Statement on the arrests of Syrian refugees outside of Syrian Embassy and risk of refoulement

We, the undersigned non-governmental organizations, are deeply concerned to learn of the deportation orders against six Syrian refugees who were arrested outside the Syrian embassy and taken to General Security detention center. We call on the Lebanese Authorities to respect the principle of non-refoulement, ensure proper judicial due process, access to legal counsel, and put an end to the arbitrary detention of the Syrian nationals in question.

On August 24th, two Syrian refugees (one from Daraa and the other from Damascus) were arrested at the Syrian Embassy in Lebanon. The men told their lawyers that they were detained by unknown forces as they were leaving the embassy and taken to General Security detention. In another incident, on August 27th, another four Syrian refugees were similarly detained in front of the Syrian embassy after they had been called to pick up their passports from the embassy. They were taken before reaching the Syrian embassy by actors the victims were unable to identify, then transferred to the Ministry of Defense and then to the Directorate of General Security, where they were detained on allegations of entering Lebanon illegally.

As of the writing of this statement, all six Syrian refugees are still detained by Lebanese General Security, and a deportation order was issued against them on Sunday, September 5th. According to detainees’ lawyers, at least one of the men was beaten during interrogations. Four of the detained Syrians are known activists from Daraa, an area witnessing an escalation of violence by governmental forces. The men were not given access to a lawyer until September 2nd – more than a week into their detention – and have yet to appear before a judge. These acts amount to violations of due process as set out by Article 47 of the Lebanese Code of Criminal Procedures, which clearly states the right of arrested individuals to appear before a judge within 48 hours of arrest, renewable once, and to be provided access to a lawyer.

The deportation orders against the six detained refugees were taken without regard to the well-founded risks they may face in Syria, including detention, enforced disappearances, torture, and other possible human rights violations. If this action were to be taken, Lebanese authorities could be in violation of the principle of non-refoulement, which Lebanon is obligated to observe under jus cogens law and by its commitment as a party to the Convention Against Torture. Additionally, the precedent set by the location and method of these detentions is likely to further deter Syrian refugees from seeking civil documents from the embassy, creating yet another barrier to accessing services and residency permits.

The undersigned NGOs call for the following:

The Lebanese Government must abide by its obligations under international law, including its obligation not to deport or forcibly return individuals facing the risk of torture in their home country. This means immediately halting the deportations of the Syrian refugees in question from Lebanon to Syria and adopting policies that guarantee the necessary protection of refugees in Lebanon.

Lebanon must also ensure that the due process rights of persons at risk of deportation are respected, including access to health care, access to a lawyer, the right to appeal a deportation order and to plead their case for asylum in front of a competent, independent judiciary. Lebanese authorities must also launch an investigation regarding the ill-treatment faced by at least one of the individuals during interrogation.

Finally, the decision to deport Syrians who entered Lebanon informally should be repealed, and asylum cases must be adjudicated on a case-by-case basis, ensuring respect for the principle of non-refoulement.

Signatories:

11.11.11
Access Center for Human Rights (Wousoul)
ALEF – Act for Human Rights
Centre d’accès pour les droits de l’homme (ACHR)
Cedar Centre for Legal Studies
Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH)
Pax for Peace
Union of Relief & Development Associations (URDA)