Lebanon pledges full investigation after prison torture video

Friday 19/06/2015
‘This crime cannot go unpunished’

BEIRUT - Lebanon's Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi pledged a full investigation and announced two arrests on Sunday after video emerged showing guards beating detainees at the country's largest and most infamous prison.

Rifi said the behaviour documented in two videos that began circulating online Saturday was "a crime against the nation and humanity."

"We will see through an investigation until the end. This crime cannot go unpunished," Lebanon's official National News Agency quoted him as saying.

"Two of the perpetrators have already been arrested," he added.

The two videos, apparently filmed on cellphones, appear to show guards at the prison humiliating detainees and beating them with plastic pipes.

In one video, a prisoner lies on a floor covered in water, stripped to his underwear with his hands tied behind his back.

He is asked what he is accused of, and replies "transporting terrorists."

A guard then beats him repeatedly with a green pipe, while another man off-camera encourages him and demands that the prisoner kiss his assailant's boot.

In the other video, around 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'll put your eyes out."

Roumieh is Lebanon's largest prison and has long been infamous for the poor conditions in some of its blocks, including overcrowding and harsh treatment.

Other parts of it, however, have at times become virtual no-go zones for security, with prisoners running their affairs and able to access laptops, phones and money.

In January, security forces raided the B block where many high-profile Islamists were being held, accusing some detainees of ties to a double suicide bomb blast in the northern city of Tripoli.

In April, some of the prison's inmates rioted and clashed with guards before the situation was brought under control.

Lebanon's Interior Minister Nuhad Mashnuq said Sunday that the video appeared to have been filmed during that incident.

At a news conference on Sunday, he pledged those involved would be held accountable.

"We will take all necessary measures against those involved and we will not allow violence against prisoners under any circumstances," he said.