In response to the nationals protests and strikes that broke out after the government announced the new tax measures, the security forces used excessive force against the protesters. Moreover, it failed to protect people’s right to protest peacefully. Security forces continued to use torture and other ill-treatments, nevertheless the assaults were against the law. Lebanon hosted 1.5 million Syrian refugees, but deported around 2,500 in violation of its non-refoulement obligations. It denied Syrian refugees the access to services and aid, leading to many living in poor conditions. The LGBTI community continues to be denied of their rights. Society in Lebanon is criticising the political and religious authorities, which bring no good to the country. Women migrant workers continued to suffer discriminatory practices and the death penalty was approved, taking away the right to jail to out-lawyers.
Torture during the protests
Torture and other ill-treatment continued to be perpetrated by all the security against the protestors. Among torture methods, these people were also beaten with hoses, metal chains and other implements. They were given electric shocks on their genitals and hung in stress positions for long periods. Last May, Hassan al-Dika died in custody after being tortured in detention. His father submitted complained three times, but judicial authorities failed to investigate the case. The Ministry of Interior opened an internal investigation, which concluded that Hassan al-Dika had died of an sickness he had prior to his detention. In March, the government appointed the five members of the National Preventative Mechanism, an independent body within the National Human Rights Institute, to investigate torture practices and monitor the detention conditions. However, it failed to issue the necessities to operationalize the investigation and to allocate a budget for it.
In June, the parliament passed a law exempting children of residing but not national Lebanese mothers. Even though they are married to non-Lebanese fathers, they have no permit to apply for jobs. Although, the President returned the law to parliament for further review. In September, the parliament’s Committee on Women and Children approved a draft law on sexual harassment in the workplace. Its general assembly failed to discuss it. The Lebanese legislation continues to discriminate women today.
The LGBTI community continued to be denied the freedom to exercise their rights. Any sexual intercourse that contradicts the laws of nature, is not allowed in Lebanon. Alongside that, other laws that criminalize sex work, drug use and trafficking, are still used to prosecute LGBTI people. In May, the Ministry of Telecommunications blocked any access to the Grindr app, which is mainly used by gay and trans men.
Freedom of expression
Security forces continued to interrogate human rights and peaceful political activists, journalists and other individuals for social media posts criticizing political and religious authorities. 78 people were summoned for interrogation in 2019 simply for expressing their views online through social posts.
An example, in July, church leaders asked the organizers of a festival to cancel the appearance of the band Mashrou’ Leila. They said its songs were offensive to religious and humanitarian values and Christian beliefs. The statement triggered a social media chaos accusing the band of spreading sexual perversion and violence. The Ministry of Interior did not announce that it would protect the band and its fans. In the meantime, the judiciary failed to investigate in primes, those who initiated violence. The festival’s organizers cancelled the band’s appearance, stating they were forced to do so in order to ensure security.
Migrant domestic workers
Women migrant workers continued to be discriminated under the kafala (sponsorship) system. It restricted their rights to freedom of movement and communication, education and health, including sexual and reproductive health. Amnesty International stated serious human rights abuses underwent by many of the country’s 250,000 migrant domestic workers, mostly women, from their employers. Exploitative working conditions included long working hours, no rest days, denial of pay or imposed deductions. In addition to that, deprivation of food and proper accommodation, verbal and physical abuse, and denial of access to health care, a primary right for the Lebanese population. The Minister of Labour looked into erasing the kafala system. A plan was submitted, but none of its recommendations had been implemented, yet.
Lebanon has the highest literacy rate (93.9%) for men and women youth among Algeria, Egypt, Syria and Tunisia. However, there is a large knowledge gap between the rich and the poor students of about 45%. One of the largest in the region. Only 5% of poor families send their children to private schools. At a university level, there is only one public university which enrolls a large percentage of the country’s college students. The Lebanese education system faces a challenge in preparing the youth to graduate in any kind of high-technology reliant workplace, which is essential in nowadays work environment. The number of university graduates has been increasing from the only public university in the country, because of the lack of funds to attend a private one.
The social protection system does not ensure sufficient coverage. The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) provides a health insurance only to workers in the private sector. The rest of the population is left out. Approximately half of the Lebanese people do not belong to any social security scheme, neither health insurance, nor pension fund or end-of -service indemnity. The matter that the elderly people is increasing, puts additional pressure on the dysfunctional of the social security system. People who cannot get covered by the NSSF, can obtain health coverage from the Ministry of Public Health. However, the coverage is not sufficient either. Access to passive labor market and social protection policies, has been one of the most discussed issues between the social partners, like between employers and employees.
The NSSF has 35 offices throughout the country and also inspects enterprises and work sites to verify that companies contribute to the social security of their employees. However, a large number of companies do not register their employees with the NSSF. The Informal sector makes up a large percentage of the labor market, with unregistered companies and employees.
The access and insurance of human rights in Lebanon needs to be improved and given to all the population living in Lebanon. This situation cannot be sustained any longer by its inhabitants.