Lebanese prisons are experiencing the crisis exponentially

A beautiful sunset

The title of prisons has long been associated with Lebanon With the concept of humiliation and torture, given the harsh conditions in which he lives prisoners Who do not have the minimum necessary to live.

With the deterioration of the economic situation, the prisoners had to face all the crises faced by citizens outside the walls, but under more severe conditions, as they suffered a crisis of water shortage given the cholera And the fear of an epidemic among them, especially since the environment in which they live is a breeding ground for the spread of all kinds of bacteria and viruses, and the same goes for electricity.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 11 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights state that “everyone deprived of his liberty has the right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate food sufficient, drinking water, housing, clothing and bedding.

However, this seems far removed from the conditions in which detainees live in Lebanon, especially in the post-crisis phase, knowing that the country has 24 prisons, the largest of which is Roumieh prison, comprising central and second prisons. others divided into regions. between prisons for men and women (there are four) and two prisons for minors.

Before and after the crisis

We must first distinguish the pre-crisis phase from the post-crisis phase, given the significant deterioration that has occurred in prisons in the face of the deterioration of the economic situation. We have always talked about the tragedies experienced by the prisoners and the miserable conditions of detention, “but they are currently living in conditions in which no one can live”, according to the executive director of the Lebanese Center for Human Rights, Fadl Fakih, which confirms that successive governments do not regard prison reform as a high priority for them.

During the period of the spread of the Corona epidemic, the pandemic and its dangers were taken seriously, and there was a good management of this stage with the support of the World Health Organization and the associations . At that time, a quarantine was instituted for inmates infected with the virus, and face-to-face visits were banned, which helped to control the situation and limit the spread of the epidemic in prisons, even if the psychological impact remained difficult for the detainees, in particular minors among them who could no longer meet their families, and even trials were held remotely at that time.

Limited health tracking

The role of the Ministry of Health is currently limited to providing care when it is necessary to admit detainees to hospital, after hospitals have become refusing to receive them at certain times, so that the detainee patient is no longer transferred to the hospital at state expense, just as he no longer undertakes to cover the costs of his hospitalization, according to Fakih, as he asks his parents.

As for the health monitoring of detainees, it is provided by the Internal Security Forces through a dedicated center and with the support of associations and international organizations concerned with regularly providing medication, but there is only one nurse in the centre, and there is no longer a doctor after the doctors’ low salaries and their refusal to continue working under these conditions. .

One of the difficult crises in prisons is also the unavailability of medication for patients with mental disorders who need regular follow-up treatment.

It should be noted that 34 deaths among detainees have been recorded recently, which exceeds the number of deaths recorded previously, which raises questions about the causes that lead to it.

The judges’ strike is the biggest crisis

Perhaps the judges’ strike of the past few months was one of the major crises faced by detainees in particular, and led to a doubling of their numbers. While Lebanese prisons accommodate a certain number of detainees in accordance with the standards drawn up by the specialized commission in August 2011, the reality on the ground indicates the opposite, and given the suspension of trials, the prisons are overcrowded with detainees and convicts, as confirmed by lawyer Lina Chamoun of the association “Justice” and Rahma.” “Each Lebanese prison has more than double its capacity, which creates countless challenges.”

In parallel with the crisis, dozens of prisoners have escaped from police glasses, especially with the reduction in the number of security forces, since their conditions are no less difficult, while their members have returned to prison about half of those who escaped while the rest remained out of his grasp.

Lawyer Mohana Ishaq confirms to “Independent Arabia” that “in the 15 years that I have followed the prisoners’ affairs, there have been no significant changes to serve their interests, although some minor administrative adjustments have been made and a new building has been erected”. noting that “overcrowding is the number one challenge facing inmates, and the result is a catastrophic decline.” The level of services inside the prison has worsened with the judges’ strike.”

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And she added: “The number of detainees, for example, in Roumieh prison is supposed to not exceed 2,000, but in reality their number is increasing exponentially, with the lack of water and the absence of conditions of hygiene and the minimum necessary to live. a room that accommodates five prisoners, there are more than 15, and due to limited space and overcrowding, they sometimes take turns sleeping. Or they share a bed that is placed in a certain way so that the room can accommodate everyone. the budgets set by the State for prisons are not sufficient for these large numbers.

On the other hand, detainees stay in the glasses in large numbers and for long periods of time, while they can stay there for days and no more, which is a clear violation of the law, since those arrested must be transferred immediately to the prison, where the minimum necessities for living, sleeping and eating are supposed to be available. The worst thing is that everyone is in these glasses, men, women and minors, so that there is no separation between them as in prisons.

“The period of imprisonment in the detention center is not supposed to exceed two months for misdemeanors and six months for felonies, until a release or transfer to prison is decided. People cannot be detained indefinitely,” says Ishaq.

Therefore, Ishaq emphasizes that “arrest should not be a retaliatory punishment, but rather its objective should be to rehabilitate and properly reintegrate the prisoner into society, and this is the missing role of rehabilitation programs. in Lebanon, noting that last week the judges’ strike over the detainees’ files ended, and while a solution is expected, great pressure remains with the backlog of files in the past period.

Associations are the link

It seems that international organizations and associations have become the only support for detainees in the face of the state’s total impotence and its inability to provide them with the minimum subsistence. The meetings of the leaders of the associations with the human rights commissions are increasing regularly in the current stage with the aim of coordinating the provision of aid and services in the prisons, each according to their capacities.

Shamoun emphasizes that “associations bear all the responsibilities, but they are not supposed to replace the state. They exist to support and provide assistance such as medicine, blankets, food and other supplies, but they cannot take responsibility for prisons in this way”. after the state has become unable to provide the most basic services”.

Foreign detainees, most of whom are Syrians, are a huge burden on prisons, contributing to deteriorating conditions, especially after their cases have been suspended and prison overcrowding has increased with them, and with it problems and challenges related to food supply, hygiene conditions and health monitoring.

In the face of poor prison management, all inmates languish together, regardless of their convictions for crimes and misdemeanors, which poses a threat to many who have been admitted to detention centers because of a minor offense or maybe from a traffic accident, so they are not supposed to be imprisoned with criminals and drug dealers. Hence the importance of examining the sentences of detainees and distributing them in the places designated for them on this basis. However, the main problem lies in the fact that the administration of the prisons is not in the hands of the ministry of justice, as it must occur for the rehabilitation programs to function properly.


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