Lebanese Human Rights Committee Blasts Prison Conditions
The Lebanese Parliament’s human rights committee on Friday stepped up its public criticism of the country’s prisons after inspecting the central jail in Nabatieh and Sidon’s detention center.
As a committee delegation toured Nabatieh prison, it looked into prisoners’ cells and conditions, and listened to their complaints, according to the Daily Star newspaper.
After the tour, MP Marwan Fares, who led the delegation, described the prison’s conditions as “horrible” and said the inmates were living in “inhuman conditions,” reported the newspaper.
For the third time this week, the media was banned from accompanying the committee members, despite being invited beforehand, the paper said.
Last Tuesday, a delegation from the committee began its tour at Roumieh prison, where the press was prohibited from entering with them. At the time, the interior ministry had given prison administrators orders to only allow entry to the MPs. The committee had, meanwhile, said it would make sure the required permits for reporters were ready before the upcoming visits, said the paper.
On Thursday, however, the delegation visited the Women’s Prison in Beirut and Baabda, where reporters and camera crew were also denied entry.
The committee is scheduled to inspect the North and Bekaa prisons on Saturday before presenting a report to parliament and drafting a law to improve the country’s prison conditions.
The prison visits have caused friction between the committee and the interior ministry, due to the former’s criticism of prison conditions, the paper added.
MP Nayla Mouawad, who heads the parliament’s women and children’s affairs committee, on Thursday described the Women’s Prison in Beirut and Baabda as “fit for animals, not humans.”
She also said the committee was “shocked” by what it had seen, and that perhaps the ministry wanted to spare reporters the “same shock.”
Her statements prompted a response from the ministry.
“With all our respect to MP Nayla Mouawad’s constructive criticism, she, who has been in Parliament for years, should have informed the ministry about what she has been preparing,” said a ministry statement.
The ministry suggested that Mouawad help “draft a law to provide funds for this problem.”
Fares was accompanied Friday by committee members Mohammed Hajjar and Salah Honein, as well as Nabatieh MP Yassin Jaber and Nabatieh governor Mahmoud Mawla.
Fares said he had asked Interior Minister Elias Murr to take the appropriate measures to improve conditions or move some of the inmates in Nabatieh prison to Roumieh. He also said that out of the prisons so far visited, “Roumieh was the best.”
Fares asserted that the committee could not accept such conditions, especially since Lebanon had signed the International Declaration of Human Rights.
“There are 40 or 50 prisoners in one cell, an area of 24 square meters,” he said.
According to Fares, around 800 prisoners who were members of the now-defunct SLA had completed their sentences and would soon be released from Nabatieh prison.
“Once this happens, there will be more room for the remaining prisoners and this will help reduce overcrowding,” he said.
Fares also said that he had discussed with Murr the possibility of releasing those prisoners who had not been sentenced, in a bid to help reduce overcrowding.
He said that there were around 7,300 prisoners in Lebanon, 2,500 of whom were serving court sentences, while the rest were still awaiting their verdicts – Albawaba.com