BEIRUT: Government authorities, legal experts and student activists called for reforming Lebanese prisons and improving social and medical conditions of prisoners, during a seminar held Thursday.
The event was organized by the social initiative Operation Septième Jour, part of Université Saint Joseph (USJ), in cooperation with the Beirut Bar Association and the Institute of Judicial Studies.
The seminar tackled the possibility of improving living conditions in incarceration facilities and solicited the opinion of several experts, including Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar; Social Affairs Minister Salim Sayegh; adviser of Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud, Omar Nashabe; Minister of State Amal Ofeish; head of the Shura Council Judge Shukri Sader; head of the Higher Judiciary Council Judge Ghaleb Ghanem and head of the Beirut Bar Association Amal Haddad.
USJ Rector Father René Chamussy was also present, along with officials from the initiative and an array of judicial figures and USJ students.
Najjar started by demanding the construction of new prisons, the implementation of the Reduced Sentences Law, and the regulation of the Penal Code.
“We need to work on implementing the agreements and international treaties that Lebanon signed,” he said, recalling three recent projects Lebanon had vowed to undertake.
The first, Najjar said, was a draft law to regulate prison sentences and to amend the standards of incarceration and sanctions. The second was a project to form a general directorate for prisons at the Justice Ministry, and the third was to support the current project of creating a general directorate for human rights and freedom at the Justice Ministry.
Nashabe also called for reform and said: “If prisons were reformed and transformed into correctional centers through a state plan, we would be able to see true judicial achievements.”
He then asked for studying arrest conditions and monitoring prisons in order to reveal how an inmate’s sentence was being enforced and how it would affect him after his release.
Nashabe referred to several Interior Ministry projects to improve living conditions in prisons and said the ministry was working on placing a global strategy to improve infrastructure and services. “However it lacks equipment and resources,” he said.
Haddad said difficulties have always been encountered in Lebanese incarceration facilities and have often seemed impossible to solve because of administrative and financial obstacles, in addition to legislative and political conflicts, and social and medical hindrances.
“Therefore, it is necessary to end the prison reform operation with success,” she added, adding that authorities needed to determine whether the Justice Ministry or Interior Ministry was in charge of detention centers and needed to solve overcrowding and the lack of sanitary conditions in prisons.
She confirmed lawyers should guarantee their clients served their imprisonment sentences in suitable medical and rehabilitation conditions.
Father Chamussy tackled the issue from a humanitarian point of view. He said imprisonment was a difficult experience, especially for those with no possibility of appealing their verdicts.