing with the handicapped, of which there are more than 100 throughout the country. In the aftermath of the war, the issue of rights for the disabled has gained the Government's attention, and in late 1992 a minister was given responsibility for handicapped affairs, although he lacked a ministry and financial resources. Parliament amended a 1973 law on the disabled, with a view to eliminating all obstacles that block equal treatment for the disabled. Even rudimentary needs remain unmet, however. Lebanon's heavily damaged cities make no accommodation to the disabled, and building codes still have no requirements to ease access. Facilities for the disabled in most instances are inadequately funded by the Government and various religious institutions, and other charities which run them. In this area as in others, the level of public philanthropy is low.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

All workers, except government employees, may form and join unions and have a legal right to strike. Worker representatives must be chosen from those employed within the bargaining unit. Trade unions may determine their own policies and programs as long as they do not involve themselves in politics. About 600,000 persons form the active labor force, many of whom are members of Lebanon's 160 labor unions and associations. Twenty-three of the unions, with about 250,000 workers, are represented in the General Confederation of Workers (CGTL), 42 percent of the estimated labor force. Lebanese authorities do not control or restrict unions, although union leaders allege that the Government has tried to intervene in elections for union officials. In 1993 the CGTL executive council elections resulted in the defeat of CGTL's long-term president. There were credible allegations that the Labor Minister helped sway electors, encouraged by both leading candidates. Palestinians in Lebanon may organize their own unions. Restrictions on their right to work in the country, however, make this right more theoretical than real. Few Palestinians participate actively in trade unions in Lebanon.

Public school teachers, the staff at Lebanese University, Trans-Mediterranean Airways employees, and municipal contract workers (principally garbage collectors) in several cities including Beirut staged a handful of warning strikes in 1993. The longest lasted 3 days. Strikers suspended their walkouts in these cases in response to government offers to examine their demands. As of December 31, however, those demands were largely unmet.

After months of negotiations and strike threats, CGTL and the Government struck a deal in December on a nationwide wage increase.

Three hundred workers at a private steel factory struck on September 29 over management's decision to increase their hours of employment and over alleged inroads on worker's freedom to organize. As of November 1 the strike was unresolved. Laws prohibit retribution against strikers and leaders, and there are no known cases of such retribution. Two strike leaders among the Beirut municipal contract workers, however, were detained by the police for several hours.

Unions are free to affiliate with international federations and confederations, and they maintain a variety of them.

b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively

The right of workers to organize and to bargain exists in law and practice. Most workers' groups engage in some form of collective bargaining with their employers. Stronger federations obtain significant gains through their own collective bargaining efforts. Weaker unions rely on the mediation of the CGTL, which negotiates across-the-board pay increases with private employers' associations. The CGTL often assists unions affiliated with it in their bargaining efforts and on occasion has assisted nonunionized workers. There is no government mechanism to promote voluntary labor-management negotiations, and workers have no protection against antiunion discrimination. While such discrimination exists, its practical impact on union rights is negligible largely because of CGTL activism.

In May the International Labor Organization (ILO) reviewed a complaint lodged by the CGTL against the Government regarding the arrest of striking bank employees in 1992. The ILO, noting that the Government had not denied the fact of the arrests and had not responded adequately to ILO inquiries, asked the Government to safeguard unions' freedom to strike in the future.

There are no special economic incentives or export processing zones.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

While not prohibited by law, forced labor is not practiced or condoned by the Government. However, children, domestics, or other foreign workers are sometimes forced to remain in situations amounting to coerced or bonded labor.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The 1946 labor code stipulates a minimum age of 8. Workers between the age of 8 and 16 cannot work in excess of 7 hours, with 1 hour of rest provided after 4 hours. They are also prohibited from working between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. There is a general prohibition against "jobs out of proportion with a worker's age." The labor code also prohibits certain types of mechanical work for children aged 8 to 13, and other types for those aged 13 to 16. The Labor Ministry is tasked with enforcing these requirements, but the civil war left it with few resources and a demoralized and sometimes corrupt staff. The law is not rigorously applied, and many younger children work in family businesses.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Labor Ministry sets a legal monthly minimum wage, which was raised in December to about $117 (197,000 Lebanese pounds). The law is not enforced effectively in the private sector. In theory the courts could be called upon to enforce it, but in practice they are not. Trade unions actively try to assure the payment of minimum wages in both the public sector and large-scale private sectors, such as teaching and transport. Inflation and currency devaluation make it impossible for a worker and family to live on the minimum wage; most workers have to earn additional income to make ends meet.

Labor law prescribes a standard 6-day workweek of 48 hours, with a 24-hour rest period per week. In practice, workers in the industrial sector work an average of 35 hours a week, and workers in other sectors of the economy work an average of 30 hours a week. The law includes specific occupational health and safety regulations. Labor regulations call on employer's to take adequate precautions for employee safety. Enforcement, the responsibility of the Labor Ministry, is uneven. Labor organizers know of no right of workers to remove themselves from hazardous conditions.

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