BEIRUT (AP) — Lebanon’s police forces are mistreating and torturing people, especially drug users, sex workers and homosexuals, an international human rights group said in a report released Wednesday.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said its 66-page report is based on over 50 interviews with people detained for suspected drug use, sex work or homosexuality over the past five years.
“Abuse is common in Lebanon’s police stations, but it is even worse for people like drug users or sex workers,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The abuse of prisoners, especially the most vulnerable people in society, isn’t going to stop until Lebanon ends the culture of impunity in its police force.”
In the report, HRW said the most common forms of torture reported were beatings with fists, boots, or implements such as sticks, canes, and rulers. It said 17 former detainees it interviewed said they were denied food, water, or medication when they needed it, or that their medication was confiscated.
Some reported being handcuffed in bathrooms or kept in extremely uncomfortable positions for hours at a time while 11 said they were forced to listen to the screams of other detainees to scare them into cooperating or confessing, HRW said.
While access to redress for police abuse is generally difficult, the report found that it is particularly challenging for sex workers, drug users, and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people, it said. Of the 52 people interviewed who alleged ill-treatment, only six filed complaints, and judges ordered inquiries in only two of these cases, HRW said.
“They took me to interrogation naked, poured cold water on me, tied me to a desk with a chain, and hung me,” said a man who HRW identified only as “Mohammad.” It said he was arrested for drug possession, describing being suspended by the feet with hands tied to an iron bar passed under the knees.
“They broke all my teeth and nose, and hit me with a gun until my shoulder was dislocated,” HRW quoted him as saying.
Of the 25 women arrested for suspected drug use or sex work who were interviewed, 21 told HRW that police subjected them to sexual violence or exploitation, ranging from rape to offers of leniency, better treatment, cigarettes, or food in exchange for sex.
The group said authorities should establish an independent complaints mechanism to investigate torture allegations.