BEIRUT: Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai celebrated Holy Thursday with a Mass at the Roumieh prison complex, calling for sweeping reforms at the notorious facility.
The Mass was held in an open yard at the maximum-security facility with the participation of the General Director of the Internal Security Forces Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Basbous, who was representing Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk, and Brig. Gen. Mounir Akiki, who was representing General Director of General Security Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim.
In his sermon after the Mass, Rai addressed the “hardships” of prisoners and lamented “their suffering, their needs, their ordeals, their difficulties and their not being protected from moral, physical and spiritual aggressions.”
Rai called on state authorities to shoulder their responsibilities toward prison inmates and to treat them with compassion in line with international law and human rights, so that the prison could be turned into a rehabilitation facility instead of a place for merely detaining individuals.
Rai also asked that medical, health, environmental and security conditions be improved in the prison and that something be done to reduce overcrowding. He asked that relevant ministries revisit their role to protect inmates from harm and torture in detention facilities.
Rai also implored the authorities to pardon prisoners with serious illnesses and asked that those who were handicapped or too old to take care of themselves be released.
The Maronite patriarch noted the importance of establishing a common commission with members from all relevant ministries to run the prison and oversee the construction of new facilities. They would ideally hold sessions to retrain those who work in the prison as well.
Rai emphasized that minors should be held separately in a juvenile facility and that inmates should be categorized and housed according to the severity of their crimes and how dangerous they were to society.
He called for rehabilitating inmates held on drug abuse charges and demanded more efforts be made to prevent the smuggling of drugs into prisons.