13 March 2002
AI Index MDE 18/004/2002 - News Service Nr. 45
Lebanon: Amnesty International expresses concerns at violations in
pre-trial detention of Tawfiq al-Hindi and co-defendants
On Thursday 14 March 2002, the Military Court of Beirut is scheduled
to hand down sentences on two separate but inter-related trials of
political prisoners accused of "collaboration" with Israel.
The first case involves Tawfiq al-Hindi, a leading member of the
unauthorized Lebanese Forces party and Antoine Bassil, Elie Kerouz,
and Salman Samaha as well as others tried in absentia,  as co-
The main accused in the second case include two journalists Antoine
Bassil, and Habib Younes. All of them were arrested by the Military
Intelligence, mostly without warrants, between 7 and 18 August 2001
and subsequently charged with, among other things, "collaboration"
with Israel, conspiracy, and withholding information.
Amnesty International  is concerned that the accused were allegedly
subjected to torture and ill-treatment and held incommunicado for
prolomged periods during pre-trial detention. All of the accused said
in court that they had been forced to sign statements, which they had
not read, and all claimed that they were coerced to "confess" their
guilt or testify against themselves or others. All of the accused
retracted the statements attributed to them by the interrogators and
have denied all of the charges against them.
"The Lebanese authorities should establish an impartial and
independent judicial investigation into all allegations of torture
and ill-treatment by the accused, and ensure that any statement
established to have been made as a result of torture or ill-treatment
is not used as evidence against the accused," the organization said.
Most of the accused alleged that they were subjected to physical and
psychological torture and otherwise ill-treated while held
incommunicado at the Ministry of Defence in al-Yerze, for up to eight
days. They were reportedly denied contact with their families,
lawyers or doctors and were allegedly subjected to beatings, sleep
deprivation, listening to voices of people being tortured, and the
torture method known as balanco (hanging by the wrists which are tied
behind the back).

        "The Lebanese authorities must respect the rights of every
person to liberty and security, to be treated with humanity and
respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, to freedom from
torture and ill-treatment, to be presumed innocent until proved
guilty beyond reasonable doubt in the course of a fair trial,"
Amnesty International said.
The authorities must further ensure that anyone charged with a
criminal offence is not compelled to testify against himself or to
confess guilt, in accordance with Article 14(3)(g) of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which
Lebanon is a state party.
Furthermore Article 15 of the Convention against Torture and other
Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which Lebanon
ratified in October 2000, provides that "any statement which is
established to have been made as a result of torture shall not be
invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person
accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made".
In August 2001, about 200 activists, including students and
teenagers, suspected of being members of the outlawed opposition
groups, the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement, were
arrested by the Military Intelligence from different locations in the
capital Beirut and Mount Lebanon. Amnesty International expressed its
concern at the time of the arrests that these individuals may have
been detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to
freedom of expression and association. Most of those arrested were
subsequently released either on bail or without charge.
In December 2001, Tawfiq al-Hindi, Antoine Bassil and their co-
defendants - all of them civilians - were formally indicted on
charges of "collaboration" with Israel and referred for trial before
the Military Court of Beirut.
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