Human rights in Lebanon
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Human rights in Lebanon refers to the state of human rights in Lebanon, which has been deemed poor. Human rights organizations say that security forces abuse detainees and use torture. Political opponents of the government are detained without charge for both short and long periods of time,and political, criminal and terrorist groups intimidate the population. Freedom of speech and of the press are restricted and 1.8 percent of Lebanese children between the ages of 10 and 14 are forced to work. Palestinians living in Lebanon are deprived of basic civil rights. They cannot own homes or land, and are barred from becoming lawyers, engineers and doctors.
There are reports that security forces abuse detainees and, in some instances, use torture. Human rights groups report that torture is a common practice. The Government acknowledged that violent abuse usually occurred during preliminary investigations conducted at police stations or military installations, in which suspects were interrogated without an attorney. Such abuse occurred despite laws that prevented judges from accepting any confession extracted under duress. Methods of torture reportedly included beatings and suspension by arms tied behind the back. Some detainees were beaten, handcuffed, blindfolded, and forced to lie face down on the ground. One person died in custody. Local journalists and human rights organizations were not given access to the Yarze prison, which is controlled by the Ministry of Defense. A French report describes the methods of torture used in this prison.
The authorities often detain political opponents without charge for both short and long periods of time. After Syrian forces pulled back from Lebanon during 2005, no opposer to the Syrian Government was reported detained. However, pro-Syrian security generals were detained. For example, Former Major General Jamil al Sayyed, Brigadier General Mustapha Hamdan, Major General Ali Hajj, and Brigadier General Raymond Azar were arrested in August 2005 at the request of German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, who headed the early stages of a U.N. investigation into the killing and implicated prominent Syrian and Lebanese figures in the assassination of Rafik Hariri. No charges were ever pressed against the four generals, later progress reports have not repeated the allegations, and the four generals were never brought to trial. Yet, they remained detained for almost four years. Some international human rights organizations had described their detention as arbitrary. On April 29, 2009, following a request of prosecutor Daniel Bellemare, the tribunal ordered the immediate and unconditional release of the only four suspects arrested during the investigation, for absence of reliable proof against them.
Limitations on freedom of speech
There were some improvements since the withdrawal of 25,000 Syrian troops from Lebanon in April 2005 in what was dubbed the Cedar Revolution by the West. However, journalists and politicians known to be critical of Syria continue to be a target through car-bomb assassinations. Waltz With Bashir, an Israeli film that criticizes aspects of the way the Israeli army handled the 1982 Lebanon War has been banned, although the film is popular among Palestinians living in Lebanon who purchased bootleg copies. Other movies are banned as well, for example "Schindler's List" is banned for promoting Jewish sympathy. Other books and movies are banned for supposedly insulting religion, for example "The Da Vinci Code" and "The Satanic Verses".
Lady Gaga's album Born This Way was rumored to be banned in Lebanon for being "offensive to Christianity", according to a 6 June 2011 report in the Jerusalem Post. The report also said that the albums were impounded by Lebanese authorities. However, Kamal Safa, the head of the publications department of Lebanon’s General Security, issued a media statement Wednesday confirming that "Born This Way," had not been banned. The albums were released for sale the next week.
Migrant worker abuse
The abuse of domestic workers in Lebanon, mainly women in their 20-30s from Ethiopia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines has brought international attention to the rights of the workers, who are often made to work long hours,abused and not paid their wages. A spate of suicides by maids over a few weeks before December 2009 by hanging themselves or falling from balconies brought international attention from CNN, LA Times and even resulted in the creation of a blog by a blogger simply identified as "Wissam" to the flagrant abuse in Lebanon.
Child labor is a problem. The minimum age for child employment is 13 years. However, 1.8 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 14 were working children, according to a report on the "State of the Children in Lebanon 2000" released by the Central Statistics Administration in 2002 in collaboration with UNICEF. Also, 90 percent of child laborers were not covered by any health insurance.
Discrimination against Palestinians
Over 400,000 Palestinian refugees and descendants live in Lebanon. They are not allowed to own property, and even need a special permit to leave their refugee camps. Unlike other foreigners in Lebanon, they are denied access to the Lebanese healthcare system. The Lebanese government refused to grant them permission to own land. The number of restrictions has been mounting since 1990. However, in 2010 the government of Lebanon removed work restrictions from Palestinians, enabling them to apply for work permits and work in the private sector. In a 2007 study, Amnesty International denounced the "appalling social and economic condition" of Palestinians in Lebanon.
Lebanon gave citizenship to about 50,000 Christian Palestinian refugees during the 1950s and 1960s. In the mid-1990s, about 60,000 refugees who were Sunni Muslim majority were granted citizenship. This caused a protest from Maronite authorities, leading to citizenship being given to all the Palestinian Christian refugees who were not already citizens. there are about 350,000 non-citizen Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
The Lebanese Parliament is divided on granting Palestinian rights. While many Lebanese parties call for improving the civil rights of Palestinian refugees, others raise concerns of naturalizing the mainly Muslim population and the disruption this might cause to Lebanon’s sectarian balance.
According to Mudar Zahran, a Jordanian scholar of Palestinian heritage, the media chose to deliberately ignore the conditions of the Palestinians living in refugee camps in Lebanon. He writes that the "tendency to blame Israel for everything" has provided Arab leaders an excuse to deliberately ignore the human rights of the Palestinian in their countries.
Freedom of religion
The Lebanese Constitution provides for freedom of religion and the freedom to practice all religious rites provided that the public order is not disturbed. The Constitution declares equality of rights and duties for all citizens without discrimination or preference but establishes a balance of power among the major religious groups. The Government generally respected these rights; however, the constitutional provision for apportioning political offices according to religious affiliation may be viewed as inherently discriminatory. There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious belief or practice. There were, however, periodic reports of tension between religious groups, attributable to competition for political power, and citizens continued to struggle with the legacy of a 15-year civil war that was fought largely along sectarian lines. Despite sectarian tensions caused by the competition for political power, churches, mosques, and other places of worship continued to exist side-by-side, extending a centuries-long national heritage as a place of refuge for those fleeing religious intolerance. However, non-religious Lebanese are still subjected to abuse.
Treatment of homosexuals
A Homosexual intercourse is a crime based on Article 534 of the criminal code. This Article criminalizes both male and female homosexuality, as well as any other sexual practice which is considered deviant and abnormal. The prison sentence for homosexuality varies, but may reach up to a year of incarceration.
Homosexual individuals have no specific protections in Lebanon but there has been several organizations and movements to improve the living conditions for them.
In 2002, a gay rights organization was started in Lebanon. The group, known as Hurriyyat Khassa or Private Liberties seeks to reform the Article 534 of the criminal code so that sexual relations between consenting adults in private are no longer a crime. Another gay rights organization in Lebanon is called Helem (Arabic: حلم, "Dream" in Arabic and an acronym for the Lebanese Protection of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender community). These organizations have staged a few public demonstrations, lectures, fundraisers for AIDS education, charitable events and exhibitions of films and have been interviewed by the Lebanese media.
"Anal examinations" are used in Lebanon on men suspected of homosexuality. On 28 July 2012, a gay venue in Beirut was raided by police and 36 men were taken into custody, where they were forced to undergo these examinations. In response, dozens demonstrated in Beirut against these "examinations," calling them the "tests of shame."
Women's voting rights
Women earned the right to vote in 1952, just 5 years later than men, who earned it in 1947 shortly after independence from the French mandate. Even though adult women's literacy rates were estimated to be over 82% in 2003 compared to those in 1952, women are still required to show proof of elementary education, but not for men.
The OpenNet Initiative found no evidence of Internet filtering in all four of the areas evaluated (political, social, conflict/security, and Internet tools) in August 2009. However, poor infrastructure, few household computers, low Internet penetration rates, and the cost high of connectivity, remain serious challenges. Some Internet café operators prevent their clients from accessing objectionable content such as pornography, however, there is no evidence that these practices are required or encouraged by the state. Lebanese law permits the censoring of pornography, political opinions, and religious materials when considered a threat to national security.
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- "Lebanon: Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment", 2004 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, 28 February 2005
- Lebanon: The Ministry of Defense Detention Center: A Major Obstacle to the Prevention of Torture: Forgotten victims, unpunished executioners, Marie Daunay, Solida (Paris), 5 October 2006
- Yara Bayoumy and Tom Perry (29 April 2009). "FACTBOX: Lebanese generals ordered released by Hariri court". Reuters.
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- Marling, William (1 May 2009). "Why Jane Fonda Is Banned in Beirut". Wall Street Journal.
- Report: Latest Lady Gaga album banned in Lebanon, Jerusalem Post, 6 June 2011
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- Ollvia Sterns (2 December 2009). "Spate of suicides by foreign maids in Lebanon sheds light on abuse". CNN.
- "Poverty trap for Palestinian refugees", Alaa Shahine, Aljazeera, 29 March 2004
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- Mroueh, Wassim (16 June 2010). "Parliament divided on granting Palestinian rights". The Daily Star.
- "Demonizing Israel is bad for the Palestinians", Mudar Zarhan, Jerusalem Post, 8 January 2010
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