Human Rights Developments
The year was marked by an intensified arrest campaign against government opponents, especially suspected supporters of the banned Lebanese Forces and the ousted General Michel Aoun. The government increased its reliance on military courts to try civilians accused of offenses considered harmful to national security, often in proceedings falling far short of internationally recognized standards for fair trials. In 1994, the government banned all private radio and television stations from broadcasting news bulletins or political programs. Under the pretext of maintaining civil peace, the government jailed protesters and prosecuted reporters and publishers who wrote or aired materials deemed harmful to "civil harmony."
In addition to the Lebanese government, other forces in Lebanon also committed violations of human rights and humanitarian law, including Syria's Military Intelligence, Israel and its ally the South Lebanon Army, the Iranian-supported organization Hizballa, and the Lebanese Forces, a Maronite militia.
After a bomb exploded on February 27 in the Church of Our Lady of Deliverance killing eleven worshippers and injuring about forty, the authorities moved swiftly against the Lebanese Forces, whose loyalists were blamed by the government for the church bombing and a spate of violent acts that preceded it. The political wing of the group was dissolved by executive order, although evidence of its responsibility for the blast was not determined by the courts. Scores of its supporters were arrested and detained, often without due process of law.
Under Lebanese law, those arrested must be released or referred to the Public Prosecutor's office within twenty-four hours of their arrest. This rule was frequently violated, with detainees held incommunicado without charge for weeks or longer. Access to lawyers improved during 1994, as defense lawyers_both Lebanese and foreign_were more aggressive in their efforts to represent prisoners charged with politically motivated crimes. However, lawyers complained of delayed access to clients detained by the military until after confessions were extracted from them by use of force. No private conferences with lawyers were allowed in most cases.
Human Rights Watch confirmed reports of torture and ill-treatment of those detained by Military Intelligence and held in the Ministry of Defense detention facilities. On April 21, Fawzi al-Rasi, from the Lebanese Forces, died after suffering a heart attack while being questioned at the Ministry of Defense, according to an official statement. His family's request for an independent autopsy was rejected. Other detainees were beaten to extract confessions. In July, the military prosecutor rejected a request by a team of international medical experts to examine defendants before the military court who alleged that they had been tortured and forced to sign confessions of guilt. Two physicians from the International Federation for Human Rights and SOS Torture traveled to Beirut but were not allowed to meet with or examine Magi Karam, Gabi Karam, Jeanette Haddad, George Haddad, Chirbil Deeb, Mohamad Sakr, Josef al-Anjam, or Ali al-Bazzal, all on trial before military courts. The defendants were subsequently convicted without consideration of their charges of ill-treatment.
Several suspected supporters of General Aoun were arrested after they had attended a conference held in Paris in June. In speeches before the conference, the ousted general and his supporters criticized the Syrian presence in Lebanon.
The government increased its reliance on military courts to try civilians accused of state security offenses, including the distribution of leaflets critical of the Lebanese government or of Syria. Procedures before the military courts were abbreviated and the rights of defense were circumscribed. Military prosecutors and judges were military officers, with little or no legal training, who were appointed and dismissed by the Minister of Defense and had no tenure or guarantee of independence.
The government continued to selectively prosecute individuals for crimes committed during the civil war period_most of which were included in a 1991 amnesty law covering the 1975-1991 period. While members of the current cabinet implicated in serious crimes from that period were not questioned, almost all of those prosecuted in 1994 for crimes prior to the 1991 law were members or supporters of the Lebanese Forces or other opposition groups.
In March, the government escalated its campaign against the media by banning private broadcasters from airing news or political programming or commentary. During the year, the government pressured private stations to cease operation, with the government-owned LTV continuing to take legal action against private companies for infringing on its monopoly over television, scheduled to continue until 2012.
In February, a Beirut court acquitted two executives and two journalists from the privately owned ICN television network, which had been shut in April 1993. Henri Sfeir, the owner, Farid Sulaiman, an executive, and news editors Antoine Qustantin and Tony Shamiyya had been charged with fomenting civil strife, a crime under Lebanese law. In May, George Louis Bashir and Youesf Hanna al-Huwaik, two journalists from al-Diyar daily, were indicted under civil war-era Decree 104 for allegedly reporting false news related to Maronite Patriarch Nasralla Sfeir's visit to Australia.
The General Directorate of Public Security (GDPS), the national police force, exercised control over all non-periodical publications, including leaflets and press releases. All such publications were required to be submitted to the police for approval before being distributed. The same rules applied to books, plays and films. In September, Hikmat Deeb, Lina Ghraib, Najla Selim, Fadi Abu-Shaqra, Jean Aoun, Huda Yameen, Mona Shakibyan, Michel Alfteriados, Qizhiya Qurqumaz, Alftari Anastassiou and others were arrested for printing and distributing wall posters protesting a September 17 government-sponsored rally in downtown Beirut.
In addition to the Lebanese government, other forces in Lebanon committed violations of human rights and humanitarian law. Syria's 35,000 troops were deployed mainly in the Beqa' valley, where Iran's Revolutionary Guards are also stationed. Israel and its ally the South Lebanon Army control a self-declared security zone along the Lebanese-Israeli border. The pro-Iranian Hizballa has considerable territorial control in parts of the south and the southern suburbs of Beirut. Until it was dissolved in March, the Lebanese Forces had control over parts of the Metn and Kisrawan districts, north of Beirut.
Under the terms of the September 1991 Syrian-Lebanese agreement, Lebanese officials consulted regularly with commanders of Syrian forces in Lebanon over most security matters, whether involving Syrian nationals or others. Officers of Syrian Military Intelligence were active at the Beirut International Airport and other Lebanese ports of entry, detaining or interrogating Syrian government opponents before permitting them to enter or leave the country. Human Rights Watch/Middle East also received reports of arrests of Lebanese citizens and Palestinian residents by Syrian forces in Lebanon.
Israel and the Israeli-sponsored South Lebanon Army (SLA) were responsible for serious human rights violations in Lebanon during the year. Shelling and air raids by Israel and its allies on southern Lebanese villages and towns, while always ostensibly directed against guerrilla bases, produced a heavy toll of civilian casualties. For example, on August 4, an Israeli jet fired a missile into a residential building in the southern village of Deir Zahrani, killing six and wounding eleven, all civilians. Israel apologized for what it said was a mistake, but according to a Reuters dispatch, Uri Lubrani, the Israeli coordinator for southern Lebanon, said, "[T]hings like this apparently cannot be avoided because when you chop down trees...sometimes chips fly and this is one of them." On October 19 and 20, Israel and its allied SLA gunners shelled two towns in southern Lebanon, killing seven people and wounding four. All but one_a Lebanese soldier_were civilians.
Israel continued to hold an undisclosed number of Lebanese detainees without charge or trial. Other Lebanese prisoners were held in Israeli prisons beyond the expiration of sentences handed down by Israeli military courts, in "administrative detention" without charge or trial under British Mandate-era emergency regulations. Some of these prisoners had been abducted by Israeli forces from their villages in Lebanon, as happened in May when Israeli commandos seized the Shi`a activist Mustafa Dirani from his home in the Beqa`, reportedly because they believed that he had information on Israeli soldiers missing in action.
The SLA also engaged in the indiscriminate shelling of villages adjacent to the area it controls, the forced conscription of young men, and a policy of arbitrary arrest, lengthy incommunicado detention and torture of suspected opponents held in the notorious al-Khiam prison it controls with Israeli support. In 1994, about 200 detainees were being held in al-Khiam without charge or trial and without access to family or lawyers. The International Committee of the Red Cross continued to be denied access to these detainees.
The Iranian-supported Hizballa, whose forces are supplemented by Iranian Revolutionary Guards, is the only major militia beside the SLA that has not been disarmed by the Lebanese government. It, too, was implicated in abuses, including summary executions, abductions, and beatings. In February, a Hizballa ad hoc tribunal summarily imposed the death penalty on Hassan Awwadha, a sixteen-year-old murder suspect, who was immediately executed with a bullet to the head. Also in 1994, assailants believed connected with Hizballa murdered a Lebanese actor believed to have performed in a pornographic film. In light of the foreign support it enjoys and the significant bloc of parliamentarians from Hizballa in the Chamber of Deputies, the government appeared reluctant to curb abuses by Hizballa loyalists.
Ostensibly aiming to pressure Israel to abandon the Lebanese border area it controls, Hizballa also engaged in 1994 in indiscriminate shelling of northern Israel and areas of southern Lebanon under SLA control, causing extensive damage and casualties among noncombatants.
Elements in the Lebanese Forces, the largest Maronite militia and a major opposition force, were implicated in attacks on civilians, including the bombing on February 27 of the Church of Our Lady of Deliverance, in which eleven worshippers were killed and over forty injured. In contrast with most other abuses, the government swiftly moved against the Lebanese Forces and their supporters suspected of taking part in violence.
The Right to Monitor
There was no prohibition in law of human rights work in Lebanon, but local human rights groups and individual activists reported that fear of Lebanese and Syrian intelligence services curbed their activities. The military prosecutor's office repeatedly summoned Dr. Muhamad Mugraby, a prominent human rights lawyer, to question him about statements he made before the military court in defense of his clients. Government officials contended that elements of Mugraby's statements were punishable under the penal code because they were harmful to Lebanon's foreign policy. A media campaign against Mugraby was believed inspired by government officials, after Mugraby voiced_during a June meeting in Paris attended by Aoun loyalists_criticism of the Syrian presence in Lebanon and the Hrawi/Hariri government.
In September, Hikmat Deeb, active in the Foundation for Humanitarian and Human Rights, was arrested with others and charged with taking part in the printing and distribution of flyers and posters critical of the government.
Among the established groups inside Lebanon were the Lebanese Association for Human Rights, the Foundation for Human and Humanitarian Rights, and the Lebanese Lawyers Association. Outside Lebanon, the Lebanese League for Human Rights was especially active in France and Belgium. Humanitarian and academic organizations reported regularly on issues related to human rights in Lebanon. Among the Beirut-based groups were the Lebanese NGO Forum and the Movement of the Handicapped and Youth for Human Rights and Peace. The Lebanon Report, published monthly by the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, a research institution in Beirut, provided information related to human rights.
After a meeting in late September between Secretary of State Warren Christopher and Faris Bouez, his Lebanese counterpart, the U.S. voiced strong support for "Lebanese independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity." Throughout 1994, U.S. officials appeared concerned primarily with bolstering the Lebanese government and armed forces, and ensuring Lebanon's active participation in the regional peace process. No concern was voiced publicly by officials when the Lebanese government waged an abusive campaign against its opponents in the spring or over the drastic steps taken to further muzzle the media.
While the Clinton administration maintained the travel restrictions imposed by previous administrations on U.S. citizens wishing to travel to Lebanon, it lifted in 1993 an eight-year old ban on the sale of lethal weapons to Lebanon and increased its assistance level. The U.S. approved the sale of 175 M-113A2 armored personnel carriers, out of which 106 were received by July 1994, and funded a training program for the Lebanese military.
Although U.S. economic aid remained relatively small_nine million dollars in fiscal 1994_it had a high multiplier effect; Washington persuaded U.S. allies and multilateral institutions to continue the previous year's record levels of economic aid that made Lebanon, on a per capita basis, the second largest recipient of foreign aid in the Middle East, next only to Israel. According to U.S. officials, President Clinton personally communicated with a number of Arab and European heads of state to encourage their support and assistance to Lebanon. Partly at U.S. urging, the World Bank extended a three-year $2.4 billion aid package for a reconstruction program that was part of a $13 billion expenditure planned by the Lebanese government. U.S. allies, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Italy, and Germany, provided the bulk of aid to Lebanon in 1994.
The U.S. and its allies' expressions of support for the Lebanese government were not accompanied by public expressions of concern over the serious human rights violations committed by the Hrawi/Hariri government. To the contrary, foreign aid extended by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia was believed to be implicitly conditioned on the Lebanese government's curbing of media criticism of the two governments.
When asked in June about the Israeli commandos' kidnapping of the Shi'a activist Mustafa Dirani, Robert H. Pelletreau, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, told the House Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East that the U.S. did not condemn the action "because it represents a number of complicated issues in our own system." Although, according to Secretary Pelletreau the U.S. had brokered an agreement between Hizballa and Israel under which the two sides were not to fire at civilian targets, the U.S. rarely condemned the frequent violations of this agreement.
The Work of
Human Rights Watch/Middle East
There were two points of special focus to Human Rights Watch/Middle East's work during 1994: Lebanese government attacks on freedom of expression and the treatment of detainees arrested by military intelligence and tried before military courts.
In March, Human Rights Watch/Middle East protested the Lebanese government's decision to ban private radio and television stations from airing news and political commentaries. In June and July, a Human Rights Watch/Middle East consultant visited Lebanon to investigate recent restrictions on freedom of expression and association. The results of her research are planned for publication in 1995, intended to coincide with preparations for the presidential election scheduled for September 1995 and the parliamentary elections scheduled for 1996.
In 1994 Human Rights Watch/Middle East protested unfair trials by military courts, including their failure to address claims of torture and ill treatment, and refusal to permit independent international physicians to examine defendants who reported being coerced into confessing their guilt.
In October, Human Rights Watch/Middle East supported the efforts of U.S. senators on behalf of eight Lebanese detained for allegedly printing and distributing materials critical of the Lebanese and Syrian governments. All eight were released on bail shortly after the three senators issued a letter protesting their arrest.