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Lebanon: death in custody after torture of Syrian refugee must be fully investigated

Bashar Abdel-Saud © Private

Bashar Abdel-Saud, defector from Syrian army accused of drug dealing and ISIS membership, died in custody of State Security 

Call for case to be handled by civilian courts not by military authorities 

‘His family deserves justice and reparations for their tragic loss’ - Heba Morayef

The death in custody at the weekend of Bashar Abdel-Saud - a Syrian refugee who was tortured - must serve as a wake-up call to the Lebanese authorities to address torture in their detention facilities, said Amnesty International today.

Lebanese State Security officers arrested Abdel-Saud, a 30-year-old father of three, at his home in Beirut on 31 August without presenting an arrest warrant. 

Abdel-Saud - a defector from the Syrian army who fled to Lebanon eight years ago before working as a porter while living with his family in the Sabra and Shatila camp for Palestinian refugees in Beirut - was apparently accused of drug dealing and belonging to ISIS.

According to Mohammed Sablouh, the lawyer assigned to Abdel-Saud’s case, the authorities had accused Abdel-Saud of three things: “they said he had fake currency, they said he used and dealt [the drug] Captagon, and they said he was a member of ISIS. All these are lies.”

According Sablouh, the family received a call from a State Security official on 3 September asking them to collect Abdel-Saud’s body from their headquarters in Tibneen, southern Lebanon. However, Sablouh and the family refused to collect the body before receiving an independent forensic report from the doctor who examined the body. 

Following an uproar caused by leaked pictures and videos revealing injuries on Abdel-Saud’s body, State Security issued a statement saying he had been arrested for possession of a fake $50 note and that he had “confessed” to being a member of ISIS before he died. They also said that the case would be investigated internally.

Judicial officials have announced an investigation by the military prosecution - however Amnesty is calling for this to take place within the civilian justice system. On 2 September, the government commissioner of the Military Court examined Abdel-Saud’s body and ordered the detention of five officers in the State Security branch in Tibneen, including a lieutenant in charge and officers suspected of carrying out the torture.

Under international human rights law, military personnel should be tried before military courts only for breaches of military discipline. Under the Lebanese anti-torture law, the power to prosecute, investigate and try is granted exclusively to ordinary civilian courts. 

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Director, said: 

“To ensure transparency and impartiality, Abdel-Saud’s case must urgently be referred to a civilian court. 

“His family deserves justice and reparations for their tragic loss.”

Pattern of torture

The torture of Bashar Abdel-Saud was not an isolated case in Lebanon. Last year, Amnesty released a report documenting numerous instances of the abuse of Syrian refugees - including four children - who had been held on terrorism-related charges. Abuse included beatings with metal sticks, electric cables and plastic pipes. The authorities failed to investigate the torture claims, even when detainees or their lawyers told a judge in court that they had been tortured.

In 2017, Ziad Itani, a Lebanese actor who was arrested by the State Security agency in December 2017 on trumped-up charges of spying for Israel, was tried before a military court. Itani said State Security officers subjected him to prolonged torture, including beating him with electric cables, tying him up in metal chains, kicking and punching him in the face, and threatening to rape him. He filed a complaint against them in November 2018, but no further steps have been taken to effectively investigate.


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