Dear Minister Salim Jreissaty,
Dear Minister Ayman Choucair (TBC),
Dear Suzanne Jabbour, Restart's Director and Restart colleagues,
Representatives of security institutions
Representatives of civil society,
Just like a few moments ago during the inauguration event in Kobbeh prison, I would like to start by thanking our partner RESTART CENTER. I want to highlight the consistently positive and encouraging feedback I receive about the work that the Restart's team is doing in the Palace of Justice, Tripoli's Kobbeh prison and with the Ministries of Justice, Interior, Human Rights, Health, as well as with the security agencies.
I also would like to thank the Lebanese authorities, especially the Ministry of Justice, for their support in facilitating the work of NGOs working on this very difficult topic. Without the openness and cooperation of all the security agencies present here today; without the political support of relevant Ministries; and without the expertise and commitment of the civil society, Lebanon would not achieve as much as it did during last year.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends,
Torture is a crime under international law. It is not effective and cannot be justified at any time and under any circumstances, including during conflict, when national security is under threat or in the fight against terrorism.
Evidence shows that torture is simply not effective. People make false confessions under torture to stop the suffering they are subjected to. Torture also contributes to radicalization and to the extremism of detainees. It is, therefore, not a response to security threats; on the contrary, it contributes to them.
The EU's policy on torture and ill treatment is very clear: it is not acceptable. This conviction is based on the values that lie at the very heart of the Union itself. The prevention of torture is among the EU's core priorities in terms of human rights worldwide.
Fighting torture and ill-treatment in Lebanon has been on the EU's agenda for a long time. It is part of our policy dialogue with Lebanese authorities but also a priority in our engagement with civil society.
Our funding to this project implemented by Restart and AJEM reflects this continuous engagement.
Todays' inauguration of the Forensic and Psychological Examination Unit at the Palace of Justice is more than a project. It delivers the first Unit of this type in Lebanon, and therefore represents a remarkable step forward for Lebanon to address torture and ill-treatment; a step that has been recognised also outside Lebanon.
The Committee Against Torture (CAT) in its concluding remarks published last month highlighted the creation of the Unit as a positive step taken by Lebanon to amend its policies and procedures in order to ensure greater protection of human rights and to apply the Convention against Torture.
For years, the legislative and policy framework to prevent impunity for torture in Lebanon was absent. This however changed in October last year when the Lebanese Parliament passed legislation for the creation of a National Preventive Mechanism to conduct regular visits to all places of detention and to investigate the use of torture and ill treatment.
We all agree that the adoption of a law establishing this Mechanism is a very important step; but even more important will be its implementation. Also, it is urgently needed to adopt a law criminalising torture based on the definition of the Convention Against Torture.
Lebanon has submitted its report and engaged in an open dialogue with the Committee in Geneva a few weeks ago. Cooperation between government officials and civil society in following up on the recommendations and in developing a list of priorities are on track and fruitful. You play in the same team. And the EU will continue to be a supporter of this team!
The CAT recommendations underlined positive steps, but also points out challenges. This is why we must take the CAT recommendations as an opportunity to move forward. The EU will continue to support both civil society and the Lebanese Government in their efforts to promote human rights in line with these recommendations.
We know that much remains to be done and the CAT's report on Lebanon is a hard reminder of that fact.
This is why we all need to do more. As mentioned before, the EU is currently implementing two projects with Restart to rehabilitate victims of torture, prevent torture, increase accountability and fight impunity. We are also working on improving the situation of prisoners and on building the professional capacity of law enforcement.
In addition to traditional service-provision for victims and their families, the EU is funding remarkable activities such as the refurbishment of Tripoli's Kobbe prison that I had the honour to open just few minutes ago.
So today is a good day for the fight against torture and ill-treatment, and I hope that we will be able to meet soon again to celebrate similar kinds of activities.
Thank you for your attention.