European Union External Action

Human rights and democracy in Lebanon

01/06/2018 - 09:49
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Human rights are at the heart of the European Union's external action and the EU reaffirms its role as a leading global proponent of the promotion and protection of human rights. On 28 May 2018, the Council adopted the EU's annual report on human rights and democracy in the world in 2017.

BTF Europe Day Lebanon

Overall human rights situation in Lebanon

Lebanon generally upheld and preserved respect for human rights and the rule of law and undertook some important key reforms, despite a challenging context, such as the adoption of a new electoral law which paves the way for holding the May 2018 parliamentary elections, further steps taken towards the full establishment of a Secretariat for a National Coordination Mechanism to improve reporting to international Human Rights bodies, new legislation on anti-torture and on the right of access to information as well as abolishing from the penal code the exemption from punishment of rapists who marry their victims. Lebanon also adopted a memorandum to facilitate birth and marriage registration of refugees (including Palestinians) and issued a waiver of the fees for residency permits for certain categories of Syrian refugees although its implementation needs to be improved. Lebanon faces important challenges in areas such as military courts' jurisdiction over civilians, arbitrary detention, pre-trial detention periods without access to a lawyer and over-crowding of prisons. It is vital that the results of investigations into deaths in custody are published for improved accountability of the security agencies. Death sentences are not carried out but still issued by the courts. Work to protect women's rights and to address the increase in the number of detained children and in pre-trial detention must continue. The protection space for refugees has shrunk while refugee children remain exposed to forced labour, sexual exploitation and child marriage. Despite protection of the freedom of expression in general, the use of criminal defamation laws against citizens speaking out against the government is still used in certain cases. Furthermore, the establishment at the end of 2016 of three new ministries for human rights, women's rights and anti-corruption are yet to bring tangible results.

EU action - key focus areas

In its political and policy dialogue with the Lebanese government the EU regularly advocates for human rights protection and carried out numerous activities and public outreach events to raise concerns, particularly with regards to the fight against torture and ill-treatment, women's rights, children's rights, rights of refugees and migrants, freedom of expression and ensuring a democratic electoral process.

EU bilateral political engagement

The EU engages in a constant political dialogue on human rights issues not least because they also form an important element of the EU-Lebanon Partnership Priorities signed in November 2016. The EU raised the issue of torture, ill-treatment and the abolition of the death penalty with the Lebanese authorities on numerous occasions and emphasised the importance that relevant institutional mechanisms, notably the National Human Rights Institution and the National Preventive Mechanism are fully operational. The EU conducted public outreach through various ways (articles in leading newspapers, social media against the death penalty, speeches at public events, participation in ministerial workshops etc.) and organised inauguration events of the new EU-funded refurbished premises in the prison of Tripoli and the new Forensic and Psychological Unit at Tripoli's Palace of Justice. The EU made an official demarche on prison conditions in June 2017. The EU raised the importance of women's political participation and of women's rights and continued to support various actions on children's rights including formal and non-formal education, teacher training, access to basic education of refugee children, accelerated learning programmes, basic numeracy and literacy, technical and vocational training, and support to school facilities. As regards refugees, the

EU continued to advocate for an improved legal framework for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and the importance of restarting their registration. During the joint preparation of the April 2017 Conference "Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region", Lebanon announced the waiver of the residency fee for certain refugees while the EU continued to advocate for respect of international humanitarian law in particular respect for the principle of non-refoulement.

The EU also supported efforts to encourage all Lebanese parties to engage constructively on the issues of electoral reform and the holding of parliamentary elections in 2018 and continued to engage regularly with CSOs to increase their participation in policy dialogue and policy making processes, as set out in the EU Country Roadmap for Engagement with Civil Society (2014-2017).

EU financial engagements

A total of ten human rights-related projects under the EIDHR and ENI were implemented by Lebanese CSOs and OHCHR for an overall contractual value of over EUR 8.6 million. This portfolio of projects provided further assistance to Lebanon in addressing some of the most urgent human rights needs. In 2017, the EU also funded projects aiming at strengthening dialogue mechanisms between security actors, communities and civil society, as well as contributing to improved accountability of security agencies. In addition, through the EU Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis (the 'Madad' Fund), the EU in 2017 contracted EUR 7,8 million to address vulnerabilities of refugees and host communities, EUR12 million to maintain resilience of Palestinian refugees from Syria, and EUR 55,6 million to support the education and protection programme for vulnerable Syrian and Lebanese school-aged children.

Multilateral context

Lebanon submitted its first periodic report to the Committee against Torture (CAT) in March 2016 and the CAT session was held in April/May 2017 with the concluding observations published at the end of May 2017. In May 2017 the Committee on the Rights of the Child concluded its considerations of the combined fourth and fifth periodic report of Lebanon on its implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Lebanon signed the Bali Declaration in October 2017 on the protection of migrant workers' rights.

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