Lebanese Internal Security Forces threaten, ill-treat, and torture LGBT people in their custody says report released today (26 June).
In just one example of many interviewees, Nadim was arrested in 2010 because his brother was suspected of drug dealing. He was repeatedly beaten, threatened, and subjected to an ‘anal probe’ examination.
Such tests, nicknamed the ‘tests of shame’, involve a forensic medical doctor examining the anus of a suspect for ‘proof’ that he engaged in anal sex.
The doctor checks for traces of sperm, and takes a picture to ‘study’ the shape of the hole; the larger the width the more ‘likely’ the person is gay, according to this discredited test which is classified as torture by human rights organizations.
Nadim recounted: ‘The intimidation and the beatings never stopped…
‘[An officer] asked me why I had messages and names of gay men on my phone, I asked him whether it was illegal to speak to gay men.
‘He hit me again so hard my eye split and I began bleeding. I begged him to stop hitting my face but this egged him on further and he hit me even harder.
‘He forced me to sign a confession that I have sex with men, all the while hurling punches and abuse at me. He then made me take off all my clothes and looked at me, told me I’m a faggot, insulted me, threatened me.
‘The next day, two more men came in and interrogated me again. By this time the drug issue was dropped, the case was now about homosexuality…
‘When I told the interrogating officer that I was forced to confess to having sex under duress, he got a thick electricity cable and whipped my palms.
‘He then said that he would get a forensic doctor to check me [with an anal ‘probe’ test]…
‘He kept intimidating me, trying to get me to confess again…The exam turned out negative, and so they had no choice but to release me without charge.’
Such torture, abuse and ill-treatment is common to Lebanon’s Internal Security Forced (ISF), says a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), that was released today on the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.
The 66-page report by HRW, entitled “It’s Part of the Job: Ill-treatment and Torture of Vulnerable Groups in Lebanese Police Stations,” is based on over 50 interviews with people arrested for the suspicion of being gay, drug use, or sex work over the past five years.
According to the experts and former detainees HRW interviewed, the police do little to hide their disdain of LGBT people, drug users and sex workers.
Verbal abuse, degradation, and humiliation appear to be so common that many victims tended to gloss over them when telling their stories. To them, the practices were so common that they appeared unremarkable. Physical violence was not just used to extract confessions but also as a form of punishment, discipline, and ‘behavioral correction.’
Gay people are also deliberately entrapped by the ISF in cruising grounds, often being beaten and then arrested where they are subjects to ‘anal probe’ exams and other forms of torture and ill treatment.
ISF continues to use anal ‘probe’ tests despite an official ban by by both the Lebanese medical association and the ministry of justice following a case, revealed by GSN, where 36 men were subjected to the tests - and were even forced to pay for them - after being arrested in a police raid on a porn cinema where men allegedly meet for gay sex.
‘The abuse of prisoners, especially the most vulnerable people in society, isn’t going to stop until Lebanon ends the culture of impunity in its police force,’ said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at HRW.
Lebanon is violating an international Convention against Torture that it ratified and its own Code of Conduct for the police based on such principles, HRW said.
Access to redress is particularly difficult for members of vulnerable groups, such LGBT people, sex workers and drug users.
While there are mechanisms in place to file formal complaints, logistical, social, and structural obstacles render the system woefully inadequate to ensure accountability for wrongdoing, a situation HRW watch recommended changing by establishing an independent complaints mechanism.
The ways laws that criminalize homosexuality, sex work and personal drug use are enforced exacerbate the problem and present a major obstacle to reporting police abuse.
Article 534 of the Lebanese Penal Code states that ‘any sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature is punishable by up to one year in prison.’
While gay sex is not explicitly outlawed it is assumed to be ‘contrary to nature’, leaving interpretation open to individual judges, who have used it to prosecute people suspected of homosexuality.
Georges Azzi, the executive director of the Beirut based Arab Foundation for Freedoms and Equality, welcomed the report and told Gay Star news that its ‘recommendations are comprehensive and address not only the ISF’s practice of torture, but legislation and the Lebanese government.
‘I call upon the Lebanese government to repeal article 534, and give strict order to the police to stop their illegal practices.
‘Training should be given to the police to raise ISF’s awareness on issue related to human right and human treatment of the detainees, and this should be complemented by raising awareness to Lebanese citizens about their rights while in detention.’
The Lebanese LGBT community has recently held a protest against the abuse gay people face by the ISF.