BEIRUT — An Amnesty International report published Wednesday calls on Lebanon's authorities to "urgently prioritize the health of prisoners as deaths in Ministry of Interior-run prisons nearly doubled in 2022 compared to 2018, the year before the ongoing acute economic crisis began."
An investigation by Amnesty titled "Instead of Rehabilitation, He Found Death: Deaths in Custody Doubled Amidst Four-Year Economic Crisis," shows that "Ministry of Interior figures shared with the organization paint a stark picture of rising mortality rates as deaths increased from 14 in 2015 to 18 in 2018 and 34 in 2022."
"The sharp increase in custodial deaths must be a wakeup call to the Lebanese government that their prisons need urgent and drastic reform. They must decongest prisons, including through utilizing non-custodial measures as alternatives to pre-trial detention, and must commit additional resources to ensure people in prison are receiving adequate health care and have immediate access to emergency medical care," said Aya Majzoub, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
"The economic crisis is no excuse for prison authorities to deny prisoners access to medication, shift the cost of paying for hospitalization to the families of prisoners or delay prisoners’ transfers to hospitals," Majzoub added.
Amnesty calls on judicial authorities to conduct "prompt, impartial and effective investigations into all deaths in custody to determine to what extent prison officials’ misconduct or negligence may have contributed to these deaths and hold anyone found responsible to account."
"The authorities should also investigate to what extent the sharp increase in deaths is linked to structural factors such as overcrowding, lack of adequate resources and impunity for ill-treatment, all exacerbated by the economic crisis," the NGO adds inits report, stating that the Interior Ministry "provided no explanation of the causes of these deaths in custody."
It also notes that the real value of the Interior Ministry's budget for providing health care to people in prison decreased from $7.3 million in 2019 to around $628,000 in 2022.
In 2022, a State Security lieutenant was taken into custody for interrogation following accusations by the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar that “an officer and agents of the State Security Service tortured a Syrian detainee during interrogation and beat him to death."
In May 2022, Lebanon’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture wrote in a report that "Lebanese judicial authorities still fail to investigate serious torture allegations made by victims."
Read Amnesty International's full report here.