Prison Conditions in Syria and Lebanon a Cause for Concern

Subcommittee on Human Rights discussed the prison conditions in Syria and Lebanon on 25.10. [:]


Chairwoman noted that the Subcommittee has devoted much attention to issues such as the persecution of human rights defenders and torture, which are still recurrent in many countries. Unfortunately, she noted, human rights defenders may face extremely harsh detention conditions in some countries. She recalled that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human being.

In the hearing it was noted that while in Lebanon access to prisons is good but that there are considerable problems with over population, bad sanitary conditions and inadequate health services in the detention facilities. Furthermore, there are reports of torture and ill-treatment in the Ministry of Defence interrogation facilities. Lebanon ratified in December 2008 the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which foresees the creation of a national preventive mechanism to monitor places of detention. Accountability for torture and ill-treatment in detention remains, however, unsatisfactory.

EU has made efforts to encourage improvement in the detention conditions and facilities in Lebanon and it was felt that further efforts are not only highly desirable but also necessary.

In Syria, problems are acutely pressing. Alarm was expressed over the fact that no access is allowed for human rights organisations to detention facilities and reports of severe torture and ill-treatment, incommunicado detention and arbitrary arrests are frequent. There are also reported deaths in detention. Most worryingly, information was received by the Subcommittee concerning several reported political prisoners in Syria.

Chairwoman Hautala recalled that the draft Association Agreement between EU and Syria places at the core of the cooperation the respect for human rights and invited the EU Commission to explain how in a situation of clear violation of international human rights norms, conclusion of the agreement is nevertheless being pursued by the EU. While the Commission agreed that the human rights abuses in Syria are of great concern and have been publicly condemned by the EU, they hope that ratification of the Association Agreement with Syria may contribute in establishing a sustained and regular dialogue. Chairwoman underlined that in case of completion, it is of paramount importance that EU pay particular attention to the human rights situation in Syria.

The hearing was attended and addressed by Mr Iyas Al-Maleh, whose father suffers a three-year sentence in Syria. The international human rights community is strongly of the view that Mr Haytham Al-Maleh is being persecuted due to his long standing human rights advocacy in Syria. European Parliament adopted a resolution in September on the situation of Mr Al-Maleh, calling for his immediate release and for the Syrian authorities to seize harassment of human rights activists and release all political prisoners. Mr Iyas Al-Maleh called for the EU to more effectively engage with Syrian authorities in to try bring an end to the human rights violations.

Chairwoman stressed that the Subcommittee shall remain seized on the matter of political prisoners in Syria and on the case of Mr Al-Maleh in particular.