Lebanon police torturing vulnerable detainees: HRW

AFP , Wednesday 26 Jun 2013

Human Rights Watch reports that the Lebanese police is committing human rights violations by torturing detainees

Lebanese police are torturing vulnerable people being held in custody, including drug users, sex workers and homosexuals, Human Rights Watch charged in a new report on Wednesday.

"Abuse is common in Lebanon's police stations, but it is even worse for people like drug users or sex workers," the New York-based group's deputy Middle East director Nadim Houry said.

The rights group interviewed more than 50 people arrested in the past five years for suspected drug use, sex work or homosexuality, most of whom reported various types of abuse and torture.

"They took me to interrogation naked, poured cold water on me, tied me to a desk with a chain and hung me" in a stress position, Mohamed, who was arrested for drug possession, told HRW.

"They broke all my teeth and nose, and hit me with a gun until my shoulder was dislocated."

Other detainees described being denied food, water and medication as well as phone calls to family members and access to legal representation.

Women, particularly those accused of prostitution, reported a range of sexual abuse, including rape.

"It's normal. They don't see us as human beings," Soumaya, a sex worker who described being sexually assaulted by police officers, told HRW.

"At first I protested, I fought back, then I understood that it's useless," she said.

HRW said existing mechanisms intended to prevent such abuse were failing detainees, noting that in some prisons where cameras are installed, police officers would simply move detainees out of the camera's line-of-sight before beating them.

The Internal Security Forces' human rights committee is understaffed and has no real power, the group said, adding that the judiciary "regularly ignores" complaints about police abuse.

The group urged Lebanon to uphold the Convention against Torture and create an independent body to monitor detention centres.

It also called on the government to "revise its Code of Criminal Procedure to better safeguard the rights of detainees and repeal laws criminalising homosexuality, drug use and sex work."

HRW said donor countries that have invested money to equip and train Lebanon's security forces "should ensure that their aid supports the development of internal oversight and accountability mechanisms."

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