Lebanon. Transfer the investigation into the death in police custody of a Syrian refugee to civil justice

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The heartbreaking death in custody this week of Bashar Abdel-Saud, a Syrian refugee who was tortured, must serve as a reminder to the Lebanese authorities to tackle torture in their detention centres, Amnesty International said today. today.

Lebanese justice has announced the opening of an investigation by the military prosecutor’s office, but Amnesty International is calling for the investigation and trial to take place before civilian justice.

“Bashar Abdel-Saud died cruelly while in the custody of Lebanese State Security – images of his bruised and gashed body are a distressing reminder of the need for urgent enforcement of the anti-torture law of 2017. It is unacceptable that torture continues to occur in Lebanese detention centers and with such brutality – the authorities must end it immediately,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International Regional Director for the Middle East. East and North Africa.

“While the remanding of a group of security personnel for questioning is a positive step, under human rights law standards, military courts should limit their jurisdiction to that military offenses committed by military personnel. For the sake of transparency and impartiality, Abdel-Saoud’s case must be referred urgently to a civil court. His family deserves justice and reparation for their tragic loss.

State Security agents arrested Abdel-Saoud at his home in Beirut on August 31, without showing an arrest warrant. According to Mohammed Sablouh, the lawyer handling the Abdel-Saud case, the family received a call from a state security official four days later, on September 3, asking them to collect his body from their headquarters in Tebneen, in southern Lebanon. Sablouh and the family refuse to collect the body until they have received an independent and complete forensic report from the doctor who examined the body.

…sound images [Bashar Abdel-Saud] bruised and gashed bodies are a distressing reminder of the need to urgently implement the Anti-Torture Act 2017.

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International

Following the uproar caused by leaked images and videos revealing bruises and gashes covering the article on Abdel-Saud’s body, state security released a statement saying he had been arrested for possession of a counterfeit $50 bill and that he had “confessed” to being a member. of ISIS before his death. They also said the matter would be investigated internally.

On September 2, the government commissioner at the military court examined the body and ordered the detention of five officers from the state security section in Tibneen, including the lieutenant in charge and the officers suspected of having committed acts of torture.

Mohammed Sablouh told Amnesty International that authorities have so far accused Abdel-Saoud of three things: “they said he had counterfeit money, they said he used and dealt with Captagon, and they said he was a member of ISIS. These are all lies. We need a transparent investigation in civil court to find out what happened and who should be held responsible.

Bashar Abdel-Saoud was 30 when he died and had three children, including a one-month-old. He left the Syrian army eight years ago and moved to Lebanon to work as a porter. He lived with his family in the Palestinian refugee camp of Sabra and Shatila in Beirut.

His experience of torture was not isolated. In March 2021, Amnesty International released a report documenting a series of violations against 26 Syrian refugees, including four children, detained on terrorism-related charges between 2014 and early 2021. Violations included unfair trials and torture, including beatings with metal sticks. , electrical cables and plastic pipes. Authorities failed to investigate allegations of torture, even when detainees or their lawyers told a court judge that they had been tortured.

Abdel-Saud’s case echoes that of Ziad Itani, a Lebanese actor who was arrested by State Security in December 2017 on trumped up charges of spying for Israel before facing trial in a military court . Itani said state security agents subjected him to severe torture, including beating him with electric cables, binding him with metal chains, kicking and punching him in the face and threatening to rape him. He filed a complaint against them in November 2018, but no further steps have been taken to effectively investigate his torture.

“During the last review of Lebanon by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2021, the Lebanese government pledged to implement the anti-torture law, to investigate all allegations of torture and other wrongdoing. treatment, to hold perpetrators accountable and to quash confessions under torture. Yet impunity for torture remains rife, with dozens of complaints of torture and other ill-treatment filed under the 2017 anti-torture law rarely reaching the courts and most shelved without effective investigation. It is time for this to stop. Said Heba Morayef.

Background

Lebanon ratified the Convention against Torture (CAT) and its Optional Protocol in 2000 and 2008 respectively. In line with its obligations under the CAT, Lebanon passed an anti-torture law in 2017, which criminalizes torture.

Under international human rights law, military personnel should only be tried in military courts for breaches of military discipline. Under Lebanon’s anti-torture law, the power to prosecute, investigate and adjudicate is granted exclusively to ordinary civilian courts. Furthermore, the prohibition of torture applies regardless of the nature of the alleged crime.

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