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Human Rights Committee concludes its examination of civil and political rights in Lebanon

Human Rights Committee 

22 March 2018

The Human Rights Committee today completed the review of the third periodic report of Lebanon during which it examined measures taken to implement the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The review of Lebanon, which had started on 15 March, could not be completed as scheduled due to a strike called for by the United Nations staff at the United Nations Office at Geneva on 16 March.  The review resumed on 22 March with the participation of Lebanon by a video conference from Beirut, and in the presence of the representatives of the Permanent Mission of Lebanon to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

Presenting the report, Salim Baddoura, Permanent Representative of Lebanon to the United Nations Office at Geneva, informed the Committee of the adoption of a new electoral law which recognized the right to vote of the Lebanese diaspora; the next election would be held on May 16 and would see many new candidates running including more than a hundred women.  In the face of a massive influx of Syrian refugees - an estimated 1.5 million joined the already large Palestinian diaspora - Lebanon refused to heed the calls to resort to a state of emergency and intended to remain a model in the region.  An independent National Human Rights Commission had been established in accordance with the Paris Principles, and a standing commission against torture would be set up as well.  A bill to protect whistle-blowers was being drafted, and Lebanon was also developing a personal status bill which would recognize the right not to declare religion and the right to embrace another religion, and would repeal some outdated provisions, such as the prohibition for a Lebanese woman to transmit the nationality to her children.  The marriage under the age of 18 would soon be prohibited, said the head of the delegation, urging the Committee to consider the situation of the country in assessing whether the efforts in this regard were sufficient.

Noting that it had been twenty years since the last review of Lebanon, Committee Experts started the interactive dialogue by praising the country for hosting more than one million Syrian refugees and assuming a burden which strained its infrastructure.  They commended positive legal reforms including criminalization of torture and the new electoral law, and said that challenges related to the unprecedented flow of refugees from neighbouring countries and the country’s cultural and religious pluralism continued to persist.  While recognizing realities of domestic political instability and the regional geopolitical situation, Experts were nevertheless concerned by lack of action to overcome the confessional political system and asked about efforts to combat sectarian prejudices and promote tolerance.  They urged Lebanon to address the reports of arbitrary arrests and detention by security forces, and reports of high numbers of prisoners in pre-trial detention, including children; improve conditions of detention, alleviate overcrowding, and investigate abuses happening within prison walls.  While Lebanon had made efforts to abolish the death penalty, the 2012 bill to that end had not yet been adopted, Experts remarked.  They raised concern about the still unknown fate of the more than 17,000 people who had been disappeared between 1975-1990, and the comprehensive impunity in this area - there had been no prosecution relating to enforced disappearance to date.  Discrimination against women continued as personal status laws created barriers to their equality in matters of marriage, divorce, custody and alimony, and Lebanon still lacked a comprehensive anti-discrimination law that would include a definition of direct and indirect discrimination, multiple discrimination, and a list of multiple prohibited grounds as defined by the Covenant.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. Baddoura thanked the Committee for a courteous discussion which would hopefully represent a milestone in the cooperation between Lebanon and the Committee.

Margo Waterwal, Committee Rapporteur, in her concluding statement, thanked the delegation of Lebanon in Geneva and in Beirut for their flexibility.

The delegation of Lebanon consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior and Municipalities, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Labour, Ministry of State to the Women Affairs, Ministry of State to the Human Rights Affairs, Ministry of State for the Displaced Affairs, the National Commission for Lebanese Women, and the Permanent Mission of Lebanon to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will issue its concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Lebanon towards the end of its session, which concludes on 6 April 2018.  All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings is available at UN Web TV.

The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Monday, 26 March to discuss the progress report of the Special Rapporteur on the follow-up to the concluding observations, and the progress report of the Special Rapporteur on follow-up to views.

Report

The Committee is considering the third periodic report of Lebanon (CCPR/C/LBN/3).

Presentation of Report

SALIM BADDOURA, Permanent Representative of Lebanon to the United Nations Office at Geneva, started by reassuring the Committee of the commitment of his country to its international obligations.  The electoral law recognized the right to vote of the Lebanese diaspora and the next election was to be held on May 16, in which many new candidates were standing, including more than a hundred women.  The new Government had established a Ministry of Human Rights and a Ministry for Women.  Mr. Baddoura stressed that in the face of a massive influx of Syrian refugees, in which an estimated 1.5 million had joined the already large Palestinian diaspora, Lebanon refused to heed the calls to resort to a state of emergency and intended to remain a model in the region.  An independent National Human Rights Commission had been established in accordance with the Paris Principles, and Lebanon intended to set up a standing commission against torture.

Lebanon had ratified the Convention against Torture and had submitted its first report to the treaty body responsible for its implementation.  A bill to protect whistle-blowers was being drafted, said the Ambassador, and informed the Committee that sanctions had been imposed on law enforcement officers who had used disproportionate violence during demonstrations.  The right not to declare religion or to embrace another religion was envisaged in the framework of a personal status bill, which at the moment was not unified.  The bill would repeal some outdated provisions, such as a prohibition for a Lebanese woman to transmit her nationality.

Lebanese women occupied a growing place in the world of work, including in senior positions in the public and private sectors, emphasized Mr. Baddoura.  There was a system in place to enable women victims of violence to seek reparations.  The law prohibited modern slavery and trafficking in human beings; a strategy was in place to improve the border control in this context, while bilateral agreements had been concluded with countries of origin of migrant workers.  The marriage under the age of 18 would soon be prohibited, said the head of the delegation, urging the Committee to consider the situation of the country in assessing whether the efforts in this regard were sufficient.

The Lebanese State was serious about developing its capabilities and was committed to respecting its international obligations, reiterated the Ambassador and went on to reassure the Committee that the civil society, whose activity was vital, could act and express itself freely.  The authorities worked in cooperation with the civil society on the basis of shared values, he said and concluded by expressing hope that the dialogue with the Committee Experts would be constructive.

Questions by Committee Experts

A Committee Expert remarked at the beginning of the interactive dialogue that it had been twenty years since the last review of Lebanon, and then praised Lebanon for its approach to Syrian refugees, noting that, since the outbreak of the crisis in Syria, Lebanon had hosted more than one million refugees and asylum seekers, assuming a burden which strained its infrastructure.  The Expert commended the State party for initiating positive legal reforms such as the adoption of legislation establishing a national human rights institution and a national preventive mechanism for torture; the criminalization of torture and the adoption of a new Electoral law.  Challenges still remained, however, related to the unprecedented flow of refugees from neighbouring countries and the country’s cultural and religious pluralism.

The Expert had concerns about the status of the Covenant in the domestic legal order and its relation with the Lebanese Constitution.  He asked the delegation to cite examples of case law where the Covenant had been invoked before national courts, and to explain steps taken to raise awareness about the Covenant in the judicial and legislative milieu.

To ensure that the National Human Rights Institution became operative, the Expert inquired whether members had been appointed, what its budget was and under what mandate it operated.

Lebanon planned to overcome its confessional political system however no action had been taken due to the domestic political instability and the geopolitical situation in the region.  The Expert recalled that during the visit to the country in 2015, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief had taken note of the cautious approach to preserve the interreligious balance in various social spheres to ensure stability, and wondered whether such an approach could also lead to discrimination in various social spheres.  What educational measures would be taken to combat sectarian prejudices and promote tolerance?

Discussing the discrimination of women, civil society submissions flagged the continuing discrimination against women in the various personal status laws, for example in erecting greater barriers for women who wished to terminate their marriage, initiate divorce proceedings, ensure their rights concerning their children after divorce or secure pecuniary rights from former spouses.  Had measures been taken to ensure equal treatment of women in the personal status laws?

What were the plans concerning the adoption of a comprehensive anti-discrimination law that would include a definition of direct and indirect discrimination, multiple discrimination, and a list of multiple prohibited grounds as defined by the Covenant, as well as an open-ended list of prohibited grounds related to social status and gender identity and orientation?  What remedies were available to victims of discrimination?  Lebanon should amend the Constitution to include a minimum list of prohibited grounds for discrimination, Experts urged.

The Committee was concerned about the reports of a rise in arrests under article 534, which were based on physical characteristics or dress, and in fact targeted the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community.  Although Lebanon had stated that prison sentences for members of those communities were more lenient, and even if they were only given a fine, it remained on their records for three to five years.  Persons were harassed and attacked on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and for the most part were not protected by the police.  Seminars to mark the day against homophobia in Beirut, were met with threats by the Association of Muslim Scholars, which posted threats on Facebook; rather than protecting the individuals, the authorities cancelled the events.  What were the measures taken to protect persons subjected to discrimination and violence, including hate speech, on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity?  Would Lebanon consider adopting hate crime legislation and abolishing article 534 completely?

Another issue of concern was the persistence of discriminatory legal provisions and practices which prevented women from fully enjoying their rights, especially in the personal status law, nationality law and penal code.  Women were poorly represented in political life and legislative bodies although there were no explicit obstacles to their participation in these institutions.

With regards to violence against women, what was the status of the amendment to law 239 which the Ministry of Justice had proposed to strengthen the protection of survivors of domestic violence, and did it include also marital rape?  The Experts also raised issues concerning sexual harassment in the workplace, corporal punishment of children and the age for contracting marriage, and asked about shelters for victims of violence.

There were reports of arbitrary arrests and detention by security forces, and also reports of high numbers of prisoners in pre-trial detention, including children.  Was arbitrary detention a common practice and what legal safeguards were in place for all persons deprived of liberty?

While Lebanon had made efforts to abolish the death penalty, the 2012 bill to that end had not yet been adopted.  No executions had been carried out since 2004, however the national human rights action plan to adopt the moratorium on the death penalty had not been implemented.  Experts stressed that the right to demand a pardon on the particular circumstances of the case could not replace the judicial authority of whether or not to impose the death penalty.

The Committee was pleased to see the institution of a Prison Refurbishment program, yet there was still a trend of prison overcrowding, with certain centres having a more than 185 per cent occupancy rate.  Between 2012 and 2016, 81 people lost their lives in detention centres of “natural” causes; hygiene conditions remained poor and there were reports of abuse by prison guards.  Lebanon must improve conditions of detention, take steps to alleviate overcrowding, investigate abuses happening within their walls, and ensure that refugees and immigrant populations were held separately.

There were more than 17,000 cases of enforced disappearances in Lebanon between 1975-1990, and reports of secret places of detention; yet, there had been no prosecution relating to forced disappearance to date.  Impunity in this area was comprehensive, Experts said, reminding Lebanon that the right of families to know what happened to their members was enshrined in international human rights laws.  A number of mass graves had been identified but only one had been exhumed with the identification of bodies.  Did Lebanon have plans to exhume the others and identify the bodies and thus give closure to families?

The criminalization of abortion was connected with religious beliefs and therapeutic abortion was only practiced if the life of the mother was in danger.  The criminalization pushed some 40,000 women every year towards unsafe abortions at a great risk to their health, and significantly increasing maternal mortality rates.

The law protected a person’s right not to be subjected to torture or to other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and Lebanon had broadened the scope of legal protection by ratifying the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in line with the provisions of article 7 or the Covenant.  On October 26, 2017 the Chamber of Deputies had approved a draft act that criminalized the offence of torture, including a definition of the offence of torture, Experts said and remarked that it fell short of Lebanon’s obligations under international law.

Lebanese law also contained a set of rules aimed at ensuring that prisoners were treated with humanity.  Preventive and punitive measures had been adopted and conditions for detainees held in Lebanese prisons were improving.  Yet there were still concerns.  Statistics showed that 60 per cent of persons arrested in Lebanon for over a year were subjected to torture and serious ill treatments, 52 per cent of female detainees were also victims of torture.  Detained refugees were forced to sign a statement confirming their voluntary repatriation to their country of origin after being tortured.  Children and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons were also subject to torture.  What was the State party doing to address torture in prisons?  What rights did the prisoners have?

Responses by the Delegation

In response to Experts’ questions related to the constitutional and legal framework, a delegate said that the Constitution attached special importance to the Covenant, as reflected in its preamble.  A number of judicial rulings had invoked the Covenant on political and civil rights, for example in the area of asylum law.  Judges and prosecutors received continuing professional education, which included human rights training, said the delegate noting that the bar association in Beirut held at least one session per year on the principles and provisions of the Covenant.  In addition, four or five years ago, Lebanese universities had adopted a decision on including human rights in the curricula in all sectors and faculties of academic training and universities.

Non-discrimination and gender equality was the subject of a number of questions and comments, said a delegate, reiterating that the Lebanese civil law drew no distinctions between men and women.  Women could take up positions on an equal footing with men, in the diplomatic corps, judiciary and public service, said a delegate.  Religious law did not seek to oppress women; it provided everyone with their rights while civil law covered areas not covered by personal status laws which were based on a person’s religious denomination.

Referring to the 2014 Domestic Violence Act, certain amendments were being debated in Parliament with a law on early marriage and the movement of minors.  With regard to civil marriage, there was a strong trend toward adopting a law concerning this but it was hampered because of the political situation.  The law did not recognize marriage of Lebanese citizens abroad.

The National Strategy for Women had been adopted in 2012 to ensure their equal treatment in all walks of life.  Looking at the law, the media, social activism and training, efforts had been made in those domains regarding the progress of women’s rights.  There was a strategic aim to ensure equal rights and obligations for men and women.  The Media Act raised the media’s awareness to women’s condition in Lebanon.  Educational opportunities were equal between girls and boys but there were also efforts to integrate more women in the education system.  With regard to health, continued the delegate, men and women equally accessed reproductive health rights and health care.

The Government was currently amending laws that discriminated against women’s economic and commercial rights.  Many campaigns had been launched that insisted in including women in electoral lists.  There were efforts now for Lebanese women to pass their nationality to their children.  Procedures were being adopted to give residency rights to spouses of Lebanese people as well.

Civil society organizations of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons were invited to participate in activities organized by the National Human Rights Institution, said the delegation, emphasizing that everyone had the right to bring a legal case regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity.  Specialized tribunals had handed down four judgments under article 504 of the penal law.  Laws guaranteed sexual freedoms but there was no security campaign in place to protect those individuals in the private domain.

As for violence against women, amendments to the law protecting women and families in a public space, had been submitted for approval in Parliament.  Those amendments would indeed allow for the criminalization of marital rape.  The law held that violence against women with a view to having sexual relations constituted aggravating circumstances.  It was also compatible with international laws and instruments.  There was a bill before Parliament, which sought to criminalize sexual harassment in the workplace and in the public sphere.

A number of measures had been taken to address violence against women, said the delegation.  Internal security forces had created a specialized centre for victims of domestic violence to receive complaints and ensure their temporary shelter while those complaints were investigated.  A special prosecutor for intra-family violence was in place, and in cooperation with civil society, the police were trained in dealing with domestic violence and the victims.  Victims of violence could always call on the support of a provisional, secret shelter.

A new electoral law had been adopted in 2017 which required representation of all societal categories with particular emphasis on female candidates.

There was an accelerated approach to establish human rights training in military spheres in Lebanon.  Torture and other conflicts with international humanitarian law cases were reviewed in cooperation with other governmental bodies.

Speaking on the death penalty, the delegation emphasized that the laws governing it were in line with the Covenant, as the capital punishment was only used for the most serious crimes.  It was important to understand that the use of the death penalty required a decree on the part of the executive, stressed the delegate, noting that the death penalty had not been used since 2004.  Judges were allowed to transmute the death penalty to life in prison on the condition that the victim’s family was informed and received reparations.

The dialogue with the delegation of Lebanon continued on 22 March via a video conference from Beirut; representatives of the Permanent Mission of Lebanon to the United Nations Office at Geneva were present in the room.

Responses by Delegates

With regard to questions of confessionalism, with roots dating back to Ottoman times, the delegation said that Lebanese society was multi-denominational, with 18 different religious communities recognized by the State.  Each of these communities has its own personal status rules that applied only to its members.  This confessional diversity was also reflected in the political system and the distribution of certain public functions.  Faith diversity was considered one of the guarantors of coexistence as it ensured the protection of the specificity of each community and ensured its active participation in governance and public administration.

It might seem legitimate to think that taking into account the confessional diversity in governance and administration had the effect of limiting the application of the principle of equal rights for all Lebanese, noted the delegate, since confessional membership could constitute a discriminatory element among the Lebanese.  Moreover, the State committed, within the framework of the preamble of the Constitution, to the abolition of political confessionalism, but it had done almost nothing in this sense, because of the political and security instability.

Already under the Ottoman Empire, confessionalism had ensured all Lebanese communities the enjoyment of a certain number of rights.  With independence, a mixed – hybrid – system of governance had been put in place, in which confessionalism and democracy were mixed.  Community identity did not stand in the way of national identity, stressed the delegate; when a soldier fell in the fight against terrorism or a hostile foreign state, when a judge made a verdict, they did not do so by virtue of the values ​​of their confession.  The constitutional amendments under the Ta’if Agreement represented a stability of power, upholding the social fabric of Lebanon and the responsibility of all.

Since 2008, every citizen could demand that the mention of his or her denominational membership be omitted from the registers of civil status, or be deleted.  According to the inventory of the Directorate General of Personal Status of the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities, about 300 people had used this provision in 2016.

The criminalization of torture had been effective at all levels according to international law. Lebanese law recognized torture in all circumstances and stipulated various levels of punishment which was proportional to the torture inflicted, and it also granted courts the rights to offer rehabilitation to torture victims.  About 60 complaints of torture had been lodged in 2017, which resulted in sanctions for some 40 officers.  The Committee Against Torture had been created under the Paris Principles and was tasked with investigating, reporting, and educating about human rights.  The Committee visited detention centres in a random fashion and spoke with detainees concerning their conditions.  They also gathered information from Lebanese administrative authorities and received recommendations on improving those detention centres.  There also had to be a sufficient budget to cover the mandate, which would be part of the budget finance package of 2018.

Referring to fundamental guarantees for detainees, community police had been adopted as part of the “together towards a safer society”, programme, whose goals were based on four objectives: safety, bolstering partnerships with society, accountability and human rights, and raising the level of professional expertise.  Members of this body were trained and conducted programs and visited prisons, thus developing criteria to assure the conduct of those visits.  Article 1 of the Convention against Torture was also adopted and integrated into Lebanese legislation, further protecting prisoners’ rights, and a complaint mechanism was in place with cameras installed to monitor detention centres.

The conditions of detention centres, said a delegate, in light of the surge of refugees, were overcrowded.  To cope with that increase, new prisons were constructed in the north of Lebanon and the central Roumieh prison also had a new centre as well as a new juvenile detention centre.  A commission to tackle poor prison conditions was to be established as well as investigate alternative means to confinement.  There was also the complete separation of juveniles from adult detainees.  There were 23 prisons in Lebanon suffering from overcrowding.  They were working on programs to rehabilitate prisoners as well, and reintegrate them in society.

In terms of pre-trial detention, the legal system required that people detained for longer than 72 hours be registered, and article 47 of the criminal procedure code reminded the detainee of their rights to contact a lawyer and to have an interpreter.  According to this article, arrested people could only be held for 48 hours, prolonged only with the accord of the attorney general.  Under Decree 6236, the International Committee of the Red Cross could regularly visit thirteen prisons so independent investigations could be carried out about prison conditions and treatment of detainees.

With regards to enforced disappearances, a delegate said that the Ministry for Human Rights was in consultations with civil society organizations and victims’ families, while the future protocol with the International Committee of the Red Cross, already approved by the Ministry of Justice, would enable the collection of the DNA from family members to help with the identification of the disappeared.  The right to knowing the fate of their family members would be enshrined in law, while a national committee established to this effect would have centralized archives to help detect the locations where those persons had been buried, essentially in mass graves.

Abortion was prohibited and therapeutic abortion was allowed only if the mother’s life was at risk; outside this scope, a judge might grant abortion under “extenuating circumstances” recognize the concept of “honour crimes”, but there had been a provision in the Criminal Code which had allowed it.   The Chamber of Deputies had repealed in 2011 that article which had granted extenuating circumstances to the person killing or mistreating his wife, one of his ascendants or descendants or his sister because of adultery or unlawful sexual intercourse.

Questions by Committee Experts

In the continuation of the interactive dialogue, an Expert said that although there were no secret detention centres under the Ministry of Defence, there were allegations that such centres existed, and that children were detained, and even died there.

The labour law excluded migrant workers—primarily women—from its provisions and placed them under the sponsorship system, also known as the kafala, which gave absolute control of the employer over the status of the migrant employee, and making migrant workers vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

Lebanon hosted a huge number of refugees and provided continued aid to those refugees despite the burden they placed on the country, Experts noted with satisfaction and asked about the regulations in place that resulted in the restricted access to asylum procedures and push-backs at the border with Syria.  There were reportedly 20 cases of refugees and asylum-seekers, mostly Iraqi and Sudanese nationals, who had been deported from detention centres in 2017.  Would the State Party adopt domestic framework for asylum or adhere to the 1951 Refugee Convention?

There were also reports that refugees and asylum seekers were subjected to prolonged administrative detention and subjected to expulsion.  How many migrants, refugees and asylum seekers were detained, on what grounds and how many among them were children?

The mass surveillance of digital communications by the State Party had been reported, said an Expert, and that surveillance and subsequent interception of personal data was not compatible with the Covenant.  Law 140 required prior judicial authorization for any interception of private communications and access to data but the Lebanese Prime Minister had the authority to circumvent this Law.  The Expert asked if this surveillance was subject to independent oversight mechanisms and if Law 140 would be amended to ensure greater protection.

The Committee expressed concerned about the lack of judicial independence and the absence of effective means for appeals.  What was the status of the bill aimed at ensuring the independence of the judiciary?  Three bills concerning the abolition of military courts were currently being discussed in Parliament – would they touch on the lack of the independence of judges or the use of the courts to impress political adversaries and suppress dissenting voices?

The use of confessions extracted under torture, for example, was not considered grounds for appeal; civil society organizations documented at least eight cases where individuals had their confessions, given while under torture, were used against them in court.

The Committee considered that defamation should be de-criminalized and the criminal code be reserved for only the most serious crimes.  Provisions in the Code allowed for imprisonment for anyone who, for example, insulted the President or the flag, which was extreme.

With regard to the right to access information, the Committee commended Lebanon on drafting that law as well as the update of a draft law that protected whistle-blowers in cases of corruption.  The Constitution guaranteed the right to assembly, however during some demonstrations, including the 2015 protests related to the waste collection crisis and corruption and impunity for such acts, excessive force by security authorities had been used.  When and how was force used by the authorities and were they trained on situations where using force was necessary?

Experts were concerned about numerous reports of forced marriages among Syrian refugee girls and women, as well as rural women in Lebanon.  What were the intentions concerning decriminalising consenting sexual relations between adults irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity?

Could members of non-registered religious groups stand as candidates for election at national or local levels and what were the opportunities for their political and public participation?  What concrete measures, including quotas or voluntary quotas, would be put in place to increase women’s presence in decision-making positions?

Lebanon continued to observe a de facto moratorium on the death penalty, but an Expert asked for clarifications on how many people had been killed by the death penalty.

According to Article 24 of the Covenant, said the Expert, all children must be immediately registered after birth and were required to given a nationality.  Still, many children in the country were stateless at birth, particularly refugee children.  What was being done to simplify the birth registration procedure and what rights to nationality did children born to stateless parents had?

Responses by the Selegation

Responding to the question about the deportation of migrants, the delegation explained that the principle of non-refoulement was fully respected by the authorities: no person could be expelled if there was the slightest doubt that he or she could be subjected to torture in his country.

Regarding privacy and censorship, intelligence interception did not interfere with private life.  A safe Lebanon was a secure Lebanon, the delegation said, but using this intelligence was only in the interests of fighting terrorism and protecting Lebanon and its people.

Regarding freedom of expression, the law stipulated that all audiovisual recordings must be controlled.  The existence of a code of conduct that had classified artistic works was not contrary to freedom of expression; the broadcast of works that focused on Lebanon’s diversity were encouraged and violent extremism, terrorism and hate speech were censored.  An audiovisual bill was under consideration, and it would repeal prison sentences that can be used against newspapers.

Domestic workers were protected by the law of obligations and contracts, as well as by the Criminal Procedure Code.  Any mistreatment or withholding of salaries by employer could be lodged with a disciplinary board within the Ministry of Labour.  To provide fair and equitable working conditions and to protect women from abuse and violence, the labour law required employers to give equal salaries to migrant workers, to be paid at the end of every month through a bank transfer or money wire.  The workers were provided with 24 hours off and a 15-day annual leave as well as nine consecutive hours of rest per day.  A guide published in the native language of foreign workers was given to them as soon as they arrived in the country.  Audiovisual campaigns had been developed to raise awareness of employers concerning their obligations. 

Trade unions had a wide margin of freedom in Lebanon and a prohibition against social servants to hold a strike was now a theoretical thing.  Protests had been held in 2017 to raise their wages, for example.

Ad hoc or military courts had been created in 1968; they comprised 27 judges appointed by the Ministry of Justice and High Judicial Council.  With regard to investigating minors in military courts, it was done in the presence of a juvenile protection delegate and they were only tried if they perpetrated a crime with adults; otherwise they were referred to a juvenile court.  It was compulsory to have a defence council present in military court during the proceedings.  Defence council would be appointed if the accused could not provide one.

The delegation categorically denied the existence of secret detention centers and said that facts would be welcome, not allegations.

The jury was an independent authority and all judgements were issued in the name of the Lebanese people, as consecrated in the Constitution.  Draft laws promoting the independence of the judiciary were being discussed in Parliament and focused on the mechanism to appoint judges, how to appoint members of the Supreme Council and the budget of the judiciary.

Lebanon had for the first time a Ministry dedicated to fighting corruption, and was responsible for, inter alia, illicit enrichment, money laundering and the financing of terrorism.  A national strategy against corruption was in the process of implementation.

Regarding birth registration, it was possible to register a child under the name of the Lebanese father or mother or both within 12 months of birth.  It was also possible to register children of foreign parents born in Lebanon.  A special mechanism had been put in place for the registration of Syrian children, even those older than 12 months; the mechanism also covered Palestinian refugees from Syria.

The delegation said that 63 people had been sentenced to death.

A draft law on early marriage removed the possibility for different denominations to set their own age of marriage, which would not be 18 years old; the new law would allow 16 years old to marry subsequent to the authorization of the parents and social entourage.  A judicial authorization was required for the administration to register a marriage of a minor.  The law also introduced penal sanctions for non-compliance and awareness campaigns for young girls to inform them that they could refuse to marry before the age of 18 was in place.

Conferences and debated had been organized and a sub-committee had been established to deal with the political activity of women.  There had been an increase in women’s participation in decision-making positions because of those efforts. 

Concluding Remarks

SALIM BADDOURA, Permanent Representative of Lebanon to the United Nations Office at Geneva, in his closing remarks thanked the Committee for a courteous discussion which would hopefully represent a milestone in the cooperation between Lebanon and this Committee.  The Ambassador also noted with satisfaction the goodwill and flexibility which allowed for the completion of this interactive dialogue regardless of the strike by the United Nations personnel on 16 March.

MARGO WATERWAL, Committee Rapporteur, thanked the delegation of Lebanon in Geneva and in Beirut for their flexibility
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