HRW Report Accuses Lebanese Authorities of Increased Repression of Syrian Refugees

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on April 25 accusing Lebanese authorities of escalating oppression and abuse against Syrian refugees, including arbitrary detention, torture, and forced returns to Syria.

According to HRW, between January and March 2024, there were documented cases of Lebanese security forces forcibly returning Syrian army defectors and opposition activists to Syria. These actions were allegedly carried out by the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the General Directorate of General Security, the agency responsible for controlling entry and residency status for foreigners in Lebanon.

“Lebanese officials have imposed discriminatory practices against Syrians for years, coercing them to return to Syria, which remains unsafe,” said Ramzi Kaiss, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Arbitrarily arresting, torturing, or deporting Syrians who face a well-founded risk of persecution if returned are additional blights on Lebanon’s refugee record.”

The report highlighted specific incidents, including the case of Rafaat al-Faleh, a Syrian army defector who was deported to Syria in January after being detained at a military checkpoint near Tripoli. Another case involved Muaz al-Waer, who was deported in March shortly after completing a prison sentence in Lebanon, prompting four other Syrian inmates to attempt suicide out of fear of deportation.

Furthermore, the report detailed the case of Yassin al-Atr, a Syrian opposition activist facing deportation from Lebanon despite facing trial on terrorism charges. Al-Atr’s situation exemplifies the ongoing targeting of Syrian refugees by Lebanese authorities, particularly following the killing of a local political party official in April 2024, who was allegedly smuggled across the border and killed in Syria.

In addition to arbitrary deportations, the report also outlined instances of harassment and intimidation by Lebanese military intelligence against Syrian refugees. Diala Chehadeh, a lawyer representing a Syrian man reportedly tortured by Lebanese military intelligence, described how her client was detained and beaten during a solidarity protest for women in Gaza.

The ongoing persecution of Syrians by Lebanese authorities not only violates Lebanese law but also contravenes international human rights standards, including the principle of nonrefoulment, which prohibits the forced return of individuals to countries where they face the risk of torture or persecution.

The report called on donor governments who provide funding to the LAF and General Security Directorate to pressure them to end unlawful deportations and other violations of Syrians’ rights. Additionally, HRW urged donor countries to conduct human rights impact assessments of their funding and to ensure that assistance to Lebanon does not contribute to or perpetuate human rights violations.


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