Still no justice for Syrian refugees 'tortured to death' in Lebanon

Still no justice for Syrian refugees 'tortured to death' in Lebanon
The four Syrians had been detained in a sweeping security raid in July 2017 in refugee settlements around the border town of Arsal that saw hundreds arrested.
3 min read
04 July, 2018
The Syrian refugees were detained in an army raid last year around Arsal. [Getty]

Human Rights Watch on Tuesday called on the Lebanese army to release the findings of its investigation into the deaths of four Syrians who were allegedly tortured at military detention facilities last year.

The four Syrian refugees were detained in a sweeping security raid in July 2017 in refugee settlements in and around the border town of Arsal that saw more than 350 Syrians arrested.

The Lebanese army said at the time that the men died of pre-existing health conditions ahead of their interrogations.

A doctor reviewed photos provided by family members of three of the men and said the injuries were "consistent with inflicted trauma in the setting of physical torture".

"Any statement that the deaths of these individuals were due to natural causes is inconsistent with these photographs," he added.

Human Rights Watch spoke to a family member and close acquaintance of two of the Syrians who both said that they had no known health conditions.

Other detainees arrested in the same raid also allege that the army beat and ill-treated them while in custody.

A witness in Arsal told HRW that dozens of men who were releases from custody had marks on their hands, legs, backs and heads.

"When four men die within days of arrest, and photos of their bodies show marks consistent with torture, the public deserves a full accounting of what happened," Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said.

"But a year after these deaths, we still do not have clear answers about why they died, or steps that the army has taken to ensure that this never happens again."

International and Lebanese human rights organisations have all publicly urged the military to release the results of its investigation.

HRW raised the issue in a letter to the army on 27 June, 2018 but received no response.

Last year, a group of UN experts wrote to the Lebanese government requesting information about the case.

The government responded but its response has not yet been made public.

Human Rights Watch and local human rights organisations have long documented reports of torture and ill-treatment by Lebanon's security services, with impunity rampant.

Lebanon has an obligation under international law to investigate deaths in custody, HRW said.

"If this investigation does in fact show that these men died of natural causes, it is in the army's own interest to make that public," Fakih said.

"Calling for a public accounting into allegations of torture is not an attack on the Lebanese army, but about ensuring accountability and the rule of law."