June 26, 2013

III. Findings

Physical Abuse and Torture

Human Rights Watch interviewed 52 individuals that were beaten, threatened, or humiliated at the moment of arrest or during investigation. According to the victims, the police did this for a variety of reasons, including to obtain information, to force a confession, to incriminate others, to punish or discipline detainees, and to ensure that victims of violence did not speak out against the abuse they experienced at the hands of the police. The most common reason for the torture was police efforts to obtain confessions by force.[27]

The forms of torture reported to Human Rights Watch included beatings on different parts of the body with fists, boots, or implements such as sticks, canes, rulers, or other devices. Eleven individuals said that officers in police stations and detention centers forced detainees to listen to the screams of other detainees being beaten in order to scare them into cooperating or confessing. 

Nabil, 32, was arrested by officers of the Drug Repression Bureau and taken to Zahleh police station in 2008 for drug use and detained for seven days. He told Human Rights Watch that he was tortured during his detention.[28] He said,

I was beaten for about an hour—punched and kicked. The police officer beating me kept repeating his name to me, telling me never to forget it. I never did. He stopped beating me only when I started crying and screaming his name over and over. After the investigation I was taken to a cell with another man. An officer asked us how we liked our coffee, so the man said he liked it black, and I asked for sugar. That’s when he told the other officer “One of them likes it bitter; the other sweet. What shall I get them?” That’s when they took us out of the cell and started beating us with thick electricity cables. The next day I heard another police officer talk about the beatings, saying, “the guys were bored; they were just having some fun with them.”[29]

Tamara, a transsexual woman, fled from her family in the south of Lebanon to Tripoli, a city in the north. Male members of her family visited her apartment several times in an attempt to convince her to return to the family home. Tamara told Human Rights Watch that when her neighbors saw men visiting her, they complained to the police that she was a sex worker and that the men coming to her house were her clients. That was enough for police to arrest her in early 2010, even though a preliminary investigation would have shown that these men were family members, not clients. The police took Tamara to Hobeish police station in Beirut. She said,

I saw blood and people being beaten, and I was terrified. They took me into an office and three police officers started hitting me: punching me with their fists and kicking me. They didn’t even tell me what I did or why I was there. When they found out I was transsexual, they started asking me really personal questions in very insulting ways. They asked me how I get fucked and told me that if I denied that I have anal sex with men they’ll imprison me. I was so scared and did not want to get beaten anymore that I said yes to everything. Every time I denied something I would get hit, what other option did I have?[30]

While Tamara was initially arrested for sex work, a Lebanese court found her guilty of “unnatural sexual acts,” and sentenced her to three months in prison. By the time her trial started, she had already spent five months in pre-trial detention.[31]

At the end of 2010, police arrested Carla, 26, for drug possession at a gas station in Sin el Fil, a suburb to the east of Beirut while she was in a stolen car with three men. They were taken to police intelligence in Jdeideh, where Carla says that they were beaten immediately upon arrival. She described how they used the infamous farrouj (roast chicken) torture technique, in which the victim is suspended by the feet with hands tied together to an iron bar passed under the knees.[32] She explained,

They farroujed me and beat me with canes until my whole body was swollen and I was bloodied. They pushed me down a set of stairs and punched me in the stomach. They refused to allow my mother to see me. I stayed there for five days in a solitary confinement cell. They blindfolded my eyes and forced me to sign some papers. I have no idea what was written on them. I began to go through really bad withdrawal—I was in so much pain. I begged the police to buy me my medication and showed them my prescription, but they refused. Instead they took me out of the room, handcuffed and blindfolded me, and hit me incessantly. They would hit me and tell me to say what they wanted me to say.[33]

When Human Rights Watch spoke to Carla in April 2012, approximately one and a half years after her arrest, she was in Baabda prison still awaiting trial for drug possession and theft. The UN special rapporteur on torture has recognized that withdrawal symptoms can cause severe pain and suffering, and that the use of withdrawal symptoms to obtain confessions, or for any purposes cited in article 1 of the CAT, might be torture.[34] According to the special rapporteur,

Drug users are particularly vulnerable when deprived of their liberty. One of the questions in this context concerns withdrawal symptoms and to what extent they may qualify as torture or ill-treatment. There can be no doubt that withdrawal symptoms can cause severe pain and suffering if not alleviated by appropriate medical treatment, and the potential for abuse of withdrawal symptoms, in particular in custody situations, is evident. In a 2003 case, without specifically stating that the woman died from withdrawal, the European Court of Human Rights found a violation of the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment based on “the responsibility owed by prison authorities to provide the requisite medical care for detained persons.”Moreover, if withdrawal symptoms are used for any of the purposes cited in definition of torture enshrined in article 1 of the Convention against Torture, this might amount to torture.[35]

In 2011, seven police officers from the Drug Repression Bureau (DRB) raided Ahmad’s house while he was in the shower. The raid was motivated by a report by Ahmad’s girlfriend who worked as an informant for the Hobeish branch of the DRB.[36] Ahmad explained what happened during the raid:

I was still in the shower when one of them hit me on the back of the head with the butt of his rifle. I fell to the ground, and all of them started kicking me. When they were done kicking me, they asked me if I knew who they were. When I replied, “The police,” they started kicking me again saying that they were from Hobeish and started asking me where my drugs were. One of the officers, well-known at Hobeish, threatened me and said if I didn’t speak, he would “fill my mouth with my own blood.”[37]

In 2010, members of Hizbollah’s security personnel detained Zahra, 24, accusing her of carrying cocaine, and handed her over to the police. She told Human Rights Watch that in the Ouzai police station, officers blindfolded her and threatened to hit her with a belt if she refused to confess to dealing drugs. She told Human Rights Watch that they put electricity cables on her feet, threatening to electrocute her if she did not confess and tell them to whom she sold drugs. “It didn’t matter what I said, they would hit me, threaten me, and write whatever they wanted. They made me sign something I didn’t even read. I needed food and medicine for my bruises, but they refused to give me either,” she said. Two days later, they took her to Hobeish police station, where she spent four days being interrogated. She was then taken to Baabda police station, where she says an officer beat her with a cane on her feet and told her he would let her call her brother if she let him touch her sexually. When she was transferred to Baabda prison for pre-trial detention, she told the head of the prison what had happened, but nothing came of it. Zahra has been in pre-trial detention for two years.[38]

Mohammad, 30, spent a total of 11 days in Zahleh police station in 2008 after police arrested him on charges of drug use. He told Human Rights Watch that he was tortured, and confessed under severe beating. He said, “They took me to interrogation naked, poured cold water on me, tied me to a desk with a chain, and hung me in the farrouj position. They broke my teeth and nose, and hit me with a gun until my shoulder was dislocated. At one point there were around 10 people beating me simultaneously. [When I was released] I had to pay over $5,000 in medical bills.”[39]

Mohammad’s case is one of the few documented instances in which an internal investigation into allegations of torture led to punishment. He says that the abusive first lieutenant in charge of his interrogation was demoted as a result. Despite this apparent admission by the state that torture was used in the investigation, Mohammad was still sentenced and spent five months in Zahleh prison—a sentence based on a confession obtained through torture, which the judge had acknowledged.[40]

Many of those interviewed by Human Rights Watch described how the police had attempted to force confessions, even fake ones, from them. Joseph recounts how, in 2007, police arrested him from his home for drug use, straight from his bed:

They started beating me while I was still in bed. When I asked them what was happening they didn’t answer. They just beat me more then took to me to Zahleh police station. I was there for three days, and every day they would beat me for three to five hours, trying to force me to give out names of people I used to take drugs with. They have the craziest methods of beating you up in a way that wouldn’t leave bruises. They would hit me incessantly with the Yellow Pages, the thickest book they had. The most horrifying thing they did was when they [hung me by my legs and] took a long piece of wood, placed it under my knees and handcuffed my hands underneath it. They left me like that for 3 hours; I couldn't feel my legs when they untied me. On the third day they blindfolded me and forced me to sign the forged confession paper. When I requested to read the confession they started beating me up again.[41]

Nadim’s Story

In October 2010, police arrested Nadim when they could not find his brother, whom they suspected of drug dealing. When they found no evidence that Nadim had engaged in drug dealing, he says, they changed the charge to homosexuality.[42]

Three plainclothes officers had initially approached Nadim while he was sitting at the foot of his building with the employees of a nearby women’s hairdresser’s shop. Nadim’s experience, detailed below, highlights many of the issues discussed in this report: arbitrary arrest, physical violence, intimidation, humiliation, and a forced confession.

Nadim recounts his story as follows:

They asked me about my brother. I told them that I hadn’t spoken to him in years—we are not on good terms; the neighbors can attest to that. They accused me of dealing drugs. I denied it, so one of the officers hit me hard across the face. He then accused me of having a gun and covering for my brother, just crazy accusations out of nowhere. He hit me more, handcuffed me, and dragged me to my house and searched it without a warrant. Of course, when I asked if they had one, I just got punched as an answer. The officer just kept hitting me the entire time, on my face, on my back. They put me in the back of the police car and took me to Hobeish [police station]. I overheard [one of the officers]… on the phone speaking to someone, telling them to tell my brother that they have me and that he should leave Beirut because if he finds him he will shoot him in the face.
The intimidation and the beatings never stopped. In Hobeish, the officer told me if my drug test came out positive he would beat me senseless. When the results came back, he asked the officer carrying them whether it was positive. The other officer raised his eyebrows to indicate that it wasn’t. He assumed I didn’t see that and said, “Oh, positive for coke and heroin?” as if to justify beating me more. He took me into a room and made me crawl under the bed to humiliate me.
He then asked me why I had a condom on me. I asked him in turn whether it was illegal to carry a condom, so he hit me again. When he asked me why I had messages and names of gay men on my phone, I asked him whether it was illegal to speak to gay men. He hit me again so hard my eye split and I began bleeding. I begged him to stop hitting my face but this egged him on further and he hit me even harder. He forced me to sign a confession that I have sex with men, all the while hurling punches and abuse at me. He then made me take off all my clothes and looked at me, told me I’m a faggot, insulted me, threatened me.
After a while another officer came in and made me take off all my clothes again, hit me, and insulted me. He tried to get information out of me about other gay men or pimps or prostitutes, and even asked me whether I pay for sex or get paid for it. Whenever I would deny their accusations I would get beaten over and over. I then asked to be able to make a phone call, but he refused and took me back to my cell.
The next day, two more men came in and interrogated me again. By this time the drug issue was dropped, the case was now about homosexuality. I was allowed a phone call this time, so I called the LGBT rights organization Helem. The officer took the phone from me and told them that a lawyer is not allowed in Hobeish during interrogation, and if they wanted to see me they should go to the public prosecutor’s office.
When I told the interrogating officer that I was forced to confess to having sex under duress, he got a thick electricity cable and whipped my palms. He then said that he would get a forensic doctor to check me, but that I would have to pay. I didn’t have any money so I didn’t end up paying him, but if I had, they probably would just have pocketed it.
I asked him to write down [the name of the officer who]  had beat me into confessing, but he said he wouldn’t and warned me not to speak about it, threatening that if I did I would regret it for the rest of my life.
He kept intimidating me, trying to get me to confess again. He lied to me, saying that if I confessed it would be just a minor crime, but if I continued to deny it and the anal examination turned out positive it would become a felony and I would be in jail for three years.
The exam turned out negative, and so they had no choice but to release me without charge. They had no evidence of anything. Still, they told me that they would release me only on condition that I become an informant for them and snitch on my brother and on other drug dealers, users, gay men, and prostitutes.[43]

Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment

Twenty-one women detained for sex work or drug use told Human Rights Watch that they had experienced some form of sexual violence. Seventeen individuals reported being denied food, water, and medication when they needed it, or of having their medication confiscated. Nine reported being handcuffed in bathrooms or in extremely uncomfortable positions for hours at a time.

Threats by police were commonplace. Almost all those who spoke to Human Rights Watch said that they were threatened with physical violence, with five reporting that police threatened to physically harm their families as a form of retaliation or punishment. Interviewees told Human Rights Watch that police regularly used abusive language, that it was expected. Women interviewees reported sexually abusive language.

While Ramzy was driving through an area known to be a meeting place for gay men one night in September 2010, a young man flagged him down and indicated that he wanted to have sex with him. Ramzy told Human Rights Watch that after the man got into his car, another man came up to the car window, grabbed his shirt, and slapped him. The young man sitting next to him began beating him as well. Ramzy assumed he was being robbed as they dragged him into the back of a civilian car where one of the men punched him in the face.[44]

At that point, he still did not know that the men were police officers or that he was being arrested. He only learned that when the men took him to Hobeish police station where they confiscated his pants and ordered him to do 10 sit-ups naked.[45] He told Human Rights Watch,

I looked well-off, so I didn’t get beaten up or anything [after I got to the station]. My other cellmates did though, including one gay guy in his forties who was also entrapped in a similar manner. I stayed in detention for a week. They questioned me for about four hours, and the investigators kept trying to twist my story. I ended up signing a statement that I did not entirely agree with.[46]

Some police stations now have cameras installed in an effort to monitor police behavior. However, as illustrated by the experience of Ahmad, 44, arrested in 2011 for drug use, police officers who are intent on using violence have found a way around that. He said,

Whenever I’d hear the phrase “come stand here,” I knew it was code for “come here so we can beat you up” outside the view of the camera. That’s how it would happen in the station if they weren’t satisfied with the beating they gave me on the way there. They made me stand in the corner for six hours without being allowed to speak. If I opened my mouth at all, I would get beaten.
Officers would visit me one at a time, one would threaten me with violence and one would be nice to me asking me to cooperate. Good-cop/bad-cop style: first they beat you; then they psychologically terrorize you.[47]

Ahmad was one of the few individuals interviewed by Human Rights Watch who complained to the investigative judge about his treatment by the police. He reported that he showed the judge the bruises on his back and on his legs 27 days after his arrest. Ahmad says that he does not know what happened to his complaint and that he has no way of following up.[48]

Sexual Abuse and Gender-Based Violence

Human Rights Watch interviewed 25 women who had been detained for possession of drugs or for sex work. Twenty-one of those women told Human Rights Watch that they experienced some form of sexual violence by the police. This abuse included unwanted touching or groping, sexual assault, and rape. Women reported that they were blackmailed for sex in exchange for drugs or promises of better treatment or being set free.

Sexual Abuse of Drug Users

Fadwa told Human Rights Watch she was sexually assaulted by police. In the summer of 2008, the police caught her and a female friend using drugs in the bathroom at a large outdoor party and used their positions as police officers to force them to have sex with them.[49] Fadwa recounts her story as follows:

Two officers followed us and went into the other bathroom stall and saw what we were doing because they climbed on the toilet and peeked at us from above. They told us to get out and led us out aggressively by our hands.
They took us to a closed space in the event venue, a bit far out where no one could see. The space was separated into two different rooms. One officer went with me and the other one went with my friend. That's how they separated us in order to “investigate.”
He asked me about the drugs then took them and put them in his pocket. As I was answering him, he kissed me on the lips so I pushed him away. That’s when he asked me, “Why, do you have a boyfriend?” I didn’t, but thought that might protect me, so I said yes and told him that my boyfriend was here with me.
It didn’t matter though. He asked for my number so that he could see me later on and dialed my number to check whether the number I gave him was right. He kissed me again and grabbed my breast so I pushed him away, once again.
I told him that I wanted to see my friend, so I went into the other room. The officer who was there told my friend to leave and the officer that was with me left as well, leaving me alone with the other policeman.
He asked me where I got the drugs from and did a “full body search.” It was humiliating, I felt so violated. He put his hands on my breasts and said that he wanted to check if I was hiding anything in my bra. I didn’t know at the time that he had no right to search me.
I forcefully took his hand off my breast, so he sat on the stairs, spread his legs and pulled me to him. He put his hand in my pants and touched my ass. I told him I wouldn’t sleep with him, and that I was a virgin.
When I was leaving he pushed me to the wall and started really being aggressive. He unzipped his pants and pushed my neck towards his erect penis so that I would give him a blow job so I told him I couldn’t do that because I have herpes and that if I gave him a blow job I’d transmit the infection to him. That still didn’t deter him. He grabbed my hand and put it on his penis and forced me to give him a hand job while he had one hand on my ass and the other hand on my breasts.
As soon as he was “finished” I ran away while he was fixing his clothes.

The next day the officer who was first with me in the first room called me. He kept calling me for a week asking to see me. I kept saying no to him, and then one day I yelled at him, and he never called back.

Rather than lodge a formal complaint, she chose to use her family’s connections with high ranking members of the Internal Security Forces to discipline the police officer “off the record.” Fadwa said that she later found out that senior officers had him beaten up. When asked why she did not lodge a formal complaint, Fadwa said that the risk of being prosecuted for drugs if she complained was too great, so she saw her options as either keeping quiet, getting revenge through informal channels, or filing a formal complaint and risk going to prison.[50]

Nawal, 29, also told Human Rights Watch she was sexually assaulted by police. In July 2012, Nawal was arrested by a military police officer late at night in the Ashrafieh district of Beirut following an altercation with a man who was harassing her. She said she was taken to the military police station in the Mathaf area, where the officers found she was carrying pills without a prescription. She was kept overnight at the military police station because, they told her, there was no space available at the Hobeish police station, where she was supposed to be transferred. The next day she was taken to Baabda police station, where a police officer sexually assaulted her. She said,

At the time there was only one police officer at the station. He asked me if someone had searched me and led me by the hand next to the bathroom. He ran his hands all over me, put them inside my bra and my underwear, and forced his fingers inside me. I feel ashamed, but I was too scared and weak to protest. Later, when the shift changed, another police officer followed me into the bathroom when I went to wash my face. He cornered me and took off his pants and forced me to touch him. I was crying but did as he said.[51]

Sexual Abuse of Sex Workers

Sex workers are particularly vulnerable to sexual assault and harassment. In March 2012, Abeer was arrested for allegedly engaging in sex work out of a cafe in Hayy el Sellom, a poor district in the southern suburbs of Beirut. Abeer told Human Rights Watch that she was arrested for no reason and has since been held in Baabda prison awaiting trial.[52] Abeer told Human Rights Watch,

I didn’t understand why I was arrested and shoved into the car. One of the officers told me it was because I’m a prostitute and not to lie about it or he’ll kill me. I started to cry, I just didn’t understand what happened. A few years ago I was arrested for sex work, but that is over, this time I really wasn’t doing anything. When we got to Hobeish [police station] I was slapped around and insulted and thrown in a cell with other women. A police officer in civilian clothes came into the room and tried to get someone, anyone, to have sex with him. He would try to touch us, grab our breasts, at first telling us that if we let him, he’d bring us cigarettes. When he touched me, I pushed him away and then he got more forceful, squeezing my breasts really hard and yelling at me. When I screamed, he put his hand over my mouth and hit me hard across the face.
The next day another officer interrogated me, and I told him that I didn’t know why I was in detention. He made fun of me and told me to shut up and sign a paper. I don’t read, so I don’t even know what was on it. They kept me there for four days, and I don’t even know why.[53]

Another woman, Gharam, told Human Rights Watch that she was raped by a police officer in the Gemmeyze police station in February 2012. She was arrested after police detained her daughter for sex work; she was charged with facilitating her daughter’s prostitution activities.[54] She said,

I stayed in Gemmeyze station for three days and they treated me and my daughter very badly. One of the officers told me to show him how I set my daughter up with clients and the others started laughing. We are poor; I don’t have a husband; we have nothing to eat—what could we do? During my time there one of the officers came to me at night and told me that if I didn’t let him sleep with me, I’d go to jail for 10 years and my daughter for even longer. I was so scared that I let him. The next day I was transferred to the Baabda station where I spent another three days before going to Baabda prison. I didn’t tell anyone what happened, I was too scared. He had threatened me to stay quiet. I’ve been here since February, and I don’t have money for a lawyer. I have no idea where my daughter is. Why am I still here?[55]

Soumaya, a sex worker who has been in pretrial detention in Baabda prison for nine months, told Human Rights Watch that it was expected that police officers would try to have sex with women arrested for prostitution.[56] She explained,

It’s normal. They don’t see us as human beings. They know that we are poor, that we probably don’t have families, and that no one asks about us. We’re easy to take advantage of. I was arrested three times in the past five years. Every time a police officer would come to the cell and try something with me. At first I protested, I fought back, but then I understood that it’s useless. If you want to be treated well, you have to have sex with them. If you do that, they will take care of you. Otherwise you could get beaten, insulted, even raped. If you let them sleep with you, they might even help you get out without charges.[57]

Women often do not report police violence, especially violence with a sexual component. According to the Lebanese domestic violence NGO Kafa, it is extremely rare for women to report sexual violence because of the social stigma associated with being a survivor of sexual assault, fears that they will be blamed or not taken seriously, and the re-traumatizing process of reporting such crimes in Lebanon, which usually entails speaking to officials who have no training in dealing with victims of sexual violence.[58] When a complaint is filed, the complainant is often taken directly to the place where the assault took place by male police officers, and many times she is forced to confront her attacker directly, a process which can be extremely difficult and which many women prefer to avoid.

In August 2009, Rasha Moumneh, a Human Rights Watch researcher, was threatened and physically assaulted by a police officer at the Msaitbeh police station when she went there in her professional capacity to visit a detainee who had been arrested for homosexuality. This incident, detailed below, illustrates the extent to which prejudice and discrimination affect police behavior towards detainees, and the degree to which such behavior is practiced with impunity.

When Moumneh arrived at the police station seeking to speak with the detainee, the officer asked Moumneh whether she was “a girl or a woman,” an obvious attempt to intimidate and harass her by confronting her with a question about her sexual experience and implying that her sexual behavior was open to police scrutiny. When she refused to answer, he threatened to launch an investigation against her and subject her to a forensic exam to determine whether or not she was a virgin. Moumneh said he had no right to ask her such a question, and that while he could conduct an investigation if he so chose, she had the right to know on what basis he was asking her these questions and whether there was an actual charge against her. Throughout the exchange, the officer kept yelling at her, telling her to “shut up” and threatening to kick her out of the station and deny her access to the detainee the police had called her in to see. When Moumneh asked about the charge leveled at the detainee, he said that the detainee was “a faggot.”

When Moumneh asked whether the detainee had been caught engaging in homosexual sex, the police officer responded that it was not necessary for him to actually have engaged in any sexual act to charge him with “homosexuality,” and then stated categorically that “[I] step on this law with my boot,” and that “I am the law and will implement it as I see fit.” When Moumneh mentioned that she worked for a human rights organization, the police officer laughed and made fun of her and of the very notion of human rights. He then informed her that he was a member of Hizbullah, and when she asked what relevance that fact had to the situation at hand, he grabbed her arm, pushed her against the wall, and called an officer to “remove this garbage from the station.”

Medico-Legal Abuse: Anal Examinations

Although Article 534 of the penal code criminalizes sexual acts, police seldom detain people who are actually found having sex. Arrests for homosexuality are arbitrary on principle, even more so because the law itself does not explicitly criminalize homosexuality. One method the police use for determining culpability in these cases is anal examinations conducted by a forensic doctor on orders from the public prosecutor. On July 28, 2012, the Lebanese NGO The Legal Agenda launched a successful campaign to end forensic anal examinations targeting first the Lebanese Doctors’ Syndicate and then the Ministry of Justice. The campaign followed a raid on a porn cinema in the Burj Hammoud district of Beirut in August 2012 in which 36 men were arrested and subjected to the procedure.[59] Three of the men were charged with homosexuality and public lewdness, while the rest were released.

Forensic anal examinations are medically and scientifically unsound and violate international standards against torture and cruel and degrading treatment, including the Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Lebanon has ratified. The U.N. Committee against Torture, in its 2002 review of Egypt, investigated the issue of forensic anal examinations and called on the government “to prevent all degrading treatment on the occasion of body searches.”[60]

The Legal Agenda spearheaded efforts to end these examinations. In response to these efforts, Dr. Sharaf Abu Sharaf, head of the Lebanese Doctors’ Syndicate, issued a directive on August 8, 2012. The directive called for an end to the procedure, stating that forensic anal examinations are medically and scientifically useless in determining whether consensual anal sex has taken place and that they constitute a form of torture. He added that they also violate article 30 of the Lebanese law on medical ethics, which prohibits doctors from engaging in harmful practices.

In a statement given to the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar on August 2, Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi said that he had two months earlier written to Lawyer General Said Mirza urging him “to halt random rectal examination procedures, after the issue was raised by human rights organizations.” However, the lawyer general’s subsequent directive, the text of which The Legal Agenda published on August 7, contradicts the spirit of the Minister’s statement to Al-Akhbar.

The Legal Agenda stated that far from ordering an end to the procedures, the lawyer general’s directive in fact institutionalized them further, instructing public prosecutors to order the anal examination be carried out only “with the consent of the accused, according to standard medical procedures, and in a manner that does not cause significant harm.” The directive added that if the accused refuses to undergo the examination, he should be informed that his refusal “constitutes proof of the crime.”[61]

After much public pressure, Minister Qortbawi released a statement addressed to the public prosecutor on August 11, 2012, asking him to issue a directive ending anal examinations completely, although that has yet to happen. [62]

Nevertheless, this statement constitutes a significant step forward for the rights of LGBT persons in Lebanon, although it remains to be seen whether the examinations will indeed stop completely. In addition, while this procedure has been one of the more common ways police “prove” culpability in homosexuality cases, it is not the only method. As detailed below, LGBT people, like others in Lebanon, are often coerced into confessing.

Lack of Due Process

The Lebanese Code of Criminal Procedure guarantees detained suspects due process rights, such as the right to contact a person of their choosing (a family member, employer, etc.), the right to meet with a lawyer, the right to an interpreter, the right to be examined by a medical doctor upon request, and the right to speedy judicial review of their detention.

Article 47 of the Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates that the police must inform all detained suspects of these rights, although almost all of the individuals interviewed by Human Rights Watch reported that the police did not inform them of their rights, particularly the right not to answer any questions, guaranteed in the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Individuals who had been detained for sex work, drug use, and homosexuality in Lebanon described to Human Rights Watch being picked up by police and detained without due process: 19 former detainees told Human Rights Watch by did not have access to a lawyer; 12 claimed that investigative judges did not take allegations of torture and forced confessions into consideration; and 14 were not informed of the charges against them.

Under Lebanese law, police are allowed to detain suspects for a maximum of 48 hours for preliminary investigation before sending them to appear before an investigative judge, the 48-hour period renewable once with permission from the public prosecutor. According to a report by the American Bar Association, suspects are routinely held in police stations or courthouse holding cells in excess of that legal time limit. Additionally, Lebanese law provides that the period of custody should be calculated from the moment of arrest,[63] but if the arrest happens at the beginning of a weekend it is common for police to begin the calculation the following week.[64] Human Rights Watch documented 15 cases in which suspects had been detained for over 96 hours in either the police station or in a courthouse holding cell before appearing in front of a judge.

Among the reasons for these violations are lack of funding and the limited resources available to the judicial system, which suffers from a lack of staffing and extremely high caseloads.

Eleven interviewees who were arrested for drug use told Human Rights Watch that police denied them access to medical treatment when they requested it. In only four cases were doctors able to visit individuals while in detention. As noted below, denial of medical treatment to induce withdrawal symptoms may constitute torture or ill-treatment.

In some cases, police have even used a suspect’s medical condition to extract information from them—an act that the special rapporteur on torture has made clear can amount to torture.[65] The case of Saeed, 24, illustrates the problem. Police arrested Saeed in 2010 for using heroin. He told Human Rights Watch that he started to go into withdrawal on his second day in Hobeish police station. He said,

I was in so much pain, I was screaming and crying. I begged them to let me see a doctor, but they just laughed at me. They used the fact that I was withdrawing to get me to confess and to implicate other people. They knew I was in too much pain to resist, and they promised me that they would let me see a doctor if I told them what they wanted to know. I never did see a doctor though. Leaving me like that was their way of punishing me.[66]

Nabil was arrested in 2008 for using drugs. He told Human Rights Watch that he was severely beaten in Zahleh police station, where he says that police detained him for eight days so that his bruises would disappear before he was let out. He said that throughout the eight-day period he experienced extremely painful withdrawal symptoms and kept asking for his medication but that the police ignored him.[67]

Although Lebanese law guarantees the right to a lawyer, the wording and implementation of the relevant provision, article 49 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, raises serious concerns about whether adequate checks and balances are in place to prevent torture and mistreatment by the police. Article 49 states that “the public prosecutor should conduct the initial interrogation. If he does, the suspect’s lawyer may be present during interrogation.” While the law does not expressly prohibit the presence of a lawyer during police interrogation, police interpret it as guaranteeing the presence of a lawyer only if the public prosecutor carries out the questioning, and as not applicable to police interrogations. Police are very strict about denying suspects access to lawyers during this phase. This is particularly a concern since most questioning of suspects is conducted by the police rather than the public prosecutor, although such interrogation is primarily the latter’s job. Torture and mistreatment most often take place during police interrogation as police seek confessions. Allowing a lawyer to be present during this crucial phase would almost certainly help prevent police abuse.

Ala’a, a non-Lebanese Arab national, was arrested in April 2012 while he was playing cards with two friends in a parked car next to the house of a prominent Lebanese politician. Police accused them of homosexuality, and kept Ala’a in detention for two weeks, moving him from station to station. Ala’a was not allowed to inform his family, who were abroad at the time, and his lawyer was denied access to him twice. After not hearing from him, his parents became worried and traveled to Lebanon, looking for him in hospitals and jails until they found him in General Security.[68] 

Mounira, arrested for drug use in 2011, told Human Rights Watch that the police actually forced her to call her father and lie to him, telling him that she was sleeping at a friend’s house rather than detained at the police station so he would not come looking for her.[69]

According to human rights lawyer Nizar Saghieh, judges often impose sentences that equal the time detainees have already spent in detention in police stations, effectively giving police the power to determine the sentence. As a result, the sentences for the same offense can arbitrarily range between a few days and several months.[70] Saghieh added that the police often do not abide by laws regulating how long detainees can be held before being sent to investigative judges and as a result  the police themselves effectively determining the timing of trials. According to Saghieh, the police justify this by saying that they do not have enough cars or personnel.

Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him. This does not always happen in Lebanon. For example, when Othman was arrested in 2010 after being entrapped by a police officer posing as a gay man and asking him for sex, he was beaten, bloodied, and forced to spend a night in Hobeish police station before he was informed that he had been arrested for homosexuality.[71]

Police arrested Samira in 2009 on suspicion of sex work as she was on her way home from a grocery store, telling her it was because of the way she looked. She told Human Rights Watch that the police had no evidence against her and no reason to arrest her. After six days of humiliation, beatings, abuse, and a forced confession, she was transferred to Baabda prison for two months of pre-trial detention. During the six days she was held in a police station before her transfer she was not permitted to call her family. A court later found her innocent of all charges.[72]

Michel was arrested and detained for four days in Hobeish police station in June 2012 for carrying medication prescribed to him by a psychiatrist at Skoun where he was being treated for substance dependence.[73]  He said,

I was at a mall in Ashrafieh having a drink with my friend. When I went out to get cigarettes, three men approached me. One of them stuck his hand in my pocket and told me he was looking for drugs, so I told him that I didn't have any and asked him who he was and told him that he didn't have the right to put his hand in my pocket and search me out of the blue. So he told me that he and the other two men were from the ISF and that they knew that one of the people I was with had drugs on him. They told me they would let me go if I called my friend over. I did, but they didn’t find anything on him. They searched me once again and that’s when they found the medication that I carry. They asked me what the medications were for, and I told them very clearly that I go to Skoun for treatment and these meds were prescribed, but they insisted that I was a drug user. I kept telling them that I was clean and that I had a urine test yesterday but they didn’t care.[74]

Michel says that the police then handcuffed him and dragged him into their jeep and took him to Baydoun police station in the Ashrafieh district of Beirut. Even after Michel contacted his psychiatrist who confirmed to the police that he is a patient and that the pills he was carrying are prescribed, the police did not release him. Police only freed him after four days in detention.[75]

Carla, whose story appeared earlier in this report, was badly beaten and detained for 21 days in the Baabda police station. She was not allowed to see or call her mother despite repeated requests. Police then took her to Hobeish police station, where she was detained for another four days while police forced her to help them entrap a drug dealer. She says she was then moved to the Ouzai police station where she was held for one week of continuous interrogation. While there, she says a police officer suggested he could get her released if she slept with him, but she declined. After that she was taken to Baabda prison, where she was still being held when she spoke to Human Rights Watch more than a year later, without ever having seen an investigating judge.[76]

Role of Defense Lawyers

Defense lawyers sometimes contribute to ISF impunity. Seven former detainees told Human Rights Watch that their lawyers had advised them against complaining to the judge about abuse on the grounds that it would either take too long or be difficult to prove, especially in cases where there were no physical signs of abuse.

According to research conducted by the American Bar Association, Lebanese defense lawyers sometimes fail to appear at court hearings, often without consequence. The ABA report also documented instances where lawyers did not adequately represent their clients, charging them extra fees, for example, or not pursuing correct legal procedures.[77]

Human Rights Watch also heard of cases in which defense lawyers did not properly follow up on their clients’ cases. Joseph, arrested in 2007 for drug use, said that he asked the police to send a forensic doctor to visit him in detention. A doctor came and took pictures of bruises inflicted by police, but Joseph does not know what happened to the doctor’s report and says it was not included in his file.[78] He told Human Rights Watch that he repeatedly asked his lawyer to follow up on the doctor’s report, but the lawyer did nothing. The end result was a conviction and no proof that he had been beaten by the police.

Police Corruption

Corruption is pervasive in Lebanon. Transparency International’s corruption perception index ranked Lebanon 134 out of 183 countries in 2011.[79] According to a defense lawyer interviewed by Human Rights Watch who preferred to remain anonymous, lawyers and defendants regularly pay bribes to police for either favorable treatment or simply to complete procedures in a timely manner. The pervasive system of personal and familial connections (wasta) allows well-connected people to exert influence for preferential treatment. Such preferential treatment can be as small as getting good food in detention, to avoiding a beating, to having the case dropped entirely.

Nabil was arrested in 2011 for using drugs and taken to Hobeish police station, where he says he has strong family connections. “I was treated fine,” he says. “There were many people there getting beaten up; I could hear their screams, but I wasn’t one of them. You just need to make sure they get a call from the right person, and you’ll be fine.”[80]

Nine other individuals interviewed by Human Rights Watch who were arrested for drug use or homosexuality reported that their socio-economic status played a large part in determining how police treated them in custody. Ali’s case is one illustration of this. In 2007, police arrested Ali and his boyfriend in Ashrafieh for engaging in sexual acts in a parked car. Ali said that when they found out that he was a university professor, their tone changed completely from one of insults and verbal abuse to respect. Ali recounted that the investigating officer even went so far as to completely make up a bizarre story about how he and his friend were found in that situation and how it was misinterpreted by the police as being a homosexual encounter. “Other people in the cell with me who were poor and destitute were treated like garbage,” he said. Ali and his boyfriend were released two days later without charge.[81]

Marwan comes from a prominent, well-off family. He was arrested four times over the course of three years, the last time in 2010. In each instance, Marwan says that he was treated well by the police, while the people he was with, who did not enjoy the same social standing or affluence, were beaten and forced to sign false confessions. This was vividly demonstrated when police arrested Marwan and a friend of his in April 2010. Both were carrying small amounts of cocaine. Marwan told Human Rights Watch,

I was immediately able to pull strings to avoid getting charged. My friend didn’t have the same connections though, and the police insisted that they had to have something to show for the arrest. They took me aside and tried to convince me to sign a statement saying that my friend was attempting to get me into cocaine and that he’s a dealer, making me out to be innocent. First, that’s untrue: we’re both just cocaine users. Second, I wasn’t about to send my friend to jail for five years while I got off scot-free. We argued back and forth, and finally they figured out a way to get us both released without charge.[82]

Farah suffered from police mistreatment after being arrested for drug use, but her boyfriend’s family’s personal connections were strong enough that she was released from custody without charge. In the summer of 2007, a police officer caught her taking drugs at a beach in the south of Lebanon. She says that when the police officer saw her, he grabbed her by the hair and dragged her along the stairs as she screamed. Her boyfriend at the time saw what was happening and called for her but did not follow them because he was also on drugs and was scared he would get caught as well.[83] She said,

They took away my phone and threw me in the police jeep. There were two other men with me in the car who looked like they were on drugs. I started yelling from the car that I had the right to call my parents, and that’s when the officer who was standing next to me came in and slapped me repeatedly. He was wearing a ring on one of his fingers, so my cheek turned blue. When he left, I started yelling again asking for my phone; that’s when he came into the jeep and kicked me in the stomach, saying, “Can you imagine what my boot would feel like on a girl’s stomach?”
A while later, I started yelling again because one of the men in the jeep was overdosing, and I begged the police to take him to the Red Cross ambulance parked nearby. He didn’t care and hit my leg with his rifle. I started crying from pain, and he started yelling at me to stop crying and telling me that it was none of my business. We stayed in the car for an hour and half until my boyfriend came back with his father who has personal connections with the police and was able to get me out. When my boyfriend’s dad saw the bruises on my face, he yelled at the officers, but they just told him that I deserved it because I was driving them crazy.[84]

Wissam was arrested three times, once in 2007 and twice in 2008, and told Human Rights Watch he experienced both police violence and police corruption. The first time Wissam was arrested, he was returning home after having bought drugs in the Bekaa region. When he was caught, he quickly swallowed the bag of drugs before the police could find anything. Wissam says he was beaten at the Zahleh police station for 24 hours.[85] He said,

They wanted to know where I hid the drugs, I kept telling them that I had swallowed it all and that I was in pain but they kept beating me. It wasn't until I started overdosing because one of the bags burst in my stomach that they took me to Khoury Hospital. When I went to court and reported this to the judge, the officers denied it, and the judge quickly closed the case and dismissed the charges without investigating anything. I don't know what happened to my file. It doesn’t even exist.[86]

In 2008, Wissam was arrested in Beirut and brought to Hobeish police station. He told Human Rights Watch that the police extorted him for money because he came from a well-known and rich family: “When they found out who I was, they beat me up for two days until the money came. When they got the cash they wanted, they released me without charge.”

Twenty days later Wissam was arrested again for drug possession and was tortured by the police, who this time were seeking the names of drug dealers. He told Human Rights Watch,

First Lieutenant … told me that no matter what strings I pulled this time, I wouldn’t be released and that he would teach me a lesson. After a really bad beating, punches, kicks, and more beatings with sticks, he ordered the officers to take me to a cell that they had filled with water around 10 cm deep, so that I’d be forced to stand up and wouldn’t be able to sleep. I stood there like that for four days, all because they wanted me to give them names of dealers.[87]

Mounira was arrested in 2011 for drug use in the Mar Mkhayel district of Beirut. She knew the name of the arresting officer, who was also the one who beat her, but she refused to give it to Human Rights Watch out of fear of retaliation. The police transferred her to Hobeish police station where she says they forced her to assist them in entrapping drug dealers.[88] She said,

They forced me to call the person who gave me the drugs to set up an appointment with him, promising me that if I did so they would let me go. We agreed to meet that day, but [the dealer] never showed up. They took me back to Hobeish but wouldn’t let me call my family. My mom has cancer and my dad has heart problems, but they still wouldn’t let me call. At around midnight, they told me to call my dad and tell him that I was sleeping at a friend’s house.
At 7 a.m. the next day, I went into interrogation in the morning. The investigating officer kept trying to get other names out of me. He started hitting me and pulling me by the hair and forcing me to admit to things that simply were not true. I said yes to everything after that because I wanted the beating to stop, and I was really scared. The next day they even tried to stick me with an accusation of drug dealing—just like that. Every time my phone rang they would try to force me to ask the person on the line how many grams they want, but I refused, because I just don’t deal.
On the fourth day, they brought me in front of a man they had arrested, a dealer, and asked me if I knew him. We both said no. The officer grabbed me and turned me to face him and asked me again menacingly if I was absolutely sure I didn’t know him. When I said no again, he hit my face and punched me so hard in the stomach I couldn’t stand up straight for hours. He said that I had previously confessed to knowing him. It wasn’t true. I had no idea what they had written down. They just forced me to sign, and during the beatings I was just delirious from fear, so I just agreed to everything. I spent eight days in Hobeish and five days in Baabda police station, and I’ve been in Baabda prison since then awaiting my trial. When I was taken to the investigative judge on the ninth day, I told him that I had only signed because I was forced to. He didn’t say a thing.[89]

Judges’ Reliance on Forced Confessions

Forcing someone to confess violates not only international law but also article 47 of the Lebanese Code of Criminal Procedure, which states that “if [suspects] refuse to speak and remain silent, this must be mentioned in the official report. They must not be forced to speak or to be interrogated, under penalty of invalidity of their statements.” Our interviews suggest that, despite this provision, police continue to use physical force and threats to obtain confessions, and judges continue to accept such confessions as evidence, particularly in cases involving drugs.

As noted above, confession remains a key element of many investigations in Lebanon. Judges and policemen often repeat the popular saying “confession is the king of evidence,” reflecting a combination of bad habit and inadequate training, despite efforts by donor agencies to equip the ISF with the tools and the training necessary to conduct scientific investigations without having to rely on confessions.[90]

When detainees are brought before an investigative judge, they have an opportunity to confirm or deny the confession and state whether duress was used. However, most individuals interviewed by Human Rights Watch whose confessions were coerced did not report the duress, whether because of threats by the police, because the judge did not ask them, or because of fear of retaliation. Even when they did report that their confessions had been extracted under duress, judges tended to ignore the allegations. Speaking about arrests for homosexuality, human rights lawyer Nizar Saghieh says that in many cases a confession, even one extracted under duress, is the sole piece of evidence used to convict a suspect.[91]

Thirty-nine individuals told Human Rights Watch that police coerced them to sign statements that they had not read or did not agree with, in part or in their entirety. Courts’ heavy reliance on these statements constitutes a serious violation of a suspect’s right to due process and a fair trial.

Even though Lebanese law prohibits the use of forced confessions to convict people of crimes, 30 former detainees told Human Rights Watch that courts used such confessions to convict them despite their having informed the court that the confessions were obtained by force, allegations the courts ignored.

[27] Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH), Kafa, and Permanent Peace Movement, Arbitrary Detention and Torture: The Bitter Reality of Lebanon, January 2011, http://case2769.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/torture-and-arbitrary-detention-engl.pdf, (accessed February 4, 2013).

[28] Human Rights Watch interview with Nabil, Beirut, Lebanon, March 22, 2012.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Human Rights Watch interview with Tamara, Beirut, Lebanon, April 15, 2012.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Human Rights Watch interview with Carla, Beirut, Lebanon, April 14, 2012.

[33] Ibid.

[34] UN Commission on Human Rights, Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak, A/HRC/10/44, January 14, 2009, para 57.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Human Rights Watch interview with Ahmad, Beirut, Lebanon, March 29, 2012.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Human Rights Watch interview with Zahra, Beirut, Lebanon, July 5, 2012.

[39] Human Rights Watch interview with Mohammad, Beirut, Lebanon, June 3, 2012.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Human Rights Watch interview with Joseph, Beirut, Lebanon, May 14, 2012.

[42] Human Rights Watch interview with Nadim, Beirut, Lebanon, July 12, 2012.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Human Rights Watch interview with Ramzy, Beirut, Lebanon, March 29, 2012.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Human Rights Watch interview with Fadwa, Beirut, Lebanon, June 14, 2012.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Human Rights Watch interview with Nawal, Beirut, Lebanon, August 15, 2012.

[52] Human Rights Watch interview with Abeer, Baabda, Lebanon, July 2, 2012.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Human Rights Watch interview with Gharam, Beirut, Lebanon, April 14, 2012.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Human Rights Watch interview with Soumaya, Beirut, Lebanon, May 15, 2012.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Human Rights Watch interview with Ghada Jabbour (Kafa), Beirut, Lebanon, August 17, 2012.

[59] “Lebanon: Stop ‘Tests of Shame,’” Human Rights Watch news release, August 10, 2012, http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/08/10/lebanon-stop-tests-shame.

[60] Committee against Torture, “Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 19 of the Convention: Conclusions and recommendations of the Committee against Torture, Egypt,” CAT/C/CR/29/4 December 23, 2002.

[61] The Legal Agenda, “After the head Beirut’s doctor’s syndicate’s directive to stop the tests of shame, the Legal Agenda publishes the public prosecutor’s directive legalizing them”, August 7, 2012, http://legal-agenda.com/newsarticle.php?id=136&folder=legalnews&lang=en (accessed February 4, 2013).

[62] Letter from Shakib Qortbawi to public prosecutors, August 11, 2012, http://www.legal-agenda.com/images/legalnews/1346419736-كتاب%20وزير%20العدل%20شكيب%20قرطباوي.pdf (accessed February 7, 2013).

[63] Lebanese Code of Criminal Procedure, art. 47.

[64] Human Rights Watch interview with Nizar Saghieh, Beirut, Lebanon, August 21, 2012.

[65] UN Commission on Human Rights, Report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak, A/HRC/10/44, January 14, 2009, para 57.

[66] Human Rights Watch interview with Saeed, Beirut, Lebanon, July 2, 2012.

[67] Human Rights Watch interview with Nabil, Beirut, Lebanon, April 12, 2012.

[68] Human Rights Watch interview with Ala’a, Beirut, Lebanon, August 13, 2012.

[69] Human Rights Watch interview with Mounira, Beirut, Lebanon, March 27, 2012.

[70] Human Rights Watch interview with Nizar Saghieh, Beirut, Lebanon, August 21, 2012.

[71] Human Rights Watch interview with Othman, Beirut, Lebanon, April 4, 2012.

[72] Human Rights Watch interview with Samira, Beirut, Lebanon, April 12, 2012.

[73] Human Rights Watch interview with Michel, Beirut, Lebanon, May 14, 212.

[74] Ibid.

[75] Ibid.

[76] Human Rights Watch interview with Carla, Beirut, Lebanon, April 14, 2012.

[77] American Bar Association (ABA), Detention Procedure Assessment Tool for Lebanon (Washington, DC: 2012).

[78] Human Rights Watch interview with Joseph, Beirut, Lebanon, May 14, 2012.

[79] The Lebanese Transparency Association, Corruption Perceptions Index as measured by Transparency International during 2011: Stability in Lebanon in spite of Arab revolutions, 2011,

 http://www.transparency-lebanon.org/press/PR_CPI2011_1Dec2011_En.pdf (accessed February 4, 2013).

[80] Ibid.

[81] Human Rights Watch interview with Ali, Beirut, Lebanon, June 14, 2012.

[82] Human Rights Watch interview with Marwan, Beirut, Lebanon, March 22, 2012.

[83] Human Rights Watch interview with Farah, Beirut, Lebanon, April 14, 2012.

[84] Ibid.

[85] Human Rights Watch interview with Wissam, Zahleh, Lebanon, July 13, 2012.

[86] Ibid.

[87] Ibid.

[88] Human Rights Watch interview with Mounira, Beirut, Lebanon, June 15, 2012.

[89] Ibid.

[90] One of the most notable of these projects is the EU-funded “Security and Rule of Law” project, which started in 2009 and is scheduled to run until 2014 and aims to improve the ISF’s criminal investigation capabilities and internal training structures and resources.

[91] Helem, “Homosexual Relations in the Penal Codes: General Study Regarding the Laws in the Arab Countries with a Report on Lebanon and Tunisia”, 2010, http://www.helem.net/node/188 (accessed February 4, 2013).