June 26, 2013

V. Role of International Community

The US, EU, UK, and France, among others, have contributed significant amounts of aid and technical assistance to the ISF over the past few years. The assistance has mainly been in the form of trainings, various internal reform projects, and updated equipment.

The US is the ISF’s biggest donor, having contributed around $125 million since 2008 in contributions to various reform projects, trainings, and equipment. The EU has spent around 16.5 million euro on various ISF reform projects since 2007. According to US and EU representatives familiar with ISF assistance programs, police abuse of suspects stems in part from lack of skills in investigative techniques (other than extracting confessions) and from lack of police training (much of the training they receive is military training, inappropriate to most policing situations).

Donor countries are thus heavily invested in training ISF officers in basic interrogation and investigation techniques. The US has thus far trained 9,000 officers in these methods and has built an updated training facility for this purpose, while the EU has trained 55 officers to be trainers themselves, and they in turn have trained around 5,000 officers. According to the US embassy in Lebanon, the US-funded training incorporates a human rights module.[100]

However, Human Rights Watch research, as well as research by other local and international organizations, has found that police abuse of suspects in stations remains a problem, and reliance on confessions, often extracted through coercion, remains common. This is particularly a problem with the Drug Repression Bureau and police units concerned with preserving morality. Section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act (the “Leahy Law”) prohibits the US government from providing any assistance to a security unit if there is credible information that the unit has committed gross violations of human rights. According to the US embassy in Lebanon, all ISF members trained using US funding are subject to vetting under the Leahy Law and the US government does not train units for whom there is credible information about human rights abuses brought to the embassy’s attention through third parties or the embassy’s own investigations.[101] To our knowledge, the Leahy Law has not yet been applied to deny aid to any ISF units.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) began working with the ISF in 2008 and has focused its efforts on helping the ISF develop a strategic plan for the organization, fostering a culture of human rights, and strengthening ties between the public and the police force. Additionally, the FCO has supported the ISF to develop a Code of Conduct that includes basic human rights standards often neglected by police officers, and has assisted the ISF to develop a broad implementation program for it, which has yet to be rolled-out.

While considerable time, money, and energy has gone into training the ISF, the impact is still minimal compared to the needs identified and its impact has been unevenly spread across the ISF. The Information Branch and Crime Scene Investigation Units are now the most technically advanced units in the ISF.[102] By contrast, the judicial police, particularly those units discussed in this report, do not appear to have benefitted from trainings in the same way, and older methods, such as extraction of confessions by force, are still a mainstay of their investigation techniques.[103]

So far, to our knowledge, no donor country has funded implementation of ISF oversight mechanisms, and the absence of statistics on police abuse or other documentation of ISF response to complaints makes it impossible to track progress on this front.

[100] Email from US embassy in Lebanon to Human Rights Watch, March 6, 2013.

[101] Ibid.

[102] Human Rights Watch interview with official at EU Delegation, Beirut, Lebanon, November 9, 2012.

[103] Ibid.