A shocking photograph of a young boy in handcuffs being escorted to the juvenile department in the Justice Palace in Beirut for investigation is going viral.
Lebanese lawyer, Jad Tohme, described it as a “painful scene” and was compelled to take a photo and share it after overhearing the dialogue between the 11-year-old boy and an officer of the Internal Security Forces.
According to Tohme, one of the officers advised the boy, “You need to watch out for your life, you’re still young.” To that, the boy responded, “And who will watch out for my family? Their life is more important than mine.”
Tohme posted the photo on Facebook in hopes that this would be a message to Lebanese officials.
“To the system of corruption that is in charge of the state occupying positions of responsibility with irresponsible performance,” wrote Tohme, “If you deserved your posts and ran them efficiently, we would not have had to see such a painful human scene nor heard a more painful dialogue.”
While criminals whose negligence has caused the death of over 200 people in the Beirut blast, in addition to extensive property damage, are roaming free, children who break the law are getting chained with handcuffs, not because they are delinquent but because they are forced to feed their family.
This raises concerns about the protection of children’s rights.
In an interview with An-Nahar, the head of the Union for the Protection of Juveniles in Lebanon, Amira Sukkar, said that she believes there are laws regarding this that must be amended.
She said that Lebanese must work on improving conditions, enforcing the law in a better way, and taking more humane measures that protect both the security officers and the young lawbreaker.
She also brought up the fact that there are no correctional facilities for young people in Lebanon, which would have done better than throwing them in prison, “which is a place for punishment”.
She stressed that in some cases, minors do not need to be punished, rather, they need to be “reformed and corrected” and not deprived of freedom. That way, they will not feel like outcasts and will be able to re-enter society as better people.
The General Directorate of the Internal Security Forces has since issued a statement in response to the circulating photograph.
“The minor, regardless of the crimes he has committed and whatever the degree of severity, is in fact a victim of his society, his environment and his family. However, the law does not exempt him from liability, albeit in a different way, depending on his age,” began the statement.
The ISF continued to say that the boy, who was born in 2010, had committed several crimes, including most recently stealing a motorcycle.
The reason he was handcuffed was that he had tried to escape and even stated that he would not hesitate to flee when an opportunity presents itself.
After the hearing, he was handed over to competent authorities and will wait for his remaining sessions for two other thefts he committed.