The death of a Syrian refugee at a detention facility in Lebanon has caused outrage after photos and video allegedly showing his dead body riddled with wounds surfaced. Now, Amnesty International is demanding a civilian trial against his alleged torturers.
Amnesty International demanded action from Lebanese authorities regarding the death of Syrian refugee Bashar Abdel-Saud in a statement issued on Tuesday (September 6).
Abdel-Saud's death, the human rights organization said, "must serve as a wake-up call to the Lebanese authorities to address torture in their detention facilities."
They called for an investigation and a trial to take place through the civilian justice system after Lebanese officials announced an investigation by the military prosecutor's office.
Bashar Abdel-Saud reportedly died in custody of Lebanon's state security agency. Pictures and video allegedly showing his dead body -- full of bruises and covered in bloody gashes -- appeared in news and social media.
These images, Amnesty said, "offer a distressing reminder of the need to urgently implement the 2017 anti-torture law" in Lebanon.
"It is unacceptable for torture to be continuing to occur in Lebanese detention centres and with such brutality -- the authorities must put a stop to it immediately," said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International's Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Morayef said that while it was a positive development that the alleged torturers of Abdel-Saud were being investigated, the case should not be handled by military courts. She said that "to ensure transparency and impartiality, Abdel-Saud's case must urgently be referred to a civilian court."
What happened to Bashar Abdel-Saud?
Abdel-Saud was reportedly arrested in his home in Beirut on August 31 by state security officers without an arrest warrant, according to Amnesty. Soon after, pictures and videos were leaked, allegedly showing his dead, tortured body.
State security responded by issuing a statement saying that he had been arrested for possession of a fake $50 bill and that he had "confessed" to being a member of ISIS before he died, Amnesty said.
On September 2, an official for the Military Court examined the body and ordered the detention of five state security officers, including the Lieutenant in charge and the officers suspected of committing torture, according to Amnesty.
Torture without accountability?
In their statement demanding justice in the case of Bashar Abdel-Saud, Amnesty shared details on who the Syrian refugee was: He was 30 years old and had three children, including a one-month-old child. He had defected from the Syrian army eight years ago and moved to Lebanon to work as a porter. He lived with his family in the Sabra and Shatila camp for Palestinian refugees in Beirut.
Amnesty International said that this was not the first Syrian refugee to suffer torture in Lebanon. In March 2021, they released a report documenting an array of violations against 26 Syrian refugees, including four children, held on terrorism-related charges between 2014 and early 2021. "Among the violations were unfair trial and torture, which included beatings with metal sticks, electric cables and plastic pipes. Authorities failed to investigate the torture claims, even when detainees or their lawyers told a judge in court that they had been tortured," Amnesty said.
"During Lebanon's last review by the UN Human Rights Council in 2021, the Lebanese government committed to implement the anti-torture law," regional director Morayef stressed. "Yet impunity for torture remains commonplace."