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Urgent Interventions

Profound concern about the reliable reports of arbitrary arrest and detention of refugees and asylum seekers

Mr. Saad al Hariri
Prime Minister
El Serail, Beirut

Geneva, Copenhagen, Paris

December 4, 2009

Dear Prime Minister,

We, the undersigned organizations, send you this letter to voice our concerns about the human rights violations we observed in relation to the case of Mrs. Hawa Jamal Nassar, wife of Mr. Al Fadel Ahmad Suleimane, a Sudanese refugee registered with UNHCR, Beirut office.

Mrs. Jamal Nassar was arrested by the General Security Office (GSO) on the 2nd of December 2008. She was interrogated by the GSO services in Chehim and forcibly transferred to a safe house together with her 5 months old baby. Although the safe house is not meant to be a place of detention[1], she was kept there for almost 12 months. Despite her requests, she had no access to any lawyer during this time On Saturday 31st of October 2009, Mrs. Jamal Nassar’s husband was in his turn arrested by the GSO and put in the GSO detention centre on grounds of lack of documentation although having a UNHCR refugee certificate.

We have now learned with satisfaction that Mrs. Jamal Nassar and her baby, as well as Mr. Al Fadel Ahmad Suleimane were released on Thursday 19th of November 2009 and resettled by the UNHCR to Sweden.

In spite of this ultimately positive development, the fact remains, however, that this case is in our view symptomatic of both the extreme vulnerability of refugees and asylum seekers in Lebanon and the practices of unlawful and arbitrary detention by the GSO in the country. Such practices have been detailed in several reports, including by Frontiers-Ruwad[2] and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network[3].

In many cases, the arrest and detention of refugees and asylum seekers are carried out outside the Lebanese legal framework, including the Law Regulating the Entry and Stay of Foreigners in Lebanon and their Exit from the Country (Law of Entry and Exit)[4]. With regard to refugees and asylum seekers they are kept in detention by the GSO for indefinite periods in clear violation of the Lebanese Code of Criminal Procedure (articles 42 and 47), which limits the duration of the detention to 48 hours, renewable once, under the control of a judge.

We are aware that Lebanon has not yet ratified the 1951 Geneva Convention and its 1967 Protocol and we therefore invite your Government to consider ratifying them in a near future. The Lebanese authorities have however signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UNHCR. Lebanon has also ratified a number of international human rights and humanitarian law instruments providing, inter alia, for the protection of all persons - including asylum seekers and refugees - against ill treatment of any kind as well as arbitrary arrest and detention.

We would therefore wish to convey to you our profound concern about the reliable reports of arbitrary arrest and detention of refugees and asylum seekers carried out in Lebanon and would like to ask you to inform us about the precise legal basis for the long detention of Mrs. Hawa Jamal Nassar and her baby. Furthermore, we would appreciate if you could explain why Mrs. Jamal Nassar and her baby were kept in a safe house, a place not meant to be a place of detention. Finally, we would be grateful if you could clarify what measures are being taken to avoid that such violations of the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers are not repeated in the future.

We are looking forward to your response at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely yours,

Kamel Jendoubi
President of EMHRN Souhayr Belhassen
President of FIDH Eric Sottas
Secretary General of OMCT

Cc: Mr. Ziad Baroud—Minister of Interior;
Mr. Ibrahim Najjar—Minister of Justice;
Mr. Michel Moussa—Head of the Committee; Parliamentarian Human Rights Committee

[1] As per the Decree 14289 dated 9 March 2000, Official Journal no. 11 dated 17 March 2005

[2] See : Double jeopardy – illegal entry, illegal detention, Frontiers-Ruwad,

[3] See : Migration and asylum in the Mashrek – Protection gaps & country fact sheets, EMHRN

[4] Official Journal, No. 28-1962, entered into force 10 July 1962.

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