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Tension in Lebanon over videos showing torture of Islamist inmates

Leaked videos showing the torture of Islamist inmates in Lebanon’s notorious Roumieh prison have stoked political controversy in the country, Arabi 21 reported on Sunday.

Several Lebanese officials have responded to the videos by promising to bring the perpetrators to justice. Lebanese Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi pledged on Sunday to carry out a full investigation into the case, saying that the behaviour showcased in the two videos was “a crime against the nation and humanity”.

According to Al-Jazeera, Rifi added that: “We will see through an investigation until the end. This crime cannot go unpunished.” He reiterated that “two of the perpetrators have already been arrested.”

The secretary general of Islamist Lawyers in Lebanon, Mohamed Sablouh, told Arabi 21 that they had obtained the two torture videos about a month ago. He spoke about discussions conducted with the interior and justice ministers in this regard.

“We wanted to give a chance for the investigations announced by Interior Minister Nihad Machnouk,” Sablouh said, “but unknown parties leaked the videos.” Sablouh said that Machnouk knows everything about the practice of torture in this prison.

Sablouh also said that Machnouk had initiated an investigation into the incidents that took place in Roumieh Prison in April, in which the inmates were also sexually abused.

Based on the investigation, Machnouk filed a complained against the perpetrators to the military prosecution.

In one of the videos, a prisoner lies on the floor covered in water, stripped to his underwear with his hands tied behind his back. He is asked about the accusation against him, and replies: “Transporting terrorists.”

Then, a guard beats him repeatedly with a green baton, while another guard, who does not appear before the camera, encourages the first one and demands that the prisoner kiss his boots.

In the other video, about a dozen prisoners, all stripped to their underwear with their hands tied behind them, are seated on a floor. A guard can be seen beating at least two prisoners, shouting at one: “Lower your voice or I will put your eyes out.”

As a result of these videos, Sablouh has called for the resignation of the interior minister, noting that the torture scenes are distressing for the families of the inmates.

Other officials, including former Prime Minister Najib Miqati, have called for a thorough investigation into the videos.

The leader of Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, took to Twitter to denounce the torture footage, likening it to “a scene from a Syrian prison.”

Three of the prisoners in the videos have been identified as Sheikh Omar Atrash from the north-eastern border town of Arsal, Qatibah Al-As’ad from the Lebanese border area of Wadi Khaled and Wael Al-Samad from the Dinnieh town of Bakhoun in north Lebanon.

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