Lebanon 2017/2018
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Lebanon 2017/2018

Lebanon hosted more than 1 million refugees from Syria, in addition to several hundred thousand long-term Palestinian refugees and more than 20,000 refugees from other countries. The authorities maintained restrictions that effectively closed Lebanon’s borders to people fleeing Syria. Parliament repealed a law allowing people accused of rape to escape punishment by marrying their victim, and passed a new law criminalizing torture. Access to essential services remained curtailed by the economic crisis. Authorities handed down death sentences; there were no executions.

Background

The economic crisis continued. Access to basic services, including electricity and water, remained severely curtailed across the country. Public protests and strikes continued throughout the year, including by judges, public sector staff, parents and workers, as well as residents living near sites of unprocessed waste. Waste mismanagement, which had prompted the largest protests in years, remained unresolved.

On 4 November, Prime Minister Hariri announced his resignation in a speech delivered from the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, under circumstances that remained unclear. President Aoun did not accept his resignation.

The Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the armed group Hezbollah launched two military operations in the northern border town of Arsal against the armed groups Jabhat Al-Nusra and Islamic State (IS), in July and August respectively. By the end of August, the LAF had regained control of Arsal and the surrounding area, and retrieved the bodies of 10 Lebanese soldiers taken hostage by IS in 2014.

In the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el-Helweh, in the southern city of Saida, clashes erupted between IS and IS-affiliated groups on the one hand, and Palestinian armed groups and the LAF.

In June, the Parliament approved a new electoral law and scheduled the twice-postponed parliamentary elections for May 2018, the first to take place since 2009.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

A government decision from May 2015 continued to bar UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, from registering newly arrived refugees.

Syrian refugees faced financial and administrative difficulties in obtaining or renewing residency permits, exposing them to a constant risk of arbitrary arrest, detention and forcible return to Syria. In February the authorities introduced a waiver of the 300,000 Lebanese pound (USD200) residency fee for Syrian refugees registered with UNHCR, excluding those who had entered Lebanon after January 2015 or who had renewed their residency through work or a private sponsor, as well as Palestinian refugees from Syria. The waiver was not applied consistently by government officials, and many refugees were not able to renew their residency permits.

Refugees from Syria continued to face severe economic hardship. According to the UN, 76% of Syrian refugee households lived below the poverty line and more than half lived in substandard conditions in overcrowded buildings and densely populated neighbourhoods. Refugees faced restrictions to finding official work and were subjected to curfews and other restrictions on their movement in a number of municipalities. Several municipalities served refugees with eviction notices, forcing them to seek alternative places to live in an increasingly hostile and xenophobic environment. In March the LAF issued eviction notices to refugees living in camps in the vicinity of Riyak Airbase in the Bekaa region, affecting around 12,665 individuals.

The UN humanitarian appeal for Syrian refugees in Lebanon was only 56% funded by the end of the year and resettlement places in other countries remained inadequate.

On 30 June the LAF conducted raids on two informal tented settlements accommodating Syrian refugees in Arsal. At least 350 men were arrested during the raids. Most were subsequently released but there were reports that some detainees were tortured and otherwise ill-treated by soldiers and four men died while in custody. The authorities did not publish any findings from their investigations into these deaths.

Between June and August, thousands of Syrians returned from Arsal to Syria, mostly following agreements negotiated by Hezbollah with armed groups in Syria.

Palestinian refugees, including many long-term residents in Lebanon, remained subject to discriminatory laws excluding them from owning or inheriting property, accessing public education and health services, or working in at least 36 professions. At least 3,000 Palestinian refugees who did not hold official identity documents faced further restrictions denying them the right to register births, marriages and deaths.

Lebanon had not yet ratified the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol.

Torture and other ill-treatment

In May, Lebanon made its first appearance before the UN Committee against Torture, following ratification of the UN Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol in 2000 and 2008, respectively. A new anti-torture law came into effect on 26 October. The law was largely aligned with Lebanon’s international obligations but failed to incorporate the Committee’s observations with regards to the statute of limitations and penalties for committing the crime of torture. Moreover, the law failed to provide that army officers accused of torture would be tried before civilian courts.

Women’s rights

In August, the Parliament repealed Article 522 of the Penal Code which allowed a person convicted of kidnapping or rape, including statutory rape, to escape prosecution if they proposed to marry the victim. Civil society organizations continued to call for the repeal of Articles 505 and 518, which allowed for marriage with minors aged between 15 and 18 as a way to escape prosecution.

Women’s rights groups continued to advocate for the right of women married to foreign nationals to pass their nationality to their husband and children. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child also included this recommendation in its concluding observations on Lebanon, in addition to calling on Lebanon to ensure that citizenship would be conferred to children who would otherwise be stateless.

Women migrant workers continued to suffer discriminatory laws and practices, restricting their rights to freedom of movement, education and health, including sexual and reproductive health.

Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people

The Internal Security Forces (ISF) continued to arrest people and press charges under Article 534 of the Penal Code, which criminalized “sexual intercourses which contradict the laws of nature” and was used to prosecute LGBTI people.

In May the ISF banned several activities that had been planned across the country to mark International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, citing security concerns following threats made by radical Islamist groups.

Freedom of expression

The ISF Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Bureau continued to interrogate, arrest and hold in pre-trial detention peaceful activists for posting comments on social media. The Public Prosecution issued at least four arrest orders on charges that included “insulting the President… the flag or the national emblem”, “defamation” and “libel and slander”. During their pre-trial detention, which lasted several days, most of the activists were denied access to their lawyers and families.

Right to health

In August the governmental General Disciplinary Council confirmed that expired and fake drugs were being used to treat cancer at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri University Hospital, the capital’s largest public hospital, and took disciplinary action against the head of the hospital pharmacy.

Civil society raised a number of cases before the judiciary related to violations of the rights to health and clean water, including cases related to the sale of expired drugs in public hospitals and to waste mismanagement; these efforts were unsuccessful, either as a result of delayed court rulings or failure to implement rulings.

Death penalty

Courts continued to hand down death sentences; no executions were carried out.

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