Report on Human Rights
Practices for 1997Lebanon
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 the country. These
include about 25,000 Syrian troops, a contingent of Israeli army
regulars and an Israeli-supported militia in the south, 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 Syria and Lebanon concluded a security agreement that provided
a framework for security 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 to be redeployed from their positions
in Lebanon's coastal population areas to the Biqa' Valley, with
full withdrawal contingent upon fulfillment 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, strong Syrian
influence over Lebanese politics and decisionmakers makes Lebanese
officials unwilling to press for a complete withdrawal. The 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 Lebanese
Army (SLA), and the presence of about 1,000 Israeli regular troops.
The Iranian-backed Shi'a Muslim faction Hizballah, with the tacit
support of the Government and, to a lesser extent, Palestinian
guerrillas continue to be locked in a cycle of attack and counterattack
with Israeli and SLA troops typically. 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, and took tentative
steps to extend its authority to the Biqa' Valley and Beirut's
southern suburbs. However, it did not attempt to reassert state
control over the Palestinian refugee camps, nor to disarm Hizballah
and the SLA or dislodge Israel from the south.
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 Generale, both of which
collect information on groups that may jeopardize state security.
The Surete Generale is also responsible for the issuance of passports
and residency permits and for censoring 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. There is a market-based economy
in which the majority of the work force is employed in the services
sector, e.g., banking and commerce. There is a small industrial
sector, based largely on clothing manufacture and food processing.
The gross national product is estimated to be approximately $5,000
per capita. A reconstruction effort, begun in 1992, is moving
forward. Lebanon receives substantial remittances from abroad
that offset its trade deficit and results in a balance of payments
Since the end of hostilities, the Government has taken some limited
steps 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.
Long delays in trials are a problem. The Government infringed
on citizens' privacy rights. The Government also partially limited
press freedom, particularly by implementing the 1996 media law
to restrict radio and television broadcasting in a discriminatory
manner. Journalists practice self-censorship. The Government
imposes limits on freedom of movement. The Government continued
to restrict freedom of assembly and ban demonstrations. The right
of citizens to change their government remains limited by shortcomings
in the electoral system. Although the 1996 parliamentary elections
represented a step forward, the electoral process was flawed,
as the elections were not prepared or carried out impartially.
The Government decision to postpone municipal elections until
April 1999 (a decision subsequently overturned by the Constitutional
Council) infringed on citizens' ability to change their government
at the local level. In December the Parliament passed a law calling
for municipal elections in mid-1998. Discrimination against women
and Palestinians, and violence against women are problems.
Although the overall level of armed conflict has declined in recent
years, 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 Israeli-controlled zone, which is independent of Lebanese
central authority. During the year, SLA officials arbitrarily
arrested, mistreated, and detained persons, and expelled several
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 Freedom From:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
During the year, political killings declined as the Government
further consolidated its authority over the country. However,
there continued to be reports of extrajudicial killings. In January
a suspect reportedly died while being interrogated by government
agents; the suspect's family members asserted that he was beaten
to death (see Section 1.c.). Also in January, 3 Palestinians,
including Jihad Ayyub of Yasir Arafat's Fatah movement, were killed
by unidentified gunmen in the Ayn al-Hilwe refugee camp. On August
23, Khalil Mussawi, an Amal movement official in the village of
Arzun (south Lebanon), was killed by unknown persons in central
Beirut when an explosive detonated as he opened the trunk of his
In January the Judicial Council found Ahmad al-Kassem, Khalid
Mohammad Hamed, and Munir Salah Abbud guilty of the 1995 assassination
of a Sunni cleric, Sheikh Nizar Al-Halabi. The death sentence
has carried out on March 24, after President Elias Hrawi refused
an appeal for clemency. The other 14 individuals involved in
the case sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10 to 20 years,
or were acquitted and released. In May the Judicial Council found
former Lebanese Forces commander Samir Ja'Ja' guilty of attempting
to kill then-Minister of Defense Michel Al-Murr in 1991. Ja'Ja'
has sentenced to death, but the sentence has commuted to life
at hard labor. During January the Government deported three Iraqi
diplomat suspects in the 1994 killing in Beirut of an Iraqi dissident.
In December the Government indicted three persons suspected of
causing the 1996 death of Akram Arbeed. The suspects allegedly
beat Arbeed while he was accompanying a candidate in the 1996
parliamentary elections. There were no developments in the 1994
death of Tareq Hassaniyeh, who was allegedly beaten to death by
authorities in the Bayt Al-Din prison, nor in the 1994 death of
Fawzi Al-Racy, who died while in the custody of the Ministry of
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
The Government still 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.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment
There continued to be credible reports that security forces used
torture on some detainees. On January 4, a suspect reportedly
died while being interrogated by the Drug Enforcement Authority.
The Government claimed that the suspect threw himself from the
window, but the family of the deceased asserted that he was beaten
to death. In May unknown armed men severely beat a journalist
who distributed leaflets critical of the Lebanese army (see Section
2.1.). No charges had been brought by year's end.
A 1996 court case against three policemen accused of causing paralysis
in a prisoner in their custody is still pending.
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 minimum international
standards. There are only 18 operating prisons with a total capacity
of 2,000 inmates. However, prisons are overcrowded, with a total
population of nearly 5,000. Inmates also lack heat and adequate
toilet and shower facilities. The prison system is regulated
by law. However, the Government has not budgeted funds to
rehabilitate the prison system.
In addition to regular prisons, the Surete Generale, which mans
border posts, operates a detention facility. Hundreds of foreigners,
mostly Egyptians and Sri Lankans, are detained there pending deportation.
They reportedly are held in small, poorly ventilated cells.
Credible reports indicate that guards raped some of the Sri Lankan
women during their detention.
The Government does not permit prison visits by human rights monitors.
Hizballah detains and reportedly mistreats SLA members and suspected
agents at unknown locations. The South Lebanon Army operates
its own detention facility, Al-Khiam prison, and there are frequent
allegations of mistreatment of detainees. Both groups occasionally
release prisoners. The SLA, for example, released some prisoners
in April and July. An ICRC-brokered exchange of one SLA prisoner
for four Hizballah prisoners took place in April.
Hizballah does not permit prison visits by human rights monitors.
The SLA does not permit prison visits by human rights monitors,
although it has on occasion allowed the International Committee
of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit detainees at Al-Khiam, for the
purpose of delivering letters, medicine, and food from detainees'
families. These visits have been suspended since September.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Government uses arbitrary arrest and detention. The law requires
security forces to obtain warrants of arrest before making arrests.
However, military prosecutors, who are responsible for cases
involving the military, as well as those involving espionage,
treason, weapons possession, and draft evasion, make arrests without
warrants. They reportedly issue blank warrants of arrest to be
completed after the suspect has been arrested. Arresting officers
are required to 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 no formal charges are brought 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
for 10 days with a possible extension for an additional 10 days.
Bail is only available to those accused of petty crimes, not
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 January security forces
arrested the financial manager of a hotel in Beirut, a Jordanian
national, releasing him after 23 days of captivity. No charges
were brought against him.
In February military police arrested a journalist who was covering
elections at a Lebanese university. The journalist was accused
of taking pictures of army personnel inside the university. He
was released after the army took the camera and destroyed the
In April security forces arrested several members of a labor union
who were gathered in the labor union office in Sidon to conduct
elections of the labor union representatives. Twenty-six persons
were arrested, including journalists covering the elections.
All of those arrested were released within a few hours.
Human rights groups credibly report that detained persons are
sometimes transferred to Syrian custody and imprisoned in Syria.
The number of such persons cannot be determined accurately, but
President Hrawi in a televised interview last year 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 150 Lebanese citizens and an undetermined
number of Palestinians at Al-Khiam prison in the south.
In June Hizballah's security apparatus detained three UNIFIL servicemen
in the southern suburbs of Beirut who were taking photographs
of flags. The three were released after 10 hours. The Government
did not take any punitive action against Hizballah. An SLA member
kidnaped in 1996 was released during a prisoner exchange in October
Syrian forces reportedly detain persons.
In July the Israeli navy detained five fishermen off the coast
of Tyre in south Lebanon. On July 3, Israeli forces detained
a journalist, reportedly on suspicion of collaboration with Hizballah.
The journalist has released on August 7. Israel holds several
Lebanese citizens, including Sheikh Abed al-Karim Obaid and Mustafa
Dirani, figures associated with the Islamic Resistance.
Palestinian refugees are subject to arrest, detention, and harassment
by the state security forces, Syrian forces, various militias,
and rival Palestinians.
Exile as a form of punishment is not regularly practiced, although
in 1991 the Government 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 in August 1996 but
'Awn 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-belated issues, the Judicial Council, which tries
national security offenses, and the tribunals of the various confessions,
i.e., religious affiliations, 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 women is equal to that of a man.
Hizballah applies Islamic law in areas under its control. Palestinian
groups in refugee camps operate an autonomous and arbitrary system
of justice. The SLA maintains a separate and arbitrary system
There were no reports of political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family,
Home, or Correspondence
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. The army Intelligence
Service monitors the movements and activities of members of opposition
groups (see Section 2.b.). In May cabinet ministers conceded
for the first time that telephone calls were being tapped. The
Prime Minister publicly stated that he is among those whose telephones
are tapped. The Speaker of Parliament alleged that cellular calls
are also tapped and that more than one wing of the security services
was involved. The Speaker formed a parliamentary commission to
investigate the subject.
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.
On March 28, the SLA expelled a woman from the village of Hasbayya.
In August Israeli forces expelled a Lebanese woman and her five
children from their home in Qleia village.
g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations
of Humanitarian Law In Internal Conflicts
An undetermined number of civilians continued to be killed in
south Lebanon, as Hizballah, Palestinian guerrillas, and to a
much lesser extent the Lebanese army on the one hand, and Israeli
forces and the SLA on the other, engaged in recurring cycles of
violence. Hizballah attacked SLA and Israeli troops deployed
on Lebanese soil. Hizballah (and possibly armed Palestinian groups)
also launched rocket attacks against northern Israel. Israeli
forces conducted repeated air strikes and artillery barrages on
Hizballah, Lebanese army and Palestinian targets inside Lebanon.
There were numerous incidents in the cycle of attack and reprisals.
On August 18, a roadside bomb exploded near Kfar Houne in an
SLA-controlled area, killing two teenage relatives of an SLA commander.
The SLA retaliated by shelling the city of Sidon, killing six
civilians and injuring dozens of others. The Lebanese army responded
by shelling the SLA positions, and Hizballah later fired Katyusha
rockets into northern Israel.
On November 23, mortar attacks by Lebanese guerrillas killed nine
Lebanese civilians in the city of Beit Lif' in the Israeli security
zone. Following its investigation the attack, the Israeli-Lebanon
Monitoring Group (ILMG) determined that "armed elements"
were responsible for the attack.
In February the Israeli air force raided Baalbek and hit the building
of Hizballah's "Voice of the Oppressed" radio station.
In August Israeli jets destroyed an electrical pylon south of
Beirut. In September 12 Israeli commandos were killed by an explosion
and subsequent firefight with Lebanese army, Hizballah, and Amal
forces during a nighttime incursion by Israel into the central
coastal region. Later the same month Israel fired on Lebanese
army personnel carriers, killing 6 soldiers.
The ILMG continued to deal with alleged violations of the understanding
between Israel and Hizballah not to target civilians or launch
attacks from civilian-populated areas.
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, particularly by intimidating
journalists and broadcasters into practicing self-censorship.
The Government 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 continued. Dozens of newspapers are published
throughout the country, 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 has several tools at its disposal to control freedom
of expression. The Surete Generale is authorized to approve all
foreign magazines and non-periodical 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.
In view of 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 April a weekly
(Haramun) was charged with defaming the President and publishing
materials deemed disturbing to the nation's standards. In June
two newspapers (Al-Diyar and Al-Kifah Al-Arabi) were charged with
defaming the Prime Minister, and with publishing a cartoon that
harmed the judiciary. In April the Publications Court sentenced
the editor in chief of the daily Al-Kifah Al-Arabi to pay a fine
of $30,000 for publishing an article deemed insulting to the King
of Saudi Arabia. Another court fined two journalists at the Nida'
Al-Watan daily and the newspaper's administration $10,000 for
defamation, and ordered them to pay compensation to state-run
television Tele-Liban. The two journalists had accused Tele-Liban
and its chairman of embezzlement.
In May journalist Pierre Attalah was indicted by a military investigating
judge for having distributed leaflets that harmed the Lebanese
army's reputation. The same day he was severely beaten by unknown
armed elements, Attallah later flew to France to seek political
asylum. A court hearing on the case is ongoing.
In implementing the 1994 Media Law, the Government closed down
many of the myriad television and radio stations that had sprung
up during the civil war, granting licenses to those stations owned
by or closely associated with powerful government officials.
In July, facing mounting protests, it granted licenses to several
additional radio and television stations, including a Hizballah-run
television station, that had been operating without a license.
The decision raised the total number of licensed television and
radio stations to 25.
In February the Surete Generale suspended for 2 weeks the staging
of a play. The play was subsequently authorized, after the author
made changes in the dialogue.
Between August and September, the censorship authority of the
Government's Surete Generale blocked television transmission of
three different items. One of the items, a music video called
"We've Got to Change the System," was subsequently allowed
to be broadcast, but two taped interviews with former political
figures remained banned.
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 students 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. In 1997 the Government
again banned all rallies, but various political factions, such
as Amal, Hizballah, 'Awnists, and supporters of the Prime Minister
held rallies without obtaining government permission.
In August the Government interfered with a rally in support of
early municipal elections by closing down the meeting place and
sending a large number of security forces to the alternate rally
site. However, it did not break up the rally, which was attended
by several parliamentary deputies.
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 should then
issue a "receipt" acknowledging that proper notification
was given. In practice the "receipt" has evolved into
a permit, which can be withheld at the whim of the Ministry.
The Bar Association in April criticized the current practice but
did not provide examples of groups that had been denied a permit
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 Syria nor Israel 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 frequently
occurs via Israeli-occupied territory in southern Lebanon. All
males 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 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 expansion of governmental 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 began to reclaim 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. This figure,
while it includes only the families of refugees who arrived in
1948, is also presumed to include many thousands who currently
reside outside the country. Most experts estimate the actual
number now in Lebanon to be fewer than 300,000.
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 U.N. Convention Relating
to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. The Government
cooperates with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UNRWA.
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,
lack of government control of parts of the country, defects in
the electoral process, and strong Syrian influence over Lebanese
politics and decision-makers significantly restrict this right.
The 1996 parliamentary elections represented a step forward,
but the electoral process was flawed by serious shortcomings,
as the elections were not prepared or carried out impartially.
Government officials acknowledged some of the electoral shortcomings
and pledged to correct them in future elections. Several losing
candidates submitted challenges to the Constitutional Council
which, in four separate cases, ruled that the election results
were invalid. The Government conducted by-elections for those
seats on June 29.
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 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.
Citizens' ability to change their government on a local level
was undermined by a decision taken by Parliament in July to extend
the term in office of municipal officials to April 30, 1999.
Municipal elections have not been held since 1963. Many serving
officials are elderly or have been appointed by the central Government.
The decision to extend municipal terms was challenged by 14 parliamentarians,
and the Constitutional Council ruled on September 13 that the
extension was invalid. The Government responded to the ruling
by declaring existing municipal officials short term "caretakers."
The Parliament in December passed a law calling for municipal
elections in mid-1998.
Women have the right to vote and there are no legal barriers to
their participation in politics, although there are significant
cultural barriers. 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 determined accurately, but on November 24, 1996 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 general the Government is unwilling to discuss human rights
problems with foreign governmental or nongovernmental organizations.
However, it has facilitated visits to the country of Amnesty
International teams to report on Israeli activities in south Lebanon.
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. In February the Parliament approved a law giving preference
to disabled persons for employment in government positions. Discrimination
based on the other listed factors is illegal , and is not widespread.
The press reports cases of rape with increasing frequency; what
is reported is thought to be only a fraction of the actual number.
There are no authoritative statistics on the extent of spousal
abuse. Most experts agree that the problem affects a significant
portion of the female population. In general battered or abused
women do not talk about their suffering for fear of bringing shame
upon their own 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. In September it that announced it was
seeking funding to build a shelter for abused women.
The legal system is discriminatory in its handling of "crimes
of honor." According to the Penal Code, a man who kills
his wife or other female relative may receive a reduced sentence
if he demonstrates that he committed the crime 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 men 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 men may confer citizenship on their spouses and children.
Accordingly, children born to Lebanese mothers and foreign fathers
are not eligible for Lebanese citizenship. 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 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 financial
resources to the association for the protection of juveniles to
lease a two-story building in Ba'asir in order to accommodate
50 juvenile delinquents.
There are neither child welfare programs nor government institutions
to oversee the implementation of children's programs. The Committee
for Children's Rights, formed in 1993 by prominent politicians
and private citizens, has been lobbying for legislation to improve
the condition of children. 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 l00 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,
though the Government in its rebuilding projects has constructed
sidewalks in some parts of Beirut allowing access for disabled.
The private "Solidere" project for the reconstruction
of downtown Beirut has self-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
(see Section 3). 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
(or religious sectarianism) in that organization. Each religious
affiliation has its own courts for family law matters, such as
marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance.
According to the United Nations, an estimated 350,000 Palestinian
refugees are registered in Lebanon (see Section 2.d.). 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 may reduce the
size of the camps or eliminate them completely.
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 those who find work at all 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 U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and UNRWA-contracted
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 Labor.
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. In the absence of a prohibition
against it, children, foreign domestic servants, and other foreign
workers are sometimes forced to remain in situations amounting
to coerced or bonded labor.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum
Age for Employment
The 1946 Labor Code stipulates that workers between the ages of
8 and 16 may not work more than 7 hours a 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 worker's age."
The Code also prohibits certain types of mechanical work for children
between the ages 8 and 13, and other types for those between the
ages 13 and 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. Forced and bonded child labor is
not prohibited and sometimes occurs (see Section 6.c.).
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The Government sets a legal minimum wage, currently 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 transport.
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 a week, and workers
in other sectors work an average of 30 hours a 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