Adonis Diaries

Archive for April 9th, 2011

What’s going on in Lebanon? In the prison of Roumieh?

There is this prison in Lebanon, close to the town called Roumieh.  The prisoners set fire in the 4 buildings and closed accesses to the prison.  This prison is holding 4,000 incarcerated people, in all categories from minor citizens (under 17 of age), minor thefts and car accidents…, political prisoners, foreign maids not able to pay their flight back home, …

One prisoner (26 year-old) did not live because he was repeatedly refused treatment for his diabetes:  He was in prison for two months and was to stay 6 months for traffic incident as his family was unable to collect $10,000.

Every week, Lebanon witness a dozen of road kills (people) and the cases are settled out of court. This prison in Roumieh was designed to host one thousand inmates in the 70’s and no other prisons were planned to be constructed.

Every couple of months, the prisoners in Roumieh revolt in order to have better living conditions, and the State crack down and promises improvement… This time around, the families of the prisoners demonstrated on mass for 3 days in front of the prison and the Justice Palace.  The families closed main roads throughout Lebanon demanding information on the situation and conditions of their family members.

There are plenty of evidence that the prison officers have established a lucrative racket, selling cellular phones, cocaine, heroin, and all kinds of drugs…These facts were widely known and the supposed government promised to investigate and nothing was revealed or done or reformed.

Lebanon has never had a government worth calling a government:  Most of the time, the government is in “running affairs” condition because a designated Prime Minister takes his time forming another stupid government, say four months on average, and ending up with virtual governments that are too weak to govern, plan, and execute any kinds of reforms.

The real power in Lebanon is in the hand of the clerics of 18 recognized religious sects.

The current rioting that generated 3 deaths so far, and unknown number of injuries, is the consequence of two decades of negligence and malpractice in the field of correctional services.

Prisoners are held in cells with up to 15 fellow inmates with no medical treatment.  The justice system has been crippled for over 4 decades, since the civil war that started in 1975, and no new judges have been appointed for many years.

Many prisoners in the overcrowded jail have been waiting up to 5 years for their case to be heard over common law matters such as theft, faked signature…Many have died in prison before and during the riots.

The trouble stems from 3 main problems:

First, lack of funding from the Finance Ministry, which was under the control of the late Rafic Hariri PM, and who ruled from 1992 to 2005.  The Finance Ministry is still in the hand of Saad Hariri, son of Rafic:  an oligarchic Future Movement political party succession story.  In this period, Lebanon witnessed institutionalized corruption, and saw its public debt balloon to $60 billion. An estimated $11 billion is currently unaccounted for under his government.  Such funding could have been diverted to pay for the construction of jails in both North and South Lebanon as proposed by the Change and Reform Bloc in Lebanon’s parliament.

The second problem is the immersion of politics in all facets of the judiciary system:  For example he political appointment of Said Mirza (an ally of Hariri) as Lebanon’s Chief Prosecutor.  Mirza is deeply involved in the highly politicized Special Tribunal for Lebanon, investigating the assassination of Rafic Hariri.

This involvement has diverted attention away from reforming Lebanon’s legal system, which is struggling to deal with the backlog of court cases and the subversion of justice in the court and prison systems.

The third hurdle is the conduct of Lebanon Internal Security Forces (ISF) and its General Director, Brigadier Ashraf Rifi, another close ally of Lebanon’s “care taker” Prime Minister Saadedine Hariri.  The ISF was responsible for arbitrary arrests and human rights abuse during the Syrian occupation of Lebanon under Rafic Hariri, and continues to operate in the same manner today.

The treatment in Roumieh prison of Al Qaeda political prisoners,  inspired terrorist groups such as Fateh Islam (that waged a brutal war with the Lebanese Army in 2007), is deemed luxurious compared to other inmates as these groups are believed to have links to the Future Movement political figures and Saudi Arabia absolute Wahhabi monarchy.

The “care taker” Interior Minister Ziad Baroud, a young and dedicated lawyer, as well as a consensus appointment among Lebanon’s different factions and counted as the President of the Republic protegee, has been unable to implement any reforms or reign in the actions of his subordinate, Brigadier Ashraf Rifi.

For 75 days, Lebanon has no government, the parliament does not meet, and the wrath of the Arab masses are engulfing the regions with positive uncertainties, except in Lebanon, the bastion of conservatism in governance.

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April 2011

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