Report on Human Rights
Practices for 1996--Lebanon
Lebanon is a parliamentary republic in which the President is
by tradition a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni
Muslim, and the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies a Shi'a Muslim.
The Parliament consists of 128 deputies, equally divided between
Christian and Muslim representatives. The judiciary is generally
independent, but is subject to political pressure.
Non-Lebanese military forces control much of Lebanon. These include
about 30,000 Syrian troops; a contingent of Israeli army regulars;
an Israeli-supported militia in southern Lebanon, and several
armed Palestinian factions. All undermine the authority of the
central Government and prevent the application of law in the patchwork
of areas not under the Government's control. In 1991 the governments
of Lebanon and Syria concluded a security agreement that provides
a framework for cooperation between their armed forces. However,
Syrian military intelligence units in Lebanon conduct their activities
independently of the agreement.
In 1989 the Arab League brokered a peace settlement at Taif, Saudi
Arabia, to end the civil war in Lebanon. According to the Taif
Accord, Syrian troops were scheduled to be redeployed from their
positions in Lebanon's coastal population areas to the Biqa' valley,
with full withdrawal contingent upon fullfillment of other aspects
of the Taif Accord and subsequent agreement by both the Lebanese
and Syrian governments. Although the Syrian Government has refused
to carry out this withdrawal from the coastal areas, it made some
partial redeployments from Beirut and the Metn in the latter part
of the year. One Syrian official cited the increased ability
of Lebanese forces to fulfill security functions as a factor in
the redeployment. However, strong Syrian influence over Lebanese
politics and decisionmakers make Lebanese officials unwilling
to press for a complete withdrawal. This relationship with Syria
does not reflect the will of most Lebanese citizens.
Israel exerts control in and near its self-proclaimed "security
zone" in south Lebanon through its surrogate, the South Lebanon
Army (SLA), and the presence of about 1,000 Israeli regular troops.
Also in south Lebanon, the Iranian-backed Shi'a Muslim militia,
Hizballah, and allied Palestinian guerrillas continue to be locked
in a cycle of attack and counterattack with Israeli forces and
the SLA. Palestinian groups operate autonomously in refugee camps
throughout the country. During the year, the Government continued
to consolidate its authority in the parts of the country under
its control, but made little effort to disarm Hizballah, Hizballah's
allies, and the SLA, or to reassert state control over the Palestinian
The security forces comprise the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF),
which may arrest and detain suspects on national security grounds;
the Internal Security Forces (ISF), which enforce laws, conduct
searches and arrests, and refer cases to the judiciary; and the
State Security Apparatus and the Surete General, both of which
collect information on groups that may jeopardize state security.
The Surete General is also responsible for the issuance of passports
and residency permits and for the censorship of foreign periodicals
and movies that treat national security issues. The security
forces committed serious human rights abuses.
Before the 1975-90 hostilities, Lebanon was an important regional
financial and commercial center. The war weakened its commercial
leadership and inflicted massive damage on the economic infrastructure.
In 1996 the economy continued to recover as the Government took
steps to restore confidence and implement an ambitious reconstruction
Since the end of hostilities, the Government has made no substantial
effort to improve human rights conditions, and serious problems
remain in several areas. Members of the security forces used
excessive force and tortured some detainees. Prison conditions
remained poor. Government abuses also included the arbitrary
arrest and detention of persons who opposed government policies.
The Government infringed on citizens' privacy rights. The Government
continued to restrict freedom of assembly and ban demonstrations.
The Government also partially limited press freedom, particularly
by passing a new media law to restrict radio and television broadcasting.
The right of citizens to change their government has deteriorated
in recent years. Although the August-September parliamentary
elections represented a step forward, the electoral process was
flawed by various shortcomings, as the elections were not prepared
or carried out impartially. Discrimination against women and
Palestinians, and violence against women are problems.
Although the overall level of armed conflict has declined in recent
years, heavy fighting occurred in April, provoked by two lethal
incidents in the south. Life and property, especially in the
south, are still threatened by artillery and aerial attacks by
the various contending forces. These forces continue to commit
abuses, including killings, terrorist bombings and abductions.
The SLA maintains a separate and arbitrary system of justice in
the zone, which is independent of Lebanese central authority.
During the year, SLA officials reportedly arbitrarily arrested
and detained persons, mistreated detainees, deported some alleged
criminals to Israel to face legal charges, and expelled some local
residents from their homes in the zone. Palestinian groups in
refugee camps maintain a separate arbitrary system of justice
for other Palestinians. Members of the various Palestinian groups
that control the camps tortured and detained their Palestinian
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
During the year, political killings declined as the Government
further consolidated its authority over the country. Various
factions and unknown persons committed extrajudicial killings.
On August 9, unidentified assailants shot and killed Ibrahim
'Abdallah Bou-Hamdan, an official in the Shi'a Amal Movement in
the Biqa' valley. One Iraqi national, Idriss Daoud Shayeh, was
arrested as a suspect in the crime. On August 18, three members
of the Druze Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) were accused of
responsibility for the death of 'Akram Arbeed. They allegedly
beat him while he was accompanying a candidate for parliamentary
elections. The Government claimed that Arbeed died of a heart
attack while being transported to the hospital for treatment.
The three suspects were interrogated by the judiciary but released
on bail. A trial is pending.
In February Lebanese army intelligence abducted Ahmad Al-Hallaq
from inside the Israeli-defined security zone. Hallaq was convicted
in absentia by a military court in June 1995 for the 1994 death
of Hizballah figure Fua'd Mughniyah and two others in a car-bomb
explosion. Tawfiq Nasser, who was also sentenced to death in
the same case, surrendered to the Lebanese embassy in Argentina
and was brought back to Lebanon for trial. In August the military
court found Ahmad Al-Hallaq and Tawfiq Nasser guilty, and sentenced
Hallaq to death and Nasser to 10 years' imprisonment at hard labor.
Hallaq's death sentence was carried out on September 21, after
President Hrawi refused his appeal for clemency.
In May the Criminal Court of Beirut found former Lebanese Forces
commander Samir Ja'Ja' and codefendant Rafiq Saadah guilty of
the 1990 of murder of former Kata'ib Party member Dr. 'Ilyas Al-Zayek.
Ja'Ja' and Saadah were sentenced to death, but the sentence was
subsequently commuted by the President to life at hard labor.
The court also sentenced in absentia Ghassan Touma and Antonios
Ilyas Ilyas (alias Tony Obayd) to death for the same murder but
commuted their sentences to life imprisonment at hard labor.
Neither is in custody.
On March 14, in a setback for government efforts to bring those
responsible for terrorist acts during the war years to justice,
the Court of Cassation found Bassem Al-Firkh and Nameq Kamal not
guilty of murder for their roles in the 1976 assassination of
U.S. Ambassador Francis Meloy, embassy officer Robert Waring,
and their driver Muhamad Meghrabi. The two men were found guilty
of the lesser crime of kidnaping, which the court ruled made them
eligible for amnesty under the 1991 Amnesty Law.
There were no developments in the 1994 death of Tariq Hasaniyah,
who was allegedly beaten to death by authorities at the Bayt Al-Din
Prison, nor in the 1994 death of Fawzi Al-Rasi, who died while
in the custody of the Ministry of Defense.
In 1994 security forces arrested four Iraqi diplomats assigned
to Beirut and charged them with the murder of an Iraqi dissident.
According to press reports the suspects have admitted their guilt,
but as of year's end no trial had yet been held. One suspect
died in custody in 1995, reportedly of natural causes.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
The Government has taken no judicial action against groups known
to be responsible for the kidnapings of thousands of people during
the unrest between 1975 and 1990. In May 1995, Parliament approved
a law that allows those who disappeared during the civil war to
be officially declared dead. The law stipulates that interested
parties may declare as dead any Lebanese or foreigner who has
disappeared in Lebanon or abroad and for whose disappearance death
was the most probable explanation. Petitioners may apply for
a court certification 4 years after a declaration of disappearance
and may not benefit from any properties inherited until 6 years
after such a court certification. The law facilitates the resolution
of inheritance claims and second marriages.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment
There continued to be credible reports that Lebanese security
forces used torture on some detainees. In January some members
of Parliament accused the ISF of torturing detainees by beating
them, especially during interrogation, and called on the Ministers
of Justice and Interior to investigate. At least one prisoner
reportedly suffered paralysis as a result of security force violence
during interrogation. Authorities charged three policemen, but
the case was still pending at year's end.
Abuses also occurred in areas outside the State's authority, especially
in the Palestinian refugee camps. There were credible reports
that members of the various Palestinian groups that control the
camps detained and tortured their Palestinian rivals.
Prison conditions are poor and do not meet internationally recognized
minimum standards. There are only 18 operating prisons with a
total capacity of 2,000 inmates. However, prisons are overcrowded,
and the total number of prisoners is nearly 5,000. According
to a study prepared jointly by the Association for the Protection
of Human Rights and the Ministry of Social Affairs, overcrowding
is the main problem. Inmates also lack heat and adequate toilet
and shower facilities. For example, the Zahle Prison for males
consists of 4 rooms with a total of 194 prisoners. The same study
also shows that of the 142 juveniles detained in prisons, only
9 were charged; the others are awaiting trial. The prison system
is regulated by law. Although the Interior Minister requested
$50 million at the end of 1995 to rehabilitate the prison system,
the requested amount was subsequently turned down by the Government
for lack of funds.
In addition to the regular prisons, the Surete Generale, which
mans border posts, operates a detention facility. Hundreds of
foreigners, mostly Egyptians and Sri Lankans, have been detained
pending deportation. They are reportedly held in small, poorly
The Government does not permit prison visits by human rights monitors.
The South Lebanon Army operates its own detention facility in
Al-Khiyam Prison, and there are frequent allegations of mistreatment
of detainees. The SLA permitted relatives to visit detainees
since October 1995. Hizballah also detains SLA members and suspected
agents at unknown locations. Hizballah reportedly mistreats them.
Both groups occasionally release prisoners. Hizballah, for example,
unilaterally released some prisoners in February and July. A
German-brokered exchange of prisoners and prisoner remains involving
Hizballah, Israel, and the SLA also took place in July.
Neither the SLA nor Hizballah permit prison visits by human rights
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Government resorts to arbitrary arrests and detention. The
law requires security forces to obtain warrants of arrest before
making arrests. However, military prosecutors, who are responsible
for cases including the military as well as those involving espionage,
treason, weapons possession, and draft evasion, reportedly issue
blank warrants of arrest to be completed after a suspect has reen
arrested. Arresting officers must refer a suspect to a prosecutor
within 24 hours of arrest, but frequently do not do so.
The law requires the authorities to release suspects after 48
hours of arrest if they do not bring formal charges against them.
Some prosecutors flout this requirement and detain suspects for
long periods in pretrial confinement without a court order. The
law authorizes judges to remand suspects to incommunicado detention
of 10 days with a possible extension of an additional 10 days.
Bail is only available to those accused of petty crimes, not
to those accused of felonies. Defendants have the right to legal
counsel, but there is no public defender's office. The Bar Association
has an office to assist those who cannot afford a lawyer.
Security forces continued the practice of arbitrary arrest, detaining
mainly the opponents of the Government. In March security forces
arrested five persons for distribution of antigovernment leaflets.
The five, who were members of the Lebanese Popular Convention,
were charged and later acquitted for lack of evidence.
In April the Lebanese army arrested members of the dissolved Lebanese
Forces militia and some 'Awnist groups, who had gathered in the
Maronite Patriarchate in Bkirki to protest government policies
and practices on the occasion of the visit of French President
Jacques Chirac. Most of those arrested were released a few hours
later, after President Chirac had left the area.
On July 13, the Lebanese army arrested 88 supporters of the former
commander of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Ja'Ja', in the village
of Bsharre, in north Lebanon. Ja'Ja's supporters had been shooting
into the air to celebrate Ja'Ja's acquittal on charges of bombing
a church in February 1994. Several persons were reportedly beaten
by LAF, including the priest of the village. The military court
sentenced 65 of the 88 to from
5 to 20 days' imprisonment and acquitted the others.
After the December 18 rifle attack on a Syrian bus, security forces
detained and interrogated scores of citizens, predominately Christians.
These detentions and searches of homes reportedly took place
without warrants, and detainees were not given access to lawyers.
Although most were released after brief periods, some, including
a prominent human rights activist and a journalist, were held
for 10 days or more without charge. The journalist was subsequently
charged with distributing leaflets that disturb Lebanon's relations
with friendly nations and having friendly contacts with Israeli
agents, and released on bail. The law allows for detention without
charge for 24 hours and an additional 24 hours with court permission.
Human rights groups credibly allege that detained persons are
sometimes transferred to Syrian custody and imprisoned in Syria.
The number of such persons cannot be accurately determined, but
on November 24, Prime Minister Hariri stated that 210 Lebanese
were in Syrian custody.
The authorities often detain for short periods and without charges
political opponents of the Syrian and Lebanese governments.
Local militias and non-Lebanese forces continued to conduct arbitrary
arrests in areas outside central government control. The SLA
detains an estimated 100 to 200 Lebanese citizens and an undetermined
number of Palestinians at Al-Khiyam prison in south Lebanon.
During the year, the SLA continued to allow the families of detainees
to visit their relatives in the prison. It also released 82 detainees,
most of whom were Lebanese citizens.
In July the SLA abducted the son of a parliamentarian from his
home in Jazzine, in response to the abduction by Hizballah of
an SLA member. The parliamentarian's son was released shortly
thereafter. The SLA member is still believed to be held. In
January press reports indicated that 3 Swedes were arrested by
Hizballah forces in the southern suburbs of Beirut while they
were taking photographs of a mosque. Hizballah denied the report.
Syrian forces reportedly detained persons.
Israel is known to hold several Lebanese citizens, including Shaykh
Abd Al-Karim Obaid and Mustafa Dirani, figures associated with
the Islamic Resistance (IR).
Palestinian refugees are subject to arrest, detention, and harassment
by the state security forces, Syrian forces, the various militias,
and rival Palestinians.
In the recent past, the Government resorted to exile as a means
of punishment. In 1991 it pardoned former army commander General
Michel 'Awn and two of his aides on the condition that they depart
the country and remain in exile for 5 years. 'Awn was accused
of usurping power. The 5-year period ended on August 29, but
'Awn still remains in France.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The judiciary is generally impartial and independent. However,
influential politicians and Syrian intelligence officers sometimes
intervene to protect their supporters from prosecution.
The judicial system is composed of the regular civilian courts,
the military court, which tries cases involving military personnel
and military-related issues, the Judicial Council, which tries
national security offenses, and the religious tribunals of the
various denominations, which adjudicate disputes including marriage,
inheritance, and personal status.
The Judicial Council is a permanent tribunal of five senior judges
that adjudicates threats to national security. On the recommendation
of the Minister of Justice, the Cabinet decides whether to try
a case before this tribunal.
The Ministry of Justice appoints judges according to a formula
based on the confessional, i.e., the religious affiliation of
the prospective judge. The shortage of judges has impeded efforts
to adjudicate cases backlogged during the years of internal conflicts.
Trial delays are also caused by the Government's inability to
conduct investigations in areas outside its control. Defendants
have the right to examine evidence against them. The testimony
of a woman is equal to that of a man.
In May the Judicial Council started to try 17 persons charged
with the August 31, 1995 killing of Shaykh Nizar Al-Halabi, a
Sunni cleric who headed an Islamist socio-political organization.
The 17 publicly admitted their guilt. The trial is ongoing.
The leader of the 17, Ahmad Abd Al-Karim Al-Sa'di (alias Abu
Muhjin) is still hiding in the 'Ayn Al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee
camp near Sidon. Several arrest warrants were issued, but the
authorities have not apprehended him, declining to enter the refugee
camp because to do so might provoke unnecessary bloodshed.
In July the Judicial Council issued its verdict in the 1994 Al-Zuq
church bombing. The tribunal acquitted Samir Ja'Ja' of charges
of bombing the church but sentenced him to 10 years' imprisonment
for creating illegal military cells. Ja'Ja' is still on trial
for the 1991 assassination attempt against then-Minister of Defense
The SLA maintains a separate and arbitrary system of justice.
Palestinian groups in refugee camps operate an autonomous and
arbitrary system of justice. Hizballah applies Islamic law in
areas under its control.
There were no reports of political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home,
While the authorities generally show little interest in controlling
the personal lives of citizens, they readily interfere with the
privacy of persons regarded as foes of the Government. Laws require
that prosecutors obtain warrants before entering houses, except
when the army is in hot pursuit of an armed attacker.
The Government uses informer networks and monitors telephones
to gather information on its adversaries. In May the Salvation
Bloc, headed by former Prime Minister Salim Al-Huss, issued a
communique asking the Government to stop telephone tapping. There
were numerous reports that members of government security forces
visited the homes of politicians in the Metn region on the eve
of elections for purposes of intimidation.
Militias and non-Lebanese forces operating outside areas of central
government authority have frequently violated rights of privacy.
Various factions also use informer networks and monitor telephones
to obtain information on their adversaries.
g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian
Law in Internal Conflicts
An undetermined member of civilians continue to be killed in south
Lebanon, as Lebanese and Palestinian militias on the one hand,
and Israeli forces and SLA on the other, engage in a cycle of
violence. The former organizations attacked SLA and Israeli troops
deployed in Lebanon, and also launched rocket attacks against
northern Israel. Israeli forces conducted repeated air strikes
and artillery barrages on populated areas and on guerrilla and
terrorist targets inside Lebanon.
There were numerous incidents in the cycle of attack and reprisals.
For example, in April after Israeli aircraft raided several villages
in both the western and central sectors of Lebanon and two Lebanese
civilians were killed in two other incidents, Hizballah began
firing Katyusha rockets at settlements in northern Israel. Israel
conducted a large-scale military operation dubbed "Grapes
of Wrath," in response to Hizballah's refusal to cease launching
During the 16-day operation, hundreds of thousands of civilians
in southern Lebanon fled their homes and sought refuge in safer
parts of the country. About 164 Lebanese, primarily civilian
noncombatants, were killed. Israeli planes hit two Beirut civilian
power stations. During the operation, Katyusha attacks against
northern Israel intensified.
On April 18, Hizballah fired mortar rounds at an Israeli military
unit from a position very near the U.N. compound at Qana, and
the Isreal Defense Forces (IDF) responded with artillery fire.
A number of Israeli shells struck the compound, killing 102 civilians
who had sought shelter there and wounding others. The government
of Israel expressed regret for these casualities, but insisted
that the U.N. compound had not been targeted intentionally. A
U.N. report concluded, however, that it was unlikely the shelling
was due to technical or procedural error.
Negotiations to end the fighting resulted in an April 26 understanding
under which the two parties committed not to target civilians
nor to use civilian-populated areas or nonmilitary public installations
as launching grounds for attacks. An international monitoring
group was established to monitor application of the undertanding
and to (deal with) (hear) (review) complaints of violations of
the understanding. This group, the Israel-Lebanon Monitoring
Group (ILMG), continued to function throughout the remainder of
the year, with the participation of the United States, France,
Syria, Israel, and Lebanon.
In February the Israeli Navy detained three fishermen off the
coast of Tyre in south Lebanon. On June 13, the IDF seized journalist
Ali Daya, the Agence France Press (AFP) correspondent in the security
zone. An Israel army spokesman said that Daya was arrested on
suspicion of collaboration with Hizballah. Daya was released
on July 18.
In August the Israeli air force raided Ba'labakk and damaged the
building of The Voice of the Oppressed, the radio voice of Hizballah.
On September 21, the SLA expelled a family of 12 from the village
of Mayss-Al-Jabal (Bint Jubayl province), allegedly due to the
desertion from the SLA of one member of the family. The Israeli
forces and the SLA reportedly expelled 18 additional persons from
the security zone during the year, including 7 members of the
Abdallah family and 8 members of Ali Khalil Nasrallah's extended
family from Hula village, a husband and wife from the village
of Markaba, and one individual from Tair Harfa.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of the press, but the Government
partially limits this right in practice. Freedom of the press
declined significantly during the year as the Government prosecuted
newspapers, passed a new media law to restrict radio and television
broadcasting, and intimidated journalists and broadcasters into
practicing self-censorship. The Government also imposes direct
censorship on satellite broadcasts originating in Lebanon.
Lebanon has a long history of freedom of opinion, speech, and
the press. Although there were repeated attempts to restrict
these freedoms during the year, daily criticism of government
policies and leaders continues. Dozens of newspapers and magazines
are published throughout Lebanon, financed by various Lebanese
and foreign groups. While the press is normally independent,
press content often reflects the opinions of these financial backers.
The Government uses several tools at its disposal to control the
freedom of expression. The Surete Generale is authorized to approve
all foreign magazines and nonperiodical works including plays,
books, and films before they are distributed in the market. The
law prohibits attacks on the dignity of the head of state or foreign
leaders. The Government may prosecute offending journalists and
publications in the Publications Court, a special court empowered
to try such matters.
Moreover, the 1991 security agreement between Lebanon and Syria
contains a provision that effectively prohibits the publication
of any information deemed harmful to the security of either state.
Under the risk of prosecution, Lebanese journalists censor themselves
on matters related to Syria.
During the year, the Government severely attacked press freedoms
by filing charges against several newspapers. In one 10-day period,
three dailies (Ad-Diyar, Al-Liwa' and Nida' Al-Watan), and two
weeklies (Al-Kifah Al-Arabi and Al-Massira) where charged with
defaming the President and the Prime Minister, and for publishing
materials deemed provocative to one religious sect. The daily
Ad-Diyar alone was indicted five times and both the owner and
editor-in-chief faced sentences of between 2 months' and 2 years'
imprisonment and fines of $30,000 to $60,000 if found guilty.
In September the Government provoked widespread protest when it
moved suddenly to implement its controversial Media Law. The
stated purpose of the law is to impose order on the largely unregulated
airwaves and to reduce religious and political tensions by forcing
the country's many small, sectarian oriented stations to combine
into a much smaller number of pluralist stations.
Most citizens, however, view the implementation of the law as
political in nature. It would reduce 52 televsision stations
to 4 stations, and approximately 100 radio stations to 11, only
3 of which would be permitted to broadcast news programs. All
four television stations approved so far are owned by, or closely
associated with, important government figures. Some of the approved
stations are not yet operational, while a number of popular stations
associated with opposition to the Government have been refused
licenses, ostensibly for failing to comply with the law. As of
year's end, the Government had not enforced the November 30 closure
of unlicensed stations. It had stated that it would continue
to consider new applications. Hizballah's radio and television
stations were allowed to continue to broadcast without a license,
including news related to "resistance" activities.
In May the Surete Generale confiscated all issues of the book
entitled "Remove Peter's Mask from the Face of Christ,"
by the Saudi Arabian author Ahmad Zaki. The book was determined
by the Surete Generale to defame Christianity.
In November the Interior Ministry's Public Security Department
reportedly twice censored the scenes from the foreign movie "Independence
Day" to remove scenes with Jewish characters, and Hizballah
later demanded a complete ban on the film because one of its heros
is a Jew. In September a public prosecutor charged a singer,
Marcel Khalife, with demeaning religious rituals. The same prosecutor
also charged Andre Yussef Haddad with demeaning religious rituals
in his book "The Entrance to Arab Unity." However,
on September 21, facing rising criticism from various factions,
the Prime Minister asked the Justice Minister to drop the charges
brought against Khalife. The charges against Haddad were dropped
by an investigating judge on January 8, 1997.
Lebanon has a strong tradition of academic freedom and a flourishing
private educational system born of inadequate public schools and
a preference for sectarian affiliation. Students exercise the
right to form campus associations and the Government usually does
not interfere with student groups.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Although the Constitution provides for freedom of assembly, the
Government restricts this right. Any group wishing to organize
a rally must obtain the prior approval of the Interior Ministry,
which does not render decisions uniformly. The Government banned
all rallies again in 1996 but made an exception during the parliamentary
elections. Various political factions, such as oppositionist
Amal, Hizballah, 'Awnists, and supporters of the Prime Minister
held rallies without obtaining government permission.
In February the General Confederation of Labor (CGTL) submitted
a request to hold demonstrations on February 29. The Government
refused to grant permission, and called on the LAF to control
the situation. The LAF was accorded a 90-day grant of exceptional
powers necessary to maintain public order. Under this authority
it imposed a nationwide curfew on February 29, which lasted 16
hours. The LAF also imposed a temporary ban on the public display
of weapons by those licensed to carry arms. Several persons were
arrested for violating the curfew, including three journalists.
The three were accused of photographing a military installation
but were released after 24 hours. The others, about 30 persons,
were sentenced to 5 to 10 days in jail.
On April 4, the Government prevented the CGTL from staging a sit-in
in front of Parliament during the visit of French President Jacques
Chirac. The Lebanese army encircled CGTL headquarters and prevented
CGTL leaders from leaving their offices, keeping them under provisional
arrest for about 6 hours.
The Constitution provides for freedom of association. The Government
generally respects this right; however, there were exceptions
during the year. In general, the Government does not interfere
with the establishment of private organizations. The law requires
that persons forming organizations notify the Interior Ministry,
which in turn issues permits for the formation of associations.
The Interior Ministry refused to grant a permit to the Lebanese
Association for the Democratization of Elections, declaring it
The Ministry of Interior also scrutinizes requests to establish
political movements or parties, and to some extent monitors their
activities. The Army Intelligence Service monitors the movement
and activities of members of opposition groups.
Neither Israel nor Syria allows groups openly hostile to them
to operate in areas under their control.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government
respects this right in practice.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel,
Emigration, and Repatriation
The Constitution provides for these rights, and the Government
generally respects them in practice. However, there are some
limitations. Travel to Israel is prohibited by law, but many
do so through Israeli-occupied territory in southern Lebanon.
All male citizens between 18 and 21 years of age are subject
to compulsory military service and are required to register at
a recruitment office and obtain a travel authorization document
before leaving the country. Husbands may block foreign travel
by their wives and minor children.
Lebanese Armed Forces and Syrian troops maintain checkpoints in
areas under their control. In south Lebanon, the Lebanese army,
the Israeli army, and the SLA all maintain tight restrictions
on the movement of people and goods into and out of Israel's self-declared
There are no legal restrictions on the right of all citizens to
return. Many emigres, however, are reluctant to return for a
variety of political, economic, and social reasons. After years
of internal conflict, the recent increased legitimacy of government
authority has removed barriers that previously hindered domestic
travel. The Government has encouraged the return to their homes
of over 600,000 persons displaced during the civil war. Although
some people have begun to reclaim their homes abandoned or damaged
during the war, the vast majority of displaced persons have not
attempted to reclaim and rehabilitate their property. The resettlement
process is slowed by tight budgetary constraints, shattered infrastructure,
the lack of schools and economic opportunities, and the fear that
physical security is still incomplete in some parts of the country.
Most non-Lebanese refugees are Palestinians. The United Nations
Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) reported that the number of Palestinian
refugees in Lebanon registered with UNRWA was 352,668 as of June
30. The Government estimates the number of Palestinian refugees
at 361,000, but this figure includes only the families of refugees
who arrived in 1948.
The Government issues laissez-passers (travel documents) to Palestinian
refugees to enable them to travel and work abroad. However, after
the government of Libya announced in September 1995 its intention
to expel Palestinians working in that country, the Lebanese Government
moved to prohibit the return of Palestinians living abroad unless
they obtain an entry visa. The Government maintained that the
visa requirement is necessary to ensure the validity of Lebanese
laissez-passers, as a large number of those documents were forged
during the years of strife. The effect has been to discourage
foreign travel by Palestinians resident in Lebanon.
The Government seeks to prevent the entry of asylum seekers and
undocumented refugees. There have been no known asylum requests
since 1975. There are legal provisions for granting asylum or
refugee status in accordance with the 1951 Convention relating
to the Staus of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The Government
cooperates with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
The Constitution states that citizens have the right to change
their government in periodic free and fair elections. However,
while the August-September parliamentary elections represented
a small step forward, the electoral process was flawed by significant
shortcomings, as the elections were not prepared or carried out
According to the Constitution, elections for the Parliament must
be held every 4 years. The Parliament, in turn, elects the President
every 6 years. The President and Parliament nominate the Prime
Minister, who with the President chooses the Cabinet. According
to the unwritten "National Pact of 1943," the president
is a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and
the speaker of Parliament a Shi'a Muslim. Until 1990, seats in
Parliament were divided on a 6 to 5 ratio of Christians to Muslims.
Positions in the Government were allocated on a similar basis
between Christians and Muslims. Under the National Reconciliation
Agreement reached in Taif, Saudi Arabia in 1989, members of Parliament
agreed to alter the National Pact to create a 50-50 balance between
Christian and Muslim members of Parliament. The Taif Accord also
increased the number of seats in Parliament and transferred some
powers from the President to the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
In August and September, Lebanon held its second parliamentary
elections since 1972. On balance they constituted a small step
forward for the restoration of democracy in Lebanon, with significantly
higher voter turnout than the last election in 1992. (The turnout
reached about 45 percent; the historical average is near 50 percent.)
Nonetheless, the elections were flawed by a variety of shortcomings.
A call by Christian oppositionists to boycott the polling led
to a result that did not entirely reflect the will of the entire
populace. Moreover, the elections were not prepared and carried
out in a manner that ensured broad national confidence in their
fairness. For example, many citizens complained that the Electoral
Law was tailored to favor some political groups over others by
enhancing their electoral influence since the districting was
not uniformly applied. There were also credible reports of Syrian
government involvement in the formation of candidate lists and
alliances, as well as numerous reports of irregularities in the
process of voting and counting of ballots, including the failure
to provide adequate privacy for voting at some polling places,
restrictions on observers, the use of forged identification papers,
buying of votes, stuffing of "misplaced" ballot boxes,
and, according to some reports, the existence of officially sealed
envelopes with the competing lists inside. The electoral rolls
were themselves in many instances considered unreliable, among
other reasons, because of the destruction of records. It is not
clear how such acts may have influenced the outcome of individual
Government officials have acknowledged some electoral shortcomings
and pledged to correct them in future elections. Moreover, unlike
in the 1992 elections, losing candidates can challenge results
through the Constitutional Council. Several candidates have submitted
such challenges, and the Council has 2 months in which to issue
its irrevocable decisions. There were no decisions by year's
The right of citizens to change their government also was undermined
by a decision taken by Parliament in May 1995 to extend the term
in office of the country's municipal officials to December 31,
1996. Municipal elections have not been held since 1963. Many
serving officials are elderly or have been appointed by the central
government. The Government has not announced any firm plans for
Women have the right to vote and there are no legal barriers to
their participation in politics. No women hold Cabinet positions.
Three women were elected to Parliament in 1996.
Palestinian refugees have no political rights. An estimated 17
Palestinian factions operate in Lebanon, generally organized around
prominent individuals. Most Palestinians live in refugee camps
controlled by one or more factions. The leaders of the refugees
are not elected, nor are there any democratically organized institutions
in the camps.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International
and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human
Several human rights groups operate freely without overt government
restriction, including the Lebanese Association for Human Rights,
the Foundation for Human and Humanitarian Rights-Lebanon, and
the National Association for the Rights of the Disabled. Some
of these groups have sought to publicize the detention in Syria
of hundreds of Lebanese citizens. The Government has made no
public comment on the issue. The number of such persons cannot
be accurately determined, but on November 24, President Hrawi
stated that 210 Lebanese were in Syrian custody. Some human rights
groups have reported harassment and intimidation by government,
Syrian, and militia forces.
In April the Government granted an entry visa to a delegation
from Amnesty International (AI), to allow its members to investigate
the Qana incident (see Section 1.g.).
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution calls for "social justice and equality of
duties and rights among all citizens without prejudice or favoritism."
In practice, aspects of the law and traditional mores discriminate
against women. Religious discrimination is built into the electoral
system. Discrimination based on the other listed factors is illegal.
The press reports cases of rape with increasing frequency; what
is reported is thought to be only a fraction of the actual level
of this abuse. There are no authoritative statistics on the extent
of spousal abuse. Most experts agree that the problem affects
a significant portion of the adult female population. In general
battered or abused women do not talk about their suffering for
fear of bringing shame upon their families or accusations of misbehavior
upon themselves. Doctors and social workers believe that most
abused women do not seek medical help. The Government has no
separate program to provide medical assistance to battered women.
It does provide legal assistance to victims of crimes who cannot
afford it, regardless of the gender of the victim. The Lebanese
Association for Combating Violence Against Women, founded in 1994,
has been active in lobbying to improve the socio-economic condition
of women and to reduce violence against women.
The legal system is discriminatory in its handling of "crimes
of honor." According to the Penal Code, the killer of a
spouse may receive a reduced sentence if that partner demonstrates
that the crime was in response to an illegitimate sexual relationship
conducted by the victim. Since 1991, however, the Government
has begun to increase sentences on violent crimes in general and
to seek punishment for males who commit "crimes of honor."
Women have employment opportunities in government, medicine, law,
academia, the arts, and, to a lesser degree, in business. However,
social pressure against women pursuing careers is strong in some
parts of society. Males sometimes exercise considerable control
over female relatives, restricting their activities outside the
home or their contact with friends and relatives. Women may own
property but often cede effective control of it to male relatives
for cultural reasons. In 1994 the Parliament removed a legal
stipulation that a woman must obtain her husband's approval to
open a business or engage in a trade. Husbands may block foreign
travel by their wives (see Section 2.d.).
Only males may confer citizenship on their spouses and children.
This means that children born to Lebanese mothers and foreign
fathers may not become citizens. In late 1995, the Parliament
approved a law allowing Lebanese widows to confer citizenship
on their minor children.
Religious groups have their own family and personal status laws
administered by religious courts. Each group differs in its treatment
of marriage, family property rights, and inheritance. Many of
these laws discriminate against women. For example, Sunni inheritance
law gives a son twice the share of a daughter. Although Muslim
men may divorce easily, Muslim women may do so only with the concurrence
of their husbands.
The plight of children is a growing concern, but the Government
has not allocated funds to protect them. Education is not compulsory,
and many children take jobs at a young age to help support their
families. In lower income families, boys generally get more education,
while girls usually remain at home to do housework.
An undetermined number of children are neglected, abused, exploited,
and even sold to adoption agents. There are hundreds of abandoned
children in the streets nationwide, some of whom survive by begging,
others by working at low wages. According to a U.N. Children's
Fund (UNICEF) study, 60 percent of working children are below
13 years of age and 75 percent of them earn wages below two-thirds
of the minimum wage. Juvenile delinquency is on the rise; many
delinquents wait in ordinary prisons for trial and remain there
after sentencing. Although their number is very small, there
is no adequate place to hold delinquent girls, and they are currently
held in the women's prison in Ba'abda. Limited financial resources
have hindered efforts to build adequate facilities to rehabilitate
delinquents. However, the Higher Relief Committee allotted some
funds to the Association for the Protection of Juveniles to lease
a two-story building in Ba'asir in order to accommodate 50 juvenile
There are neither child welfare programs nor government institutions
to oversee the implementation of children's programs. The Committee
for Children's Rights, formed 3 years ago by prominent politicians
and private citizens, has been lobbying for legislation to improve
the condition of children. The Parliament passed a law to cease
use of the word "illegitimate" on the identity cards
of children born out of wedlock. The Ministry of Health requires
the establishment of health records for every child up to 18 years.
People with Disabilities
Over 100,000 people sustained disabilities during the civil war.
Care of the disabled is generally a function performed by families.
Most efforts to secure education, independence, health, and shelter
for the disabled are made by some 100 private organizations for
the disabled. In general, these organizations are poorly funded.
Lebanon's heavily damaged cities make no accommodation for the
disabled. Building codes have no requirements for ease of access.
The private "Solidere" project for the reconstruction
of downtown Beirut has imposed requirements for disabled access.
This project is widely considered a model for future construction
efforts around the country.
Discrimination based on religion is built into the system of government.
The amended Constitution of 1990 embraces the principle of abolishing
religious affiliation as a criterion for filling all government
positions, but few practical steps have been taken to accomplish
this. One notable exception is the Lebanese Armed Forces, which
through universal conscription and an emphasis on professionalism,
has significantly reduced the role of confessionalism (religious
sectarianism) in that organization.
According to the United Nations, an estimated 350,000 Palestinian
refugees live in Lebanon, though estimates by other organizations
are considerably higher. Most Palestinian refugees live in overpopulated
camps that have suffered repeated heavy damage as a result of
fighting. The Government has instructed relief workers to suspend
reconstruction work in the camps, and refugees fear that in the
future the Government will reduce the size of the camps or eliminate
The Government officially ended its practice of denying work permits
to Palestinians in 1991; however, in practice, very few Palestinians
receive work permits. Palestinians still encounter job discrimination,
and most are funneled into unskilled occupations. They and other
aliens may own land of a limited size but only after obtaining
the approval of five different district offices. The law applies
to all aliens, but for political, cultural, and economic reasons
it is applied in a manner disadvantageous to Palestinians and,
to a lesser extent, Kurds. The Government does not provide health
services to Palestinian refugees, who must rely on UNRWA and UNRWA-contacted
In recent years, Palestinian incomes have declined as the Palestinian
Liberation Organization closed many of its offices in Lebanon,
which formerly employed as much as 50 percent of the Palestinian
work force. Palestinian children have reportedly been forced
to leave school at an early age because U.N. relief workers do
not have sufficient funds for education programs. The U.N. estimates
that 18 percent of street children are Palestinian. Drug addiction
and crime reportedly are increasing in the camps, as is prostitution.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
All workers, except government employees, may establish and join
unions and have a legal right to strike. Worker representatives
must be chosen from those employed within the bargaining unit.
About 900,000 persons form the active labor force, 42 percent
of whom are members of 160 labor unions and associations. Twenty-two
of the unions, with about 200,000 workers, are represented in
the General Confederation of Labour.
In general the Government does not control or restrict unions,
although union leaders allege that the Government has tried to
intervene in elections for union officials.
Palestinian refugees may organize their own unions, but restrictions
on their right to work make this right more theoretical than real.
Few Palestinians participate actively in trade unions.
Unions are free to affiliate with international federations and
confederations, and they maintain a variety of such affiliations.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The right of workers to organize and to bargain exists in law
and practice. Most worker groups engage in some form of collective
bargaining with their employers. Stronger federations obtain
significant gains for their members, and on occasion have assisted
nonunionized workers. There is no government mechanism to promote
voluntary labor-management negotiations, and workers have no protection
against antiunion discrimination. The Government's ban on demonstrations
arguably diminishes unions' bargaining power.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Forced labor is not prohibited by law. Children, foreign domestic
servants, or other foreign workers are sometimes forced to remain
in situations amounting to coerced or bonded labor.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The 1946 Labor Code stipulates that workers between the ages of
8 and 16 may not work more than 7 hours per day, with 1 hour for
rest provided after 4 hours. They are also prohibited from working
between the hours of 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. There is a general prohibition
against "jobs out of proportion with a worker's age."
The Code also prohibits certain types of mechanical work for
children of ages 8 to 13, and other types for those of ages 13
to 16. The Labor Ministry is tasked with enforcing these requirements,
but the civil war left it with few resources and a demoralized
and sometimes corrupt staff. The Ministry does not rigorously
apply the law.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The Government sets a legal minimum wage, which was raised in
April to about $200 (300,000 Lebanese pounds) per month. The
law is not enforced effectively in the private sector. In theory
the courts could be called upon to enforce it, but in practice
they are not. The minimum wage is insufficient to provide a decent
standard of living for a worker and family. Trade unions actively
try to ensure the payment of minimum wages in both the public
sector and the large-scale private sector, such as education and
The Labor Law prescribes a standard 6-day workweek of 48 hours,
with a 24-hour rest period per week. In practice workers in the
industrial sector work an average of 35 hours per week, and workers
in other sectors work an average of 30 hours per week. The law
includes specific occupational health and safety regulations.
Labor regulations call on employers to take adequate precautions
for employee safety. Enforcement, the responsibility of the Labor
Ministry, is uneven. Labor organizers report that workers do
not have the right to remove themselves from hazardous conditions
without jeopardizing their continued employment.
Source: U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights Practices