727 volunteer lawyers, 65% of which are women as pointed out by the head of the Bar Association, just visited 25 prisons in Beirut and the Lebanese governorates, within the initiative of the Bar Association, to see the conditions of the prisoners. After finishing up their visit, they described the conditions of prisons as “tragic.”
This incredible initiative aims to achieve justice to the many prisoners and detainees that are either falsely convicted, have been waiting for a conviction for months and years, or lack the financial or legal support for their release. The initiative was decided by the Head of Beirut Bar Association, Melhem Khalaf, in a preparatory meeting on Saturday, Dec. 12.
Many attorneys and lawyers expressed their desire to visit prisons not only to see for themselves the reality that prisoners and detainees live in; but to also follow up closely with the cases of all prisoners and detainees, the innocents and the convicts.
They are planning on fighting for every inmate or detained person that has been arrested under false accusations, or are a victim of unfair trials.
After visiting Roumieh prison, the Head of Beirut Bar Association who seemed affected by what he witnessed, said: “We cannot accept the suffering that we have witnessed today in prisons … The human should be a priority.”
“There is a national plan that we are going to present after we finish with this initiative. It is related to improving the conditions of prisoners,” he revealed in his statement.
He went on saying, “We are in a homeland that breathes freedom and we are not in prison, and lawyers today proved to the Lebanese people that they can rely on their lawyers who are actually the guardians of public freedoms.” He also stressed that without the judiciary, there is no resurrection of Lebanon.
Khalaf went on describing the situation they found in Lebanon’s prisons and called for a stance of solidarity, “We have seen the suffering found in Lebanese prisons and we, as a community, should stand in solidarity. I also invite officials to do similar visits to these prisons.”
The Minister of Interior and Municipalities Raya Al-Hassan tweeted via her Twitter account: “This initiative, headed by the Head of the Beirut Bar Association Melhem Khalaf to visit prisons today, is worthy of respect.”
“I am ready to put at their disposal the road map that I have prepared to address the overcrowdedness of prisons and improve the reality of prisons, in accordance with international standards of human rights, along with detention centers to be converted into rehabilitation centers,” she stated.
إن جولة المحامين بمبادرة من النقيب #ملحم_خلف على #السجون اليوم جديرة بالاحترام، وانا مستعدة لأضع بتصرفهم خارطة الطريق التي أعددتها لمعالجة الاكتظاظ وتحسين واقع السجون، بحيث تتلاءم مع المعايير الدولية لحقوق الإنسان، وأن تتحول مراكز الاحتجاز إلى مراكز تأهيل. @MelhemKhalaf
According to a statement made by the Internal Security Forces, among the most important objectives of the lawyers’ visit are:
Assigning a lawyer to anyone who is financially unable to hire one, following up on judicial aid files, assisting each prisoner who served his/her sentence and remains in prison for unknown reasons, and helping any prisoner who is still in prison because he/she failed to pay the remaining fines.
Surveys were filled in by lawyers, which included questions about judicial files and life conditions of the inmates in the prisons.
It is worth noting that the most recent prison built in Lebanon is that Roumieh prison and it dates back to 1972. It was built to accommodate only 1200 inmates but there have been 3850 prisoners living in it, which is over three times more than its capacity. Roumieh is only one sample of the prisons in Lebanon that lack basic standards of human rights.
This unique initiative taken by the Bar Association of Lebanon speaks beyond the lawyers being “guardians of freedom.” It demonstrates the mindfulness and high consciousness of humanity at work.
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