Syrian Opposition Coalition – Syria
Department of Media and Communications
September 23, 2020
The Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC) is following the conditions of Syrian nationals in Lebanese prisons, including their exposure to the disastrous outbreak of coronavirus. The SOC is closely following the situation and communicating with various parties to monitor the conditions of more than 1,800 Syrian nationals facing extremely harsh and inhumane conditions, the majority of whom received unfair, unjust sentences.
Syrian prisoners are distributed among a number of prisons, including in Ministry of Defense-run prisons in Rayhaniyah, Ramla, Al-Bayda, Zahle, and Baalbek, with the majority being incarcerated in Roumieh prison. Contrary to official statements by the Lebanese government, press reports and information being received from inside the prison indicate an outbreak of coronavirus in the overcrowded cells.
More than 300 prisoners in Roumieh prison have reportedly contracted the virus, among them 139 Syrian nationals whose names were documented and of whom 40 were taken to hospitals after their condition deteriorated. Many others are facing an unknown fate amid total negligence and a complete lack of preventive measures. Sources confirm that the medical staff in the overcrowded prison is made up of one doctor only amid severe shortages of medicines.
Holding prisoners in these catastrophic conditions is an inhumane, immoral act and constitutes violation of international law amounting to a crime against humanity.
In accordance with international humanitarian law, the Lebanese government is required to prevent a possible genocide against inmates by taking urgent action to solve overcrowding and provide prisoners with healthcare, medicines and adequate nutrition; taking the appropriate preventive measures; showing utmost caution when carrying out their duties and responsibilities; and postponing unnecessary inspections until a suitable conditions are secured.
It is also imperative to secure suitable hospitals to treat the critically patient prisoners and provide the inmates with the relevant information so as to prevent the spread of rumors and chaos.
The Lebanese authorities are also required to prevent arbitrary arrests; immediately look into cases of indefinite detention and pretrials; conduct an urgent review of all arrest and detention decisions and sentences issued against prisoners; activate mechanisms of release and amnesty for those who do not pose a threat to society – especially Syrian prisoners; and allowing them access to safe areas of their choice.
The SOC calls on international human rights organizations and the International Committee of the Red Cross to immediately visit Roumieh prison and the rest of the Lebanese prisons in order to ascertain the conditions in which the prisoners are held and to make the necessary recommendations to ensure their safety.