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LEBANON: Political party sues researchers whose human rights report alleged torture [Updated]

March 17, 2011 |  9:35 am

A Beirut-based human rights organization says two of its researchers are being sued by a Lebanese political group following the publication of a report alleging illegal detainment and torture by the group.

The Lebanese Center for Human Rights, known by its French acronym CLDH, issued a series of statements claiming the Shiite political party known as the Amal Movement has filed a complaint against its employees "in retaliation" for the publication of a report titled Arbitrary Detention and Torture: The Bitter Reality in Lebanon" on Feb. 10.

While the report focuses mainly on alleged abuses perpetrated by Lebanese state security forces, it does say that Amal and the militant Shiite group Hezbollah have been involved in the arrest and torture of suspected Israeli spies before they are handed over to authorities. The report added that it was impossible to effectively assess the prevalence of allegations against the two parties.

The center issued a statement on Thursday condemning what it described as "intimidation measures" and detailing the activists' summons to the Lebanese Ministry of Justice, where it said they were told to come back another day. The statement also said the activists were told that the accusations against them included defamation and incitement to sectarian strife, but that they were not issued any official papers.

[Updated at 10:26 a.m.: Ali Hamdan, an Amal official and advisor to the parliamentary speaker and Amal party head, Nabih Berri, told Babylon & Beyond, "The Amal movement has filed a case against this NGO because what they wrote is false [....] We cannot ignore such accusations, because this is a serious accusation against our movement."]

A Lebanese lawyer who asked not to be named due to the political nature of the case told Babylon & Beyond that if the case goes to trial, the center would be forced to present evidence to back its claims, including any witness testimonies they may have based the report on.

"Unfortunately, there is little protection for sources," the lawyer said. "Sometimes there is a kind of settlement, a political settlement, where the judge would say, 'What these people wrote is unfounded,' but since they didn't have bad intentions they will condemn them to something minimal and small."

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut