BEIRUT: An attempt on Monday by General Security to forcibly deport an Iraqi refugee was called off at the very last minute, according to human rights workers.
Saad Muhammad Ismail, 54, was seen being dragged by two General Security officials across Beirut’s International Airport. Ismail, who is a refugee registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, was to be put on a plane bound for Iraq, representatives from the Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) said.
Ismail has lived in Lebanon since 1980 and was to be deported despite his objections and the fact he was awaiting an interview for resettlement in a third country after 31 months of arbitrary detention, CLDH’s Secretary General, Wadih al-Asmar, told The Daily Star.
“What we saw at the airport was really unacceptable,” Asmar said. “[Ismail] was handcuffed, wearing a jogging outfit and was barefoot. It is obvious you can’t send someone to Iraq or any other country in that condition.” CLDH representatives intervened to prevent the deportation, arguing with General Security officials who then confiscated the organization’s camera.
Ismail was reportedly returned to the Retention Center underneath Beirut’s Adlieh Bridge after telling a representative from the Iraqi Embassy that he was being deported to Iraq against his will. He was then taken to a court hearing without his lawyer, Asmar said.
He added that the move to deport the refugee was illegal, pointing to Article 3 of the Convention Against Torture, to which Lebanon is a signatory. The article obligates Beirut not to deport someone if they are at risk of being tortured or killed in their country. Despite this Asmar believes Lebanon is still trying to deport people.
CLDH has called on the Lebanese government to halt all forced deportations of refugees, to forbid the detention of refugees on the basis of irregular entry or stay, and demanded the immediate release of Ismail and all other statutory refugees.
The attempted deportation came as a group of 16 Lebanese and international human rights organizations urged the Lebanese authorities to investigate the seizure of a human rights lawyer’s passport by General Security. The British passport of lawyer Nizar Saghieh, a dual British and Lebanese citizen, was withheld without justification earlier this month and only returned after direct intervention from Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud, the groups said.
Saghieh recently represented four Iraqi refugees being illegally detained by General Security, resulting in court orders for their release. General Security, has so far only released one of the 4.