Syrian advances and Lebanese prisons

‘”Syria appears to continue to deploy troops on Lebanese soil in the remote and rugged hills north of the town of Rashaya al-Wadi, despite Damascus having ended its military occupation of Lebanon in April 2005,” reports the Jane’s article. The report goes on to say that “Syrian positions in Lebanon appear designed purely as a forward defensive line in the case of any Israeli advance and not as conduits for weaponry smuggled from Syria to Hezbollah. The militant Lebanese Shiite organization receives much of its armaments along the border in the northern Bekaa Valley adjacent to Shiite areas under the group’s control. Further commercial satellite imagery obtained by Jane’s from DigitalGlobe from Dec. 24, 2006 and March 12, 2008 suggest that Syria has undertaken a moderate increase in its equipment and therefore its activity at the apparent Syrian military bases on Lebanese soil. The new equipment includes what appears to be towed and self-propelled artillery and a T-54/55 tank. “Human intelligence verification of the increase in activity is impossible,” according to the Jane’s report, which goes on to say that “in late 2005, the Lebanese Armed Forces sealed off the hills to the east of Kfar Qouk. An LAF checkpoint at the junction of the only road leading to Deir al-Ashayer bars all but local residents from reaching the village. The nearby village of Halwa is also sealed off by the army. Although there are no Syrian army bases in the vicinity of Halwa, there are several small outposts manned by pro-Damascus Palestinian groups such as Fatah Intifada and as-Saiqa. These outposts are linked to Syria by un-patrolled dirt tracks used by commercial smugglers as well as militants for resupplying equipment and personnel.”‘

‘Illegal migrants, drug addicts, sex workers and those accused of crimes against national security are particularly at risk of abuse which, according to interviews conducted by ALEF, ranged from electrocution to rape. ALEF also claims Lebanon has not lived up to its international legal obligations as a party to the UN Convention Against Torture, and a signatory of the Optional Protocol to the same convention. “Despite the framework of legal obligations which Lebanon is a part of, torture has been practiced by the Internal Security Forces against the majority of arrested persons,” the report says. In addition, Lebanon has failed to issue regular reports to the Committee Against Torture, the UN monitoring body in charge of ensuring states’ compliance to the convention. The report also criticizes the poor condition of Lebanese prisons which it claims are “under-staffed, under-resourced and over-crowded.”

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