U.S. Department of State
Lebanon Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February
Lebanon is a parliamentary republic in which the President is by tradition
Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim, and the Speaker of
the Chamber of Deputies a Shiâa Muslim. The Parliament consists of 128
deputies, equally divided between Christian and Muslim representatives. In
October Parliament chose a new president, Emile Lahoud, in an election
heavily influenced by Syria. He took office in November. The judiciary is
independent in principle but is subject to political pressure.
Non-Lebanese military forces control much of the country. These
about 25,000 Syrian troops, a contingent of approximately 2,000 Israeli army
regulars and 1,500 Israeli-supported militia in the south, and several armed
Palestinian factions located in camps and subject to restrictions on their
movements. All undermine the authority of the central Government and
prevent the application of law in the patchwork of areas not under the
Governmentâs 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, an undetermined number of
Syrian military intelligence personnel in Lebanon continue to 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 Lebanonâs coastal
population areas to the Biqaâ Valley, with full withdrawal contingent upon
the 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"
south Lebanon through direct military action and support for its surrogate,
the South Lebanon Army (SLA). With the tacit support of the Government, the
Iranian-backed Shiâa Muslim faction Hizballah, and, to a much lesser extent,
the Lebanese Shiâa group Amal and some Palestinian guerrillas continue to be
locked in a cycle of attack and counterattack with Israeli and SLA troops.
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 continued to
take tentative steps to exert its authority in the Biqaâ Valley and Beirutâs
southern suburbs. However, it did not attempt to reassert state control
over the Palestinian refugee camps, nor to disarm Hizballah and the SLA.
The security forces consist of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), which
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 address 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, such as
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 result in a balance of
The Governmentâs human rights record was poor, and serious problems
in several areas, although there were some improvements in a few areas
toward the end of the year. Members of the security forces used excessive
force and tortured and abused some detainees. Prison conditions remained
poor. Government abuses also included the arbitrary arrest and detention of
persons who opposed government policies. Lengthy pretrial detention and
long delays in trial are problems, and the courts are subject to political
pressure. The Government infringed on citizensâ privacy rights. The
Government also partially limited press freedom by continuing to restrict
radio and television broadcasting in a discriminatory manner. It also
barred the satellite broadcast of political programming, but later rescinded
the restriction on news broadcasts. Journalists practice self censorship.
The Government continued to restrict freedom of assembly, but lifted its ban
on political demonstrations. The Government imposes limits on freedom of
movement. The right of citizens to change their Government remains
restricted by lack of government control over parts of the country,
shortcomings in the electoral system, and Syrian influence. Although the
1996 parliamentary elections represented a step forward, the electoral
process was flawed, as the elections were not prepared or carried out
impartially. However, in May and June the Government held the first
municipal elections in 35 years, allowing citizens to change their
government at the local level. In October Parliament elected a new
president in keeping with the constitutional process, though the election
was influenced heavily by Syria. Discrimination against women and
Palestinians, and violence against women are problems.
Although the civil war ended in 1990, life and property still are threatened
by artillery and aerial attacks by the various contending forces in parts of
southern Lebanon. These forces continue to commit abuses, including
killings, bombings, and abductions.
The SLA maintains a separate and arbitrary system of justice in the
controlled zone, which is independent of Lebanese central authority. During
the year, SLA officials arbitrarily arrested, mistreated, and detained
persons, and regularly expelled local residents from their homes in the
zone. Palestinian groups in refugee camps maintain a separate, often
arbitrary, system of justice for other Palestinians. Palestinians sometimes
may appeal to Lebanese authorities, often through their agents in the camps,
for legal recourse. In comparison to previous years, there were no known
reports that members of the various groups that control the camps tortured
and detained their Palestinian rivals.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person,
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no reports of political or extrajudicial killings by government
authorities during the year.
There were no developments in the 1994 death of Tareq Hassaniyeh, who
allegedly was 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 Defense.
There were reports of politically motivated killings of liquor store
in Sidon by extremist groups.
In July the military prosecutor charged 18 members of the Lebanese Forces,
an outlawed rightwing Christian militia, with carrying out a 1996 bus
bombing in Syria that killed 11 persons.
On April 16, in a setback for government efforts to bring those responsible
for terrorist attacks during the war years to justice, the Criminal Court of
Beirut found Tawfiq Mohammad Farroukh not guilty of murder for his role in
the 1976 assassination of U.S. Ambassador Francis Meloy, Embassy officer
Robert Waring, and their driver Zohair Moghrabi despite overwhelming
evidence of his guilt. Farroukh returned to Lebanon on April 15 and was set
free after the court verdict was issued. The Public Prosecutorâs office
appealed the verdict, but no date has been set for a trial hearing.
There were no developments in the 1996 beating death of Akram Arbeed,
allegedly was attacked while accompanying a candidate in the 1996
parliamentary election. The case still is pending. Legal proceedings
during the year against Samir Jaâja (who still is serving a life sentence
for other crimes) for his alleged complicity in the killing of Rashid Karame
continued during the year.
A number of persons were killed by gunfire, artillery fire, and bombs
clashes between Israeli soldiers and Hizballah guerrillas (see Section
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
Government still has taken no judicial action against groups known to be
responsible for the kidnapings of thousands of persons during the unrest
between 1975 and 1990.
In March Bashir Al-Khatib, who had disappeared in 1996, was returned
Lebanon from Syria (see Section 1.d.). The whereabouts of Boutros Khawand,
who allegedly was abducted by Syrian forces in 1992, remain unknown; he is
presumed to be held in Syria (see Section 1.d.).
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
Torture is not banned specifically by the Constitution, and there continued
to be credible reports that security forces abused detainees and in some
instances used torture. In June the Chairman of the Lebanese Association
for Human Rights told the Parliamentary Commission for Human Rights that
torture is still a common practice. In May two stateless Bedouin were
executed for complicity in a murder. The court noted during the sentencing
that their confessions were extracted through abusive interrogation
techniques contrary to law, but their appeal was denied on procedural
grounds. There were also credible reports that military intelligence
officials used harsh interrogation procedures, including torture, on former
members of the Lebanese Forces. Violent abuse usually occurs during the
preliminary investigations that are conducted at the police station or
military installations, where suspects are interrogated in the absence of an
Abuses also occurred in areas outside the stateâs authority, including
Palestinian refugee camps. In comparison to previous years, there were no
reports that members of the various groups that control the camps tortured
and detained their Palestinian rivals.
Prison conditions are poor and do not meet international standards.
Ministry of Interior operates 18 prisons with a total capacity of 2,000
inmates. However, prisons are overcrowded, with a total population of
nearly 5,000. Inmates lack heat, adequate toilet and shower facilities, and
proper medical care. The Government has not budgeted funds to rehabilitate
the prison system.
On April 8, inmates of the Roumieh prison--the largest in the country
almost 75 percent of the total prison population--rioted over alleged
brutality and mistreatment. The unrest abated only after the Interior
Minister visited the premises and promised to respond to the inmatesâ
demands. The Minister reportedly said that 80 percent of the prisonersâ
demands would be met, since they were valid. The military prosecutor
charged one ISF officer and one noncommissioned officer for alleged physical
abuse of prisoners in the incident that triggered the riot. Trial still is
pending. In May a prisoner in Zahle prison suffered a ruptured appendix and
was refused medical care for more than 2 months. He nearly died before his
case was brought to the attention of the media and the Parliamentâs Human
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 in 1997 guards raped some of the Sri Lankan women during their
On June 6, the International Prison Watch (IPW)--a human rights organization
based in Lyon, France--was allowed to visit prisons in Lebanon. The IPW
representative in Lebanon visited the Roumieh prison and stated that
conditions have improved but noted that the prison is still overcrowded.
Local journalists and human rights organizations had access certain prisons
during the year; access to those prisons controlled by the Ministry of
Defense was not given.
Hizballah detains and reportedly mistreats SLA members and suspected
at unknown locations. The SLA operates its own detention facility, Al-Khiam
prison, and there are frequent allegations of torture and mistreatment of
detainees. Both groups occasionally release prisoners. In June the
International Commission of the Red Cross (ICRC) brokered an exchange of
prisoners and prisonersâ remains among Israel, Lebanon, Hizballah, and the
SLA. In exchange for the remains of an Israeli sergeant who was killed in a
military operation in Lebanon in September 1997, Israel and the SLA released
65 prisoners, and returned the remains of 40 Hizballah guerrillas. In
September the SLA released Suha Bichara, a member of the Communist Party who
had attempted to kill the SLA leader, General Lahd, 10 years previously.
Hizballah does not permit prison visits by human rights monitors.
after a 9-month period of not permitting visitations, allowed the ICRC (and
family members) to visit detainees at Al-Khiam prison following the prisoner
exchange in June.
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. 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
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 defenderâs office. The Bar Association has
an office to assist those who cannot afford a lawyer.
Security forces continued the practice of arbitrary arrest. After
a June 19
car bomb explosion in Dora, security forces detained and interrogated scores
of citizens, predominately Christian supporters of the jailed commander of
the Lebanese Forces, Samir Jaâjaâ. These detentions and searches of homes
took place without warrants, and detainees claim that they were not given
access to lawyers. Most detainees were released after they were forced to
sign documents stating that they would abstain from politics. Eighteen of
those allegedly connected directly to the Dora bombing were charged with
forming a sabotage network. Of the 18 charged, 11 are in custody and 7 are
still at large.
There were no allegations during the year of the transfer of Lebanese
citizens by Lebanese authorities to Syria. In 1997 there reportedly was one
such instance in which Lebanese security forces allegedly were involved.
The number of Lebanese detainees remaining in Syria is uncertain; however,
former President Elias Hrawi estimated that some 210 persons were in Syrian
custody in 1996. Amnesty International (AI) reported that "hundreds of
Lebanese, Palestinians, and Jordanians have been arbitrarily arrested, some
over 2 decades ago, and remain in prolonged and often secret detention is
Syria." According to AI, Syrian forces operating in Lebanon carried out
searches, arrests, and detentions of Lebanese nationals outside of any legal
On March 6-7, Syria transferred 121 prisoners, most of whom had been
Syrian jails since the outbreak of the Lebanese civil war in 1975, to the
Lebanese authorities. The transfer, which included a detainee named Bashir
Al-Khatib who had disappeared in 1996, was ordered by Syrian President Hafez
Al-Assad at the request of President Elias Hrawi. Fourteen of those
released were to be referred to a Lebanese court. Lebanese political figure
Boutros Khawand, who allegedly was abducted by Syrian forces in 1992,
remains unaccounted for and is presumed to be held in detention in Syria.
The authorities often detain without charge for short periods of time
political opponents of the Syrian and Lebanese Governments. Syrian forces
in Lebanon also reportedly detain Lebanese citizens.
Local militias and non-Lebanese forces continued to conduct arbitrary
arrests in areas outside central government control. The SLA detains an
estimated 120 citizens and an undetermined number of Palestinians at Al-
Khiam prison in the south.
Israel holds several Lebanese citizens, including Sheikh Abed Al-Karim
and Mustafa Dirani, figures associated with the Islamic resistance. In
November the SLA acted on behalf of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and
abducted Sheikh Abbas Mohsen Fadlallah from his home in Kafr Kila. He was
detained at Al-Khiam prison for his alleged role in resistance activity.
Palestinian refugees are subject to arrest, detention, and harassment
state security forces, Syrian forces, various militias, and rival
Exile as a form of punishment is not practiced regularly, although in
the Government pardoned former Army Commander General Michel ÎAwn and two of
his aides on the condition that they depart the country and remain in exile
for 5 years. ÎAwn was accused of usurping power. The 5-year period ended
in August 1996 but ÎAwn remains in France.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The judiciary is independent in principle, but is subject to political
pressure. The Constitution provides for a constitutional council to
supervise the constitutionality of laws and stipulates that judges shall be
independent in the exercise of their duties; 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
Court, which tries cases involving military personnel and military-related
issues; the Judicial Council, which tries national security offenses; and
the tribunals of the various confessions, that is, religious affiliations,
which adjudicate disputes including marriage, inheritance, and personal
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
The Ministry of Justice appoints judges according to a formula based
religious affiliation of the prospective judge. A shortage of judges has
impeded efforts to adjudicate cases backlogged during the years of internal
conflicts. Trial delays also are caused by the Governmentâs 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.
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 of justice.
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
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. However, after a car bomb explosion in June,
security forces searched homes without warrants.
The Government and Syrian intelligence services use informer networks
monitor telephones to gather information on their adversaries. The army
Intelligence Service monitors the movement and activities of members of
opposition groups (see Section 2.b.). The Government concedes that
telephone calls are wiretapped by security services. The Parliamentary
Commission that was formed by the speaker in 1997 to investigate
wiretelephone tapping concluded its investigation, but its findings have not
been made public.
Militias and non-Lebanese forces operating outside the area of central
government authority frequently have violated citizensâ privacy rights.
Various factions also use informer networks and monitor telephones to obtain
information on their adversaries.
On March 31, the Israeli forces reportedly expelled a woman and her
from the village of Ramia, located in Israelâs self-declared security zone.
On May 19, Israeli intelligence services and the SLA reportedly expelled
Lebanese couple from the village of Shabâa. Israeli forces also reportedly
expelled a Lebanese woman and her three children from the village of Adayse
on August 1. In September two Druze religious figures and their spouses
were expelled from their homes in the Israeli-occupied zone.
g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of
Humanitarian Law in Internal
According to various reports, an estimated 37 Islamic resistance guerrillas,
20 Israeli soldiers and 22 Lebanese civilians were killed in south Lebanon
during the year, as Hizballah, Amal, and Palestinian guerrillas on the one
hand, and Israeli forces and the SLA on the other, engaged in recurring
violence. Hizballah attacked SLA and Israeli troops deployed on Lebanese
soil. For example, Hizballah forces killed Israeli soldiers in bomb attacks
in July, August, and October. In August Hizballah launched rocket attacks
against northern Israel, ostensibly in retaliation for SLA shelling of
Lebanese villages. Israeli forces conducted repeated air strikes and
artillery barrages on Hizballah, Amal, and Palestinian targets inside
Lebanon. For example, in August Israeli planes fired rockets at suspected
Hizballah positions in the south. In December an Israeli jet bombed a home
in eastern Lebanon, killing a woman and her six children. In retaliation,
Hizballah fired dozens of rockets into northern Israel, wounding 12
In south Lebanon, there is an average of two or three attacks daily
IDF/SLA military positions with a similar number of IDF/SLA counter attacks.
The Israel-Lebanon Monitoring Group continued to deal with alleged
violations of the April 1996 understanding between Israel and Hizballah not
to target civilians or to 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. In January
the Government banned satellite broadcasts of political programs and news
originating from Lebanon. In September the Government rescinded the total
ban on satellite news broadcasts, but continued to ban satellite broadcasts
of political talk shows and to censor television broadcasts on a case-by-
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 and hundreds of periodicals are published throughout the
country, financed by various local and foreign groups. While the press is
normally independent, press content often reflects the opinions of these
The Government has several tools at its disposal to control freedom
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
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
During the year, the Government restricted press freedom by filing charges
against several newspapers. In February the Government indicted the
newspaper Al-Diyar three times for defaming the President of the Republic,
the Prime Minister, and the judiciary. If convicted, the newspaper would
have to pay a fine of $35,000 (52,500,000 Lebanese pounds) for each case.
In January the Supreme Court, in an irrevocable decision, endorsed a 1997
verdict issued by the Publication Court sentencing the editor in chief of
the daily Al-Kifah Al-Arabi to pay a fine of $30,000 (45,000,000 Lebanese
pounds) for publishing an article deemed insulting to the King of Saudi
In April the Government charged an editor of the daily Al-Diyar with
publishing false information and untrue allegations likely to undermine the
In May the judiciary summoned, without a subpoena, a writer for the
daily newspaper for questioning about a story she wrote about conditions at
the central prison in Roumieh.
In June the military prosecutor charged in absentia An-Nahar journalist
Pierre Attallah, who previously had been granted asylum in France, with
defaming the judiciary and entering Israel. A court hearing is still
Between May and July, the Government blocked television transmission
political talk shows. One of the shows was to have been conducted on the
eve of the municipal election with the general coordinator of the National
Gathering, an opposition group loyal to exiled General Michel ÎAwn. The
second show, an interview with the self-exiled leader of the National Bloc,
Raymond Edde, was forced to delay its broadcast. In August and September,
the Government pressured the owner of a media outlet to sell a portion of
his controlling interest in the company to other shareholders. In November
Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based NGO, criticized the legal
proceedings taken against Murr Television journalist Tony Shamiyah, who was
sentenced to 1 year in prison for collaborating with Israelis.
Lebanon has a strong tradition of academic freedom and a flourishing
educational system (a result of inadequate public schools and a preference
for religious affiliation). Students exercise the right to form campus
associations, and the Government usually does not interfere with student
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
consistently. The Government lifted its long-standing decree banning all
demonstrations in December. Within days of that decision, the Government
granted permission for a demonstration to protest U.S. and UK air strikes
against Iraq. During a time of Syrian-Turkish tensions, the Government
permitted a peaceful protest rally to be staged in front of the Turkish
Embassy. Environmental groups also have been given some of latitude in
holding protest and awareness campaigns.
The Constitution provides for freedom of association, and the Government
generally respects this right and 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 by the
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
Neither Israel nor Syria allows groups openly hostile to them to operate
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
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 commonly 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 (see Section 5).
Lebanese Armed Forces and Syrian troops maintain checkpoints in areas
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 Israelâs self-declared security zone. On October 1, the SLA
implemented new restrictions which required Jezzine residents to apply 48
hours in advance to leave the area.
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. The Government has encouraged the return to
their homes of over 600,000 persons displaced during the civil war.
Although some persons have begun 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
Works Agency (UNRWA) reported that the number of Palestinian refugees in
Lebanon registered with the UNRWA was 364,551. This figure, while it
includes only the families of refugees who arrived in 1948, also is presumed
to include many thousands who 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 prohibited the
return of Palestinians living abroad unless they obtained an entry visa.
The Government maintained that the visa requirement is necessary to ensure
the validity of a Lebanese laissez-passer, because 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.
There are no legal provisions for granting asylum or refugee status
accordance with the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
and its 1967 Protocol. The Government does not grant first asylum; however,
in practice the Government grants admission and temporary (6 months) refuge
to asylum seekers, but not permanent asylum. There are nearly 3,600 non-
Palestinian refugees (mostly Iraqi Shiâa and Kurds) residing in Lebanon
according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
There have been no known requests for asylum since 1975. The Government
cooperates with the offices of the UNHCR and the UNRWA. There were no
reports of the forced return of persons to a country where they feared
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights:
The Right of Citizens to Change
The Constitution states that citizens have the right to change their
government in periodic free and fair elections; however, lack of government
control over parts of the country, defects in the electoral process, and
strong Syrian influence over Lebanese politics and decisionmakers
significantly restrict this right. The 1996 parliamentary elections
represented a step forward, but the electoral process was flawed by serious
shortcomings, because 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.
According to the Constitution, elections for the Parliament must be
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 a Shiâa Muslim. Until 1990 seats in Parliament were
divided according to a 6 to 5 ratio of Christians to 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 the Cabinet.
In May and June, the Government held the first elections at the local
since 1963. The elections were reasonably free and fair, and citizens were
able to choose their own representatives at the local level. No serious
discrepancies were reported. However, six persons were wounded in June when
supporters of rival candidates clashed with knives and clubs. Police
arrested 30 persons in the fighting, which broke out in Zahle and Tripoli.
On October 15, the Parliament elected a new President after amending
Constitution on a one-time basis to permit senior government officials,
including the (then) commander of the army, to run for office. (The
Constitution prohibits senior government officials from running for
president unless they resign at least 2 years before the election. The
amendment provided for a one-time exception to this provision.) There was
substantial criticism of the Syrian role in influencing Lebanese political
leaders in the selection of the presidential candidate; however, there was
broad popular support for the new President. President Emile Lahoud took
office in November.
Women have the right to vote and there are no legal barriers to their
participation in politics, although there are significant cultural barriers.
Women are underrepresented in government and politics. No women hold
cabinet positions. Three women were elected to the 128-seat Parliament in
Palestinian refugees have no political rights. An estimated 17
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, but there are
"popular committees" that meet regularly with the UNRWA and other visitors.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights.
Several local 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,
and took credit in part for the release of a number of Lebanese from Syrian
jails during the year (see Section 1.d). The bar association and other
private organizations regularly hold public events that include discussion
of human rights issues. Some human rights groups have reported harassment
and intimidation by government, Syrian, and militia forces.
In general the Government is reluctant to discuss human rights problems
foreign governmental or non-governmental organizations. However, it has
facilitated visits to the country of Amnesty International representatives
to report on Israeli activities in south Lebanon. In June the Government
also permitted International Prison Watch to visit prisons (see Section
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex,
Language, or Social Status
The Constitution calls for "social justice and equality of duties and
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 political system. During 1997 the
Parliament approved a law giving preferences to the disabled for employment
in government positions. Discrimination based on race, language, or social
status is illegal and not widespread among citizens; however, foreign
household servants are often mistreated.
Violence against women is a problem. The press reports cases of
increasing frequency, and cases reported are thought to be only a fraction
of the actual number. In October the rape of a young girl in the village of
Shehim--allegedly by a Syrian migrant--caused widespread reprisals against
Syrian laborers living in the region. 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 provides 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, 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. However, beginning in 1991, the Government began 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, business. However, social pressure
against women pursuing careers is strong in some parts of society. Men
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 control of it to male
relatives for cultural reasons. In 1994 the parliament removed a legal
stipulation that a women must obtain her husbandâs 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.
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 administer their own family and personal status laws.
There are 18 recognized groups, each of which 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 remains a serious concern; however, the Government
has not allocated funds to protect them. Education is not compulsory and
illiteracy rates have reached 37.5 percent. Many children, particularly in
rural areas, 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,
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.
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 held in the womenâs prison in Baâabda. Limited financial resources have
hindered efforts to build adequate facilities to rehabilitate delinquents.
However, during the year a prominent private citizen has agreed to provide
land in Junieh to build a juvenile center for girls, and work is underway.
There is also a project to build a modern juvenile detention facility in
Baâasir. The Government provided a 15,000 square meter plot and is working
with U.N. agencies to arrange for financial assistance and expertise to
construct the facility.
There are neither child welfare programs nor government institutions
oversee the implementation of childrenâs programs. The Committee for
Childrenâs 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 of age.
People with Disabilities
Over 100,000 persons sustained disabilities during the civil war.
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 relatively active, although poorly funded.
The heavily damaged cities make few accommodations for the disabled.
Building codes have no requirements for ease of access, although the
Government in its rebuilding projects has constructed sidewalks in some
parts of Beirut allowing access for the 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
Section 3). The amended Constitution of 1990 embraces the principle of
abolishing religious affiliation as a criterion for filling 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 group has its own courts for family law
matters, such as marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance.
According to the United Nations, an estimated 365,000 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 generally has prohibited the
construction of permanent structures in the camps, on the grounds that such
construction encourages the notion of permanent refugee settlement in
Lebanon. 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
Palestinians in 1991. However, in practice, very few Palestinians receive
work permits, and those who find work are usually funneled into unskilled
occupations. They and other aliens may own a limited size plot of land 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 rely on the UNRWA and UNRWA-contracted hospitals.
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 reportedly have 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, although reliable statistics are not available.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
All workers, except government employees, may establish and join unions
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 (GLC).
In general the Government does not control or restrict unions, although
union leaders allege that the Government has tried, in the past, to
interfere in elections for union officials. In July elections were held in
the GLC for the chairmanship position following the resignation of the
government-recognized chairman, Ghanem Al-Zoghbi.
Palestinian refugees may organize their own unions, but, because of
restrictions on their right to work, 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 rights 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 Governmentâs
unevenly enforced ban on demonstrations arguably diminishes unionsâ
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
sometimes are forced to remain in situations amounting to coerced or bonded
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
The 1946 Labor Code stipulates that workers between the ages of 8 and
not work more than 7 hours a day, with 1 hour for rest provided after 4
hours. In July 1996, the Ministry of Labor amended this law to define
workers under the age of 13 as child labor, in accordance with international
obligations. Children also are prohibited from working between the hours of
7 p.m. and 6 a.m. The code also prohibits certain types of mechanical work
for children between the ages of 8 and 13, and other types for those between
the ages of 13 and 16. The Labor Ministry is tasked with enforcing these
requirements, but the Ministry does not rigorously apply the law. Forced
and bonded child labor is not prohibited and sometimes occurs (see Section
Children between the ages of 10 and 14 comprise 0.6 percent of the labor
force (5,936 children in total), according to the latest official figures.
Most of these child laborers are Lebanese, but some are Syrian; they work
predominantly in the industrial, craft, and metallurgical sectors.
According to a UNICEF study, 60 percent of working children are below 13
years of age and 75 percent earn wages below two-thirds of the minimum wage.
Nearly 40 percent of working children work 10 to 14 hours per day and few
receive social welfare benefits. In addition, 52,185 children between the
ages of 15 and 19 are in the active labor force; they are not eligible for
minimum wages until they reach the age of 21.
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.
The Labor Law prescribes a standard 6-day workweek of 48 hours, with
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 Ministry of Labor, is uneven. Labor organizers report that workers
do not have the right to remove themselves from hazardous conditions without
jeopardizing their continued employment.