Covering events from January - December 2002

Head of state: Emile Lahoud
Head of government: Rafiq al-Hariri
Death penalty: retentionist
International Criminal Court: not signed

Dozens of people affiliated to Christian and Islamist opposition groups were arrested for political reasons. At least 12 others were detained for alleged affiliation to al-Qa'ida or other groups classified as "terrorist". Scores of people, including political prisoners and suspected members of the disbanded South Lebanon Army (SLA), were tried before the Military Court on charges of "collaboration" with Israel, and dozens of political prisoners remained held for long periods without trial in connection with Islamist groups. There were reports of torture and ill-treatment of political detainees. At least one politically motivated killing took place. The year witnessed an increase in violence against women in the community. At least 10 death sentences were passed, but there were no executions. There were reports of deportations, arrests and ill-treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers, and Palestinian refugees continued to suffer discrimination.


The authorities introduced new measures to combat "terrorism", including activating the anti-terrorism Law 11 of 1958. As a result Sunni Islamist groups with a history of opposition to the government were targeted and legitimate rights to freedom of expression and association were suppressed.

In June Lebanon and the European Union signed an agreement covering political and economic matters which includes a clause on human rights.

In September the Prosecutor General ordered search warrants to be issued allowing surveillance in Lebanon and abroad of those thought to be involved in anti-government activities, including "contacting" Israel and activities "detrimental" to Lebanon's relations with its Arab neighbours. The move followed efforts in the USA to oppose the Syrian presence in Lebanon led by General Michel Aoun, the exiled former commander of the Lebanese army and leader of the opposition group Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). Amid growing discontent, especially among Christian opposition groups, about the Syrian military presence in Lebanon, the Commander of Syrian Military Intelligence in Lebanon was transferred to Syria and replaced.


Dozens of people affiliated to Christian and Islamist opposition groups were arrested. They included members of the unauthorized Lebanese Forces Party (LFP), the FPM, suspected member of Sunni Islamist groups including Hizb al-Tahrir ([Islamic] Liberation Party) and others allegedly affiliated to al-Qa'ida.

The arrests of LFP and FPM members were mostly related to their involvement in demonstrations opposed to the Syrian military presence in Lebanon and the distribution of political leaflets.

  • In March at least three students from the Lebanese University, including Bashir Matar and Charbel Ayoub, were arrested by members of the Internal Security Forces. They were later released without charge. They were taking part in a political rally organized by the LFP which was also attended by members of the FPM and the National Liberal Party.
  • In March, three men were arrested for allegedly distributing a leaflet by Hizb al-Tahrir critical of the Saudi Arabian Middle East peace initiative during the Arab summit in Beirut. Wisam Husain al Humsi, Muhammad Nayef al Humsi and Khaled Nayef al Humsi were arrested in western al-Biqa'. Others who were allegedly distributing leaflets in villages in the area were still being sought. The three men were later referred to the Internal Security Forces "anti-terrorism" office in Beirut for questioning.
  • In October, on the eve of the Francophone Summit held in Beirut, at least 10 students including Edward Cham'un, Cynthia Zaraziri and Richard Yunan were arrested at a demonstration against government policies and the Syrian military presence in Lebanon. These three students were reportedly injured when members of the Internal Security Forces used excessive force to break up the demonstration outside Saint Joseph University in Beirut.
  • In September and October, Military Intelligence arrested Khaled Minawi (see below), an 18-year-old Lebanese national; Muhammad Ramiz Sultan, a Lebanese and Australian national; and Ihab Husain Dafa', a Saudi Arabian national. The three were held incommunicado and later charged with offences including establishing "a terrorist organization" and forming a "cell" belonging to al-Qa'ida. They were reportedly tortured and ill-treated to extract "confessions".

Scores of people, including political prisoners and suspected members of the disbanded SLA, were tried before the Military Court on charges of "collaboration" with Israel. The trials fell short of international standards for fair trial and there were numerous reports of confessions being extracted under duress. Dozens of Islamist political prisoners remained held for long periods without trial.
  • In July the Military Court of Appeal sentenced Tawfiq al-Hindi, a leading member of the LFP, and journalist Habib Yunes to 15 months' imprisonment each; and journalist Antoine Basil to 30 months in prison. All were charged with "contacting" Israel. The sentences were passed following a retrial ordered by the Court of Cassation which rejected the previous three and four-year sentences passed by the Military Court. The trials appeared to be unfair and the three were possible prisoners of conscience. They had reportedly been tortured or ill-treated and they told the courts, throughout their trials, that confessions had been extracted under duress. Both Tawfiq al-Hindi and Habib Yunes were released in November after serving their sentences.

There were reports of torture and ill-treatment of political detainees held in detention centres operated by Military Intelligence.
  • Fadi Taybah, a Sunni Islamist activist, was reportedly tortured and ill-treated at the Ba'abda Military Intelligence centre in August. He was arrested in Tripoli on 12 August, taken to Ba'abda, and reportedly tortured repeatedly over three days while being denied food and drink. He said intelligence officers beat his feet with cables during interrogation and that he was beaten on his head, his hands and his stomach. He was released on 20 August.
  • In October Khaled Minawi, an 18-year-old, was reportedly tortured and ill-treated while held incommunicado for five days at the Ministry of Defence Detention Centre. He was reported to have been tortured by the ballanco (suspension by the wrists, which are tied behind the back), and severely beaten in the stomach and face, in addition to being deprived of food for five days. He had previously been tortured while being held incommunicado in 2000, when he was just 16 years old.
Prison conditions

Prison conditions improved in some areas in 2002, apparently as a result of campaigning by national and international human rights groups. The women's prison in Tripoli was moved to a new building and the residence of the male prison guards, which was inside Ba'abda women's prison, was moved to a separate building. In another positive development, in October the authorities allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross access to Lebanese prisons.

Political killings

At least one politically motivated killing took place during 2002.
  • In May police discovered the decomposed body of Ramzi 'Irani, an engineer and LFP activist, in the Beirut neighbourhood of Karkas. He had "disappeared" on 7 May on his way to collect his son from school in central Beirut. His body was found in the boot of his car and was taken for post-mortem examination. No independent investigation appeared to have been initiated into his "disappearance" and killing.

A government commission of inquiry on "disappearances", set up in February 2001, concluded its work but its findings were not disclosed. National human rights groups and families of victims stepped up their campaign to find out what had happened to Lebanese who "disappeared" during the war, or who were believed to be detained in Syria.

In July members of the Committee of Families of Lebanese Detained in Syria met the Syrian Minister of Interior in Damascus and raised their concerns about Lebanese detained in Syria. The Minister undertook to look into their concerns in two months, but no response was available at the end of the year.

Violence against women

The year witnessed an increase in violence against women in the community, including "honour" or "family" killings, rapes and beatings. Men continued to commit "honour crimes" with near impunity.
  • In July Ziyad Misbah Shahab stabbed to death his wife, Widad Muhammad al-Nabulsi, and his daughter, Nasrin, in the family's home in Beirut. He reportedly told police that he was "suspicious" of the "conduct" of his wife and daughter. Under Lebanese law, a man who murders a female relative in a "fit of rage" because of "suspicious" relations with another man is liable only to a lenient sentence.
Children's rights

In January the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child examined Lebanon's periodic report on its implementation of the UN Children's Convention. It expressed concern at allegations that children as young as 15 had been tortured and ill-treated during incommunicado detention. The Committee recommended that the authorities take measures to prevent incommunicado detention of children, and investigate reported cases of ill-treatment of children.

Freedom of expression

The year witnessed an increase in the use of repressive measures against the media, particularly those critical of government policies and the Syrian military presence.
  • In October the Publications Court reaffirmed an earlier decision ordering the closure of MTV television station for contravening Article 68 of the Parliamentary Election Law by allegedly broadcasting unlicensed electioneering advertisements. The court decision provoked a demonstration by Christian opposition groups in central Beirut which was forcibly dispersed by the security forces. At least six demonstrators, some of them MTV employees, were injured. MTV was owned by Gabriel al-Murr, an opposition member of parliament (MP), and the court decision was opposed by political groups, including the Qurnat Shahwan Gathering of opposition MPs. The Interior Minister banned public protests on this issue. In November the Constitutional Council stripped Gabriel al-Murr of his seat in parliament for alleged failure to declare his financial interests, following an unfair hearing with no right of appeal.
Death penalty

At least 10 death penalty sentences were passed during the year, but there were no executions. A de facto moratorium on executions since November 1998 continued.


Palestinian refugees
Thousands of Palestinian refugees living in camps in Lebanon continued to face systematic discrimination. They risked arbitrary detention, their freedom of movement was restricted and they were barred from entering dozens of professions.
  • In September, two Palestinian civilians were killed when the Lebanese army stormed the densely populated al-Jalil refugee camp in Ba'albek, ostensibly to collect weapons and documents from an abandoned Fatah Revolutionary Council office.
Other refugees
Human rights violations against refugees and asylum-seekers, including arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment, continued. Dozens of asylum-seekers, including recognized refugees from Iraq, Sudan, Somalia and Tunisia, remained in detention. There were reports that 300 Iraqi nationals, among whom were asylum-seekers and refugees, were deported from Lebanon to countries where they would not be protected against forcible return.
  • Yasser Akrach, a recognized Sudanese refugee, was arbitrarily detained after a prison sentence for entering the country illegally had expired. In September, when he went on a two-day protest hunger strike, he was reportedly beaten and suspended by his wrists as a punishment.
  • Two Iraqi asylum-seekers, Khaled Salem Azzaoui and 'Ali Alkout, reportedly died in custody in Rumieh Prison in March, allegedly as a result of inadequate medical assistance.

AI delegates visited the country several times to conduct research, hold talks with government officials and non-government organizations and carry out human rights training.

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