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Lebanon: Heed Concerns at Human Rights Review

Government Rejects Proposals Affecting Women, Refugees, Migrants During UN Review

(Beirut) - Lebanon rejected a large number of important recommendations about the rights of women, refugees, migrants, and homosexuals during its UN Human Rights Council review, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch expressed concern after reviewing the official record of the meeting, on November 10, 2010, which was made available in recent days.

During what is called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) - a regular review of a country's human rights record at the UN Human Rights Council - UN member states raised their concerns regarding ongoing human rights violations in Lebanon and proposed concrete recommendations to address them. The country's delegation agreed to establish a National Commission on Human Rights and to improve the fight against torture by criminalizing all forms of torture and ill-treatment. But the delegation dismissed recommendations that would promote equality for women, provide Palestinian refugees with the right to own property, protect migrants from frequent abuse, decriminalize homosexuality, and abolish the death penalty.

"Lebanon agreed to some reforms but missed an opportunity to tackle some of its longstanding human rights problems," said Nadim Houry, Beirut director at Human Rights Watch.

Most notable among the government's failures was its refusal to reform Lebanese laws that discriminate against women. Lebanon's delegation supported a recommendation to adopt a law to protect women from domestic violence, a draft of which has already been approved by the Council of Ministers. But it rejected recommendations to amend the citizenship law to allow Lebanese women to pass their citizenship to their spouses and children and to remove discriminatory provisions affecting divorce, child custody, and inheritance from personal status laws.

Similarly, while the Lebanese delegation expressed a general willingness to improve the treatment of an estimated 200,000 migrant domestic workers, it rejected specific recommendations to review the sponsorship system, which ties these workers to potentially abusive employers.

The delegation also rejected recommendations to amend a discriminatory law barring Palestinian refugees from registering property. In August, Lebanon's parliament amended its labor law to make it easier for Palestinian refugees to obtain work permits by exempting them from reciprocity requirements and eliminating work permit fees. However, the reform did nothing to remove restrictions that bar Palestinians from working in at least 25 professions requiring syndicate membership, and Lebanon has taken no action on longstanding restrictions on property ownership.

"Countries as different as Finland and Brazil called on Lebanon to end discrimination against Palestinians," Houry said. "One important way to improve the status of Palestinians would be to amend Lebanon's property law to allow them to register their property, just like any other foreigner."

Several states called on Lebanon to establish a moratorium or abolish the death penalty, but the delegation rejected the recommendations. Lebanese courts have issued at least five death sentences in 2010.

Despite a 2009 pledge by the government to work to uncover the fate of the Lebanese and others who "disappeared" during and after the Lebanese civil war from 1975 to 1990, the delegation did not adopt a recommendation by Mexico and Germany to establish an independent national commission to investigate the whereabouts of missing persons and victims of enforced disappearance. It did agree to consider these recommendations by March 2011, when the Human Rights Council will adopt Lebanon's report.

The human rights records of all UN member countries are reviewed by the Human Rights Council once every four years.

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