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Women prisons in Lebanon fail to meet the minimum human standards

11-09-2013

The Rassemblement Democratique des Femmes Libanaise jointly organised, with Dar el Amal, Caritas Lebanon – Migrant centre and Diakonia a round table on human rights in women’s prisons and that within the framework of their project entitled “Strengthening human rights policies and practices in prisons for women in Lebanon” and which is implemented with funding from the European Union and SIDA.  The event was attended by representatives of a number of ministries and civil society organizations as well as individuals connected to various initiatives targeting prisons.  The discussion highlighted the key problems facing women’s prisons namely in terms of legal texts or practices and the priorities for advocacy which can lead to improve the situation of prisons with focus on women prisoners.
Lawyer Manar Zeaiter of the RDFL talked about the health conditions of women in prisons who lack gynecology services except the case of the Baabda prison noting that the latter recently introduced this service, whereas only women nurses are available in the other four prisons for women.  Zeaiter also noted that meals offered to women prisoners are not sufficient and pregnant and lactating women are not provided with adequate nutrition, and that women are allowed to bathe only three times a week and are not provided with sanitary pads.  Zeiater added that detained and convicted women are not separated whilst some women are penalized for bad conduct by not allowing them to see their families.

For his part, Diakonia’s representative, Rudolf Jebrayel, noted that the said project includes numerous activities which will be implemented over a 30 months period and namely the following: developing training curricula, building the capacities of prisons staff, providing legal awareness and legal services to women prisoners, developing a law petition and an advocacy plan to improve the situation of women prisons so that they meet international human rights standards.  Furthermore, Jebrayel clarified that the project targets women prisoners, prison guards and prison workers posted in the four women prisons in Lebanon namely in Baabda, Tripoli, Zahleh and Beirut, in addition to Lebanese NGOs, public institutions and UN organisations.  The project seeks to raise the capacities of prison authorities in managing prisons so as to uphold human rights, improve legal and social support provided to prisoners, raise awareness and mobilize civil society on gender equality, present recommendations for prison reforms to the Lebanese parliament in such a way so as to harmonise local laws with international standards for treating prisoners.
The key recommendations of the round table included insuring that women prisoners are treated in a way that is respectful of human rights at all stages, including arrest, detention, conviction, imprisonment and subsequent reintegration of society, while giving particular attention to pregnant and lactating women.  Other recommendations included addressing the impact resulting of arrest and detention of women on their children.  The roundtable also recommended that women’s special needs be addressed notably their right to health care, food, personal hygiene, reintegration and facilitating the communication of women with their families and children, access to free legal aid so as to minimize problems related to arrest and detention, securing legal and psychological aid and protection for foreign women prisoners.
To be noted that the project’s partner organisations launched a website http://www.lebanonprisons.org which carries a number of studies including one reviewing the work of 20 organisations involved with women in prison and carried out by the lawyers Fidaa Abdelfattah and Danya Basyouni, with the social assistant Zainab Chehab.  The website also includes another study focusing on the women penal system in Lebanon in comparison with the international conventions for human rights and prepared by the lawyers Maya Mansour and Rita Ghawi.
Source: Al-Mustaqbal, Al-Nahar, Al-Akhbar, Al-Safir 11 September 2013

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