The Assad regime detained at least three Syrians who were deported by Lebanon’s General Security back to Syria, Human Rights Watch said in a report issued on Monday, adding that the Lebanese authorities are pursuing new policy of forcibly returning refugees without due process.
“Lebanon is putting Syrians at grave risk by returning them to the country they fled and handing them over to a government that is responsible for mass atrocities,” said Lama Fakih, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Lebanon is legally obligated to allow people to challenge their deportation and argue for protection. And it is forbidden by law to return anyone to face persecution or torture.”
As a party to the Convention Against Torture, Lebanon is obligated not to return or extradite anyone in danger of being tortured, the rights watchdog stressed. It noted that Lebanon is also bound by the customary international law principle of nonrefoulement not to return people to places where they risk persecution.
HRW said it was still documenting arbitrary detentions, disappearances, and harassment in areas retaken by regime forces, noting that people deported to Syria and their families are often afraid to speak publicly about their experiences.
The deportation policy is one of several government measures that increased pressure on Syrian refugees to return, including forced demolition of refugee shelters and a crackdown on Syrians working without authorization.
On July 31, HRW requested information from the president’s office and General Security regarding the legal basis for the recent decisions to deport Syrians, the deportation process, and the measures to ensure that those who are deported to Syria are not subject to persecution or mistreatment. It has not received a response.
Echoing similar concerns, Amnesty International said late August that almost 2,500 Syrian refugees have been “forcibly deported” from Lebanon to their war-torn country over the past three months, urging authorities to “immediately” halt the expulsions. (Source: Syrian National Coalition’s Media Department)