On International Human Rights Day, eight ambassadors to Lebanon from Canada, Denmark, Finland, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom joined together to list areas where Lebanon must act to promote and improve its human rights situation.
In their joint message, the ambassadors reminded Lebanon that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted by “outstanding diplomats,” among them Eleanor Roosevelt and former Lebanese Foreign Affairs Minister Charles Malek.
“This strong connection with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is also reflected by the fact that it is enshrined in the preamble of Lebanon’s Constitution,” they wrote.
The ambassadors affirmed their readiness to stand with Lebanon and called on the country to make improvements to human rights in the following areas:
#1 Women’s Rights
They urged Lebanon to accept and implement certain recommendations relating to women’s rights such as:
- Working against sexual harassment and domestic violence
- Improving rights relating to divorce, property, and custody of children
- Reforming the nationality law so Lebanese women married to foreigners can give the Lebanese nationality to their children
- Prohibiting child marriage
#2 Preventing Torture & Ill-Treatment
- Address budget for creating a National Human Rights Institute and National Preventive Mechanism on Preventing Torture
- Take action to prosecute and punish those responsible for torture (such as during interrogations)
#3 Freedom of Expression & Freedom of Press
“We have seen a worrying trend limiting the right to freedom of expression, including press freedom, during the last year,” they said.
Citing the Samir Kassir Foundation, the ambassadors said that, this year, there have been:
- 70 documented cases of physical assaults against journalists/social media activists (compared to 15 last year)
- 13 cases of arrest/detention (compared to 9 last year)
- 16 reported cases of threats/harassment/verbal abuse (compared to 7 last year)
It is imperative Lebanon addresses this issue.
#4 Right To Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
There have been many reports of “a deteriorating situation concerning freedom of peaceful assembly, characterized by the use of excessive violence against demonstrators by the security forces, and particularly by the Parliamentary Police.”
- Strength human rights performance of the security forces
- Implement measures to improve transparency and public accountability
#5 LGBT Rights
The ambassadors encouraged making improvements to this area, especially after Lebanon refused to accept previous numerous recommendations to secure the rights of the LGBT community in Lebanon.
#6 Refugee Rights
“We have witnessed a stark deterioration in the protection space for refugees and IDPs in the country, including evictions, arbitrary arrests and deportations,” they wrote.
- Accept recommendations to strengthen the protection of refugees
- Adopt “sincere measures” to abolish the Kafala system
#7 Independence of the Judiciary
They urged “urgent and tangible steps” to strengthen the independence of the judiciary in order to reduce corruption, and improve accountability.
“We will continue to follow up with the authorities, and work with our international and local partners to advocate for actionable steps that will lead to progress to improve the respect for human rights in Lebanon,” they wrote.
The ambassadors who joined in presenting the list and recommendations are:
- Chantal Chastenay, Ambassador of Canada
- Merete Juhl, Ambassador of Denmark
- Tarja Fernandez, Ambassador of Finland
- Frédérique de Man, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
- Johnny Almestad, Chargé d’Affairs of Norway
- Ann Dismorr, Ambassador of Sweden
- Monika Schmutz Kirgoz, Ambassador of Switzerland
- Chris Rampling, Ambassador of the United Kingdom