Thursday, January 26, 2017

Pushback to military courts in Lebanon

We have Middle East Eye to thank for this report on the misuse of military court to suppress civilian dissent in Lebanon -- and growing opposition to the practice. Excerpt:
On 30 January, 14 civilians will face three years in prison in a military court trial for their involvement in #YouStink protests against Lebanon's rubbish crisis. 
And the military trial for an ostensibly civilian protest is not an exception. Lebanese law allows military courts, under the control of the Ministry of Defence, to try civilians simply because they have clashed with security forces. As a result, protesters who have been on the receiving end of riot police, firing rubber bullets and teargas, are routinely arrested under military justice rules.
How long will it take Lebanon to kick this habit? Human Rights Watch is on the case, with a press release and detailed report. Here are HRW's recommendations:


To the Lebanese Parliament

  • Amend article 24 of the Code of Military Justice of 1968 to remove civilians and all children from the jurisdiction of the military courts.
  • Amend article 49 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to explicitly guarantee suspects the right to a lawyer during interrogation.
  • Amend article 401 of the Penal Code to criminalize all forms of torture and ill-treatment. Adopt the Convention Against Torture’s definition of torture.
  • Fund and staff the National Human Rights Institute with qualified, independent experts and ensure that it is able to visit all places of detention in the manner and frequency with which it decides and without fear of sanction or reprisal. 
  • Amend the Code of Military Justice of 1968 to expressly remove military court judges from the military chain of command.

To the Ministry of Defense and the Military Court

  • Increase the transparency of proceedings within the military courts, including by providing basic information to the public on the number and status of cases involving civilians and by making proceedings open to the public.
  • Ensure that detainees, upon admission to detention centers, are informed of and can exercise their right to speak with a lawyer, family member, or acquaintance; to meet with a lawyer; and to be referred to a judge promptly.
  • Establish a centralized and accessible system for receiving and processing complaints of military personnel abuse of suspects or other malfeasance and ensure that complaints are trackable through unique complaint numbers.
  • Refer all allegations of torture and ill-treatment received by the complaints mechanism, or otherwise known, to the public prosecutor and announce and publicly release the results of all investigations of torture and ill-treatment.
  • Investigate and punish personnel who are found guilty of torture or ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, or failure to promptly refer a detainee to a judge. 
  • Ensure that judges deem inadmissible all confessions and other evidence obtained under torture.
  • Mandate that independent doctors, who are not selected by officers at the detention facility in question, examine patients outside of the presence of army personnel, and record all indications of torture and other mistreatment. Include a copy of the physical examination report in suspects’ case files.
  • Ensure that all members of the Lebanese Armed Forces are clearly identifiable through name and rank tags on their uniforms at all times.
  • Provide safeguards to protect female detainees from all forms of abuse, including gender-specific abuse, and ensure that female officers are present at all times during arrest, transfer, and interrogation of female detainees.
  • Overturn all convictions of defendants that were based upon confessions extracted under duress.
  • Ensure that social workers are able to access children in military detention and are present during interrogations of children as required by article 34 of Lebanon’s Juvenile Law.

To the Ministry of Justice

  • Direct the office of the public prosecutor to investigate all torture and ill-treatment allegations against officials, regardless of rank or superior officer approval, and whether or not the victim or family has formally filed a complaint.

To the National Human Rights Institute and Preventative Mechanism

  • Conduct periodic monitoring of all places of detention including those under the auspices of the Ministry of Defense and submit any evidence of torture or ill-treatment to the public prosecutor.
  • Monitor Military Court trials to guard against the use of coerced confessions and evidence extracted under torture to prosecute defendants.

To Donor Countries

  • Encourage the Lebanese government to implement the recommendations of this report.
  • Audit funding and technical assistance provided to the Ministry of Defense to ensure that funding is not supporting policies, programs, or practices that violate international law, including torture and ill-treatment.
  • Fund the National Human Rights Institute and Preventative Mechanism.
  • Ensure that aid to the Ministry of Defense supports the development of internal oversight and accountability mechanisms within the Lebanese Armed Forces, including an independent body to investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment.
  • Refrain from funding Lebanese Armed Forces units that are credibly found to abuse human rights and make resumption of funding to such units subject to enactment of reforms that guarantee the cessation of such abuses and accountability for past violations.

To the Lebanese Authorities

  • Accept the request of the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers to visit Lebanon.

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