In 2016, Rami (not his real name) was brutally arrested and taken to a police station in Tripoli, Lebanon, where the officers beat him in the face and whipped him for hours, until he confessed to theft. When he appeared in court shortly afterwards with visible signs of torture, the judge did nothing to inquire about what had happened to him. In June 2017 IRCT member Restart participated in the official opening of a specialised unit at the central court that will examine detainees for signs of torture.
Official opening of the forensic and psychological examination unit at Palais de Justice in Tripoli, Lebanon.
Rami’s experience was so traumatic that he does not even remember in which month it happened. However, in September 2016, a team from the Restart Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture in Lebanon visited the prison and spoke to Rami who, in addition to suffering headaches, frequent nightmares, poor memory and suicidal thoughts, had by now also developed gangrene. His ailments were found to be a result of the torture inflicted on him at the police station, further aggravated by the prison conditions and the lack of healthcare.
Rami was enrolled in Restart Center’s torture Rehabilitation programme, which supports thousands of people like Rami every year. As part of their work, Restart Center, compiles a database of the experiences of consenting torture survivors. Restart uses the anonymised data to engage the Lebanese government to make sure people like Rami receive rehabilitation and that their experiences will not be repeated. Among the trends emerging from the data is a catalogue of brutal measures employed by police to obtain confessions and the lack of reaction from judicial authorities when faced with clear signs of torture on detainees.
In April 2017, Restart Director, Ms. Suzanne Jabbour, with the support of the IRCT, briefed the UN Committee against Torture about the situation in Lebanon. Armed with this data, she urged the Committee to address these systemic failures with the Lebanese Government. The Committee recommended that Lebanon criminalise torture and provide rehabilitation to victims. The Committee also expressed its support for the initiative to establish a forensic and psychological examination unit at the Palais de justice in Tripoli to examine all detainees for signs of torture.
“The Committee has now provided a road map for the Lebanese Government to fulfil its decades old promise to eradicate torture and support its victims. If these changes had been in place in 2016, Rami would have been identified at the court, his confession rejected, and he would have received rehabilitation support immediately. We cannot change his past but we can do everything in our power to make sure it will not happen again,” said Restart Center Director Suzanne Jabbour.
Through support from a lawyer from Restart Center, Rami was ultimately cleared of all charges and released from prison. He continues to receive treatment at Restart and has found a job, which has made him financially independent.
Restart Center and the IRCT will continue to engage with the Lebanese Government to monitor implementation of the recommendations and make our expertise available.