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Lebanon's elections should pave the way for human rights improvements

Lebanese Parliament in session, Beirut, Lebanon, 4 September 2006

Lebanese Parliament in session, Beirut, Lebanon, 4 September 2006

© APGraphicsBank

7 May 2009

The need to reform Lebanon's justice system and the persistent allegations of torture and ill-treatment by security forces were among concerns voiced by Amnesty International, as it launched its detailed human rights agenda for the country on Thursday.

Lebanon: A human rights agenda for the elections is published in the run-up to Lebanon's parliamentary elections on 7 June. The report highlights, in more detail, five key points raised in an open letter from Amnesty International's Secretary General Irene Kahn to Lebanon's political leaders, urging them to place human rights at the centre of their election campaigns.

"The justice system needs a thorough overhaul as it lacks independence, is not impartial and still allows military courts to try civilians in breach of international standards," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme.

"With the recent establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, those responsible for the killing of former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri may now be brought to justice, but the creation of the Tribunal also underscores the need for more comprehensive reform of the justice system and for complementary mechanisms to be established to ensure that perpetrators of other grave human rights crimes are also held fully to account – otherwise  the Special Tribunal may be seen as little more than 'selective justice'."

Last week, four Lebanese military and security heads who had been arrested following the killing of Rafic Hariri in 2005 were released after 44 months in detention without charge or trial. "Unfortunately, their experiences were not at all unique," said Malcolm Smart.

"For far too long, Lebanon's security forces have arrested suspects and subjected them to detention without charge or trial, and sometimes to torture or other ill-treatment, and they have been permitted to do so with impunity. These practices must be stopped and the security forces must be required to obey and uphold the law."

In the eight-page report, Amnesty International also calls for government action to address the legacy of past human rights abuses and to end discrimination and violence against women, including foreign domestic workers, and members of other marginalized groups.

These include the thousands of Palestinian refugees who continue to live in Lebanon and face legal and other obstacles in accessing basic human rights.

The report also calls for the abolition of the death penalty, noting that no executions have been carried out in Lebanon for several years.

"The past year has seen a number of potentially positive human rights developments including the drafting by parliament of a Human Rights Action Plan that, if implemented, could provide a much-needed framework for future reform," said Malcolm Smart.

"Lebanon's leaders should embrace these developments and use the opportunity of the elections to commit to the implementation of a clear and comprehensive agenda for human rights reform if elected to office in the new parliament or government."

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