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Lebanon: The security forces must clarify the circumstances of Ghassan Abdallah’s arrest and protect his human rights

Responding to the detention of Ghassan Abdallah, General Director of the Palestinian Human Rights Organisation (PHRO) – who was held on the morning of Monday 14 May without any explanation, and prevented from seeing his lawyer – Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Research Director of Amnesty International, said:

“It is incumbent on the Lebanese state, in particular the General Directorate of General Security, to clarify the reasons behind the summons and subsequent arrest of human rights defender Ghassan Abdallah. It should also respect his rights whilst he is in detention, first and foremost by allowing him immediate access to his lawyer.

“Such arrests are becoming commonplace with the Security Directorate in cases of human rights and freedom of expression in Lebanon.  Our concern is that the reasons for Abdallah’s arrest are connected with his work and advocacy as a human right defender in support of Palestinian refugees and people in Lebanon who have been deprived of their social and economic rights.

“Therefore, we urge the Lebanese security services to clarify the circumstances of Abdallah’s arrest, allow him access to his lawyer, and respect his rights, which are safeguarded by Lebanese law and binding international agreements.”

Background

On 10 May 2018, the General Directorate of General Security sent a letter of summons to the General Director of the PHRO, Ghassan Abdallah, requiring him to appear before General Security at 9am on Monday 14 May for a ‘security investigation’.  This is clearly evidenced from the summons document, a copy of which was obtained by Amnesty International.

Abdallah complied with the summons from the General Security directorate and attended the specified appointment at Al Abed Square, the location of the directorate’s headquarters and its prison, where he is still being held under interrogation to this date.  Throughout the time of his arrest, he has been denied the right to contact his lawyer, and there has been a total lack of information about the reasons behind the summons, and interrogation and arrest proceedings.

As of yesterday afternoon (Tuesday 15 May), Abdallah was still being denied his medication, even though he needs specialist medical care. The General Security directorate did allow the medicine to be delivered to him but prevented activists and his lawyer from seeing or contacting him.

There was also conflicting information surrounding who had actually arrested Abdallah. Since yesterday morning, there have been reports that the General Security directorate arrested Abdallah on behalf of the Lebanese Army Directorate of Intelligence.  Other sources report that General Security wound up its investigation of Abdallah yesterday afternoon before delivering him into the custody of army intelligence. There has been no official confirmation or denial of this, however, and no clarification regarding any of the circumstances of his arrest.

The conditions of human rights defender Ghassan Abdallah’s detention contravene Article 47 of the Lebanese Code of Criminal Procedure, which states that from the moment of his or her detention, an individual summoned for investigation shall enjoy certain rights, including: to contact a member of his family, his employer, a lawyer of his choosing or an acquaintance; and to meet with a lawyer he appoints by a declaration noted in the record, without the need for a duly drafted power of attorney.

In addition, the conditions of Abdallah’s detention are inconsistent with international conventions that are binding on Lebanon, specifically, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which safeguards his right to have access to a lawyer and to a fair trial.