Arrested in Lebanon

report issued by Human Rights Watch this week looks at abuse, torture and ill-treatment of people from marginalised social groups by the Lebanese Internal Security Forces. It is based on more than 50 interviews with people arrested for suspected drug use, sex work, or homosexuality over the past five years.

One of those interviewed is a man identified in the report as Nadim. In 2010, police were looking for his brother, whom they suspected of drug dealing. Having failed to find his brother, they arrested Nadim instead. This is Nadim's account of what happened next:

They asked me about my brother. I told them that I hadn’t spoken to him in years—we are not on good terms; the neighbours can attest to that. They accused me of dealing drugs. I denied it, so one of the officers hit me hard across the face. He then accused me of having a gun and covering for my brother, just crazy accusations out of nowhere. 

He hit me more, handcuffed me, and dragged me to my house and searched it without a warrant. Of course, when I asked if they had one, I just got punched as an answer. The officer just kept hitting me the entire time, on my face, on my back. They put me in the back of the police car and took me to Hobeish [police station]. I overheard [one of the officers]… on the phone speaking to someone, telling them to tell my brother that they have me and that he should leave Beirut because if he finds him he will shoot him in the face.

The intimidation and the beatings never stopped. In Hobeish, the officer told me if my drug test came out positive he would beat me senseless. When the results came back, he asked the officer carrying them whether it was positive. The other officer raised his eyebrows to indicate that it wasn’t. He assumed I didn’t see that and said, “Oh, positive for coke and heroin?” as if to justify beating me more. He took me into a room and made me crawl under the bed to humiliate me.

He then asked me why I had a condom ... I asked him in turn whether it was illegal to carry a condom, so he hit me again. When he asked me why I had messages and names of gay men on my phone, I asked him whether it was illegal to speak to gay men. He hit me again so hard my eye split and I began bleeding. I begged him to stop hitting my face but this egged him on further and he hit me even harder. He forced me to sign a confession that I have sex with men, all the while hurling punches and abuse at me. He then made me take off all my clothes and looked at me, told me I’m a faggot, insulted me, threatened me.

After a while another officer came in and made me take off all my clothes again, hit me, and insulted me. He tried to get information out of me about other gay men or pimps or prostitutes, and even asked me whether I pay for sex or get paid for it. Whenever I would deny their accusations I would get beaten over and over. I then asked to be able to make a phone call, but he refused and took me back to my cell.

The next day, two more men came in and interrogated me again. By this time the drug issue was dropped, the case was now about homosexuality. I was allowed a phone call this time, so I called the LGBT rights organisation Helem. The officer took the phone from me and told them that a lawyer is not allowed in Hobeish during interrogation, and if they wanted to see me they should go to the public prosecutor’s office.

When I told the interrogating officer that I was forced to confess to having sex under duress, he got a thick electricity cable and whipped my palms. He then said that he would get a forensic doctor to check me, but that I would have to pay. I didn’t have any money so I didn’t end up paying him, but if I had, they probably would just have pocketed it.

I asked him to write down [the name of the officer who] had beat me into confessing, but he said he wouldn’t and warned me not to speak about it, threatening that if I did I would regret it for the rest of my life.

He kept intimidating me, trying to get me to confess again. He lied to me, saying that if I confessed it would be just a minor crime, but if I continued to deny it and the anal examination turned out positive it would become a felony and I would be in jail for three years.

The exam turned out negative, and so they had no choice but to release me without charge. They had no evidence of anything. Still, they told me that they would release me only on condition that I become an informant for them and snitch on my brother and on other drug dealers, users, gay men, and prostitutes.

Posted by Brian Whitaker
Thursday, 27 June 2013