Lebanon: Human Rights Watch details anti-LGBT police brutality in new report
A report issued by Human Rights Watch this week has revealed abuse, torture and ill-treatment of both trans and gay people by Lebanese internal security forces, including physical violence, intimidation, humiliation, and forced confessions.
Human Rights Watch interviewed 52 individuals that were beaten, threatened, or humiliated at the moment of arrest or during investigation.
Among the victims, a transgender woman, Tamara, and a gay man, Nadim, have spoken out about their experiences.
Tamara had fled from her family in the south of Lebanon to Tripoli, a city in the north. Male members of her family visited her apartment several times in an attempt to convince her to return to the family home.
She told Human Rights Watch that when her neighbours saw men visiting her, they complained to the police that she was a sex worker and that the men coming to her house were her clients.
Although these men were in fact family members, not clients, police arrested her in early 2010.
They took Tamara to a police station in Beirut.
She said: “I saw blood and people being beaten, and I was terrified. They took me into an office and three police officers started hitting me: punching me with their fists and kicking me.
“They didn’t even tell me what I did or why I was there. When they found out I was transsexual, they started asking me really personal questions in very insulting ways.
“They asked me how I get fucked and told me that if I denied that I have anal sex with men they’ll imprison me. I was so scared and did not want to get beaten anymore that I said yes to everything. Every time I denied something I would get hit, what other option did I have?”
While Tamara was initially arrested for sex work, a Lebanese court eventually found her guilty of “unnatural sexual acts,” and sentenced her to three months in prison.
By the time her trial started, she had already spent five months in a pre-trial detention.
Nadim, speaking out about his experiences, also revealed the extent of the tortures committed by Lebanese police, including physical violence, intimidation, humiliation, and a forced confession.
He was arrested in October 2010 when the police could not find his brother, who they suspected was guilty of drug dealing. When they found no evidence that Nadim had engaged in drug dealing, he said, they changed the charge to homosexuality.
Nadim recounted his story: “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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”
Other forms of torture reported to Human Rights Watch included beatings on different parts of the body with fists, boots, or implements such as sticks, canes, rulers, or other devices.
Eleven individuals said that officers in police stations and detention centres forced detainees to listen to the screams of other detainees being beaten in order to scare them into cooperating or confessing.
According to Human Rights Watch, Lebanese police officers did little to hide their disdain of LGBT people
The report said: “The ways in which laws that criminalise sex work, homosexuality, and personal drug use are implemented exacerbate the problem and present a major obstacle to reporting police abuse.
“This can only be addressed through a re-examination of these laws.”