Archived Content

This page contains information that is no longer current but remains on our site for reference purposes.

RIC Query - Lebanon (6 November 2002)


Lebanon

 

 

Response to Information Request Number:LBN03002.NYC
Date:November 06, 2002
Subject:Lebanon: Information on Lebanese Forces Militia
From:INS Resource Information Center
Keywords:Lebanon / Armed conflicts / Combatants / Gross human rights violations / Extrajudicial execution / Religious conflicts / Religious minorities

 

 

Query:

Provide information on the Lebanese Forces militia between 1984 and 2001.

Response:

SUMMARY

The Lebanese Forces was a coalition of mainly Maronite Christian militias that together made up one of the strongest factions in Lebanon¿s 15-year civil war between Christian, Muslim, and Druze militias (USDOS 1989; AI 1985). Controlling mainly-Christian East Beirut and areas north of the capital, the Lebanese Forces was regularly accused of politically-motivated killings and arrests and other serious human rights abuses before the war ended in 1990. Other factions in the conflict were also accused of similar abuses (AI 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991; USDOS 1985, 1986, 1989, 1991). The Phalangists, the largest militia in the Lebanese Forces, massacred hundreds of civilians in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in 1982 (Jane¿s 1 Feb 2002).

Although the Lebanese Forces was banned in 1994, the anti-Syrian group has remained influential among the 800,000-strong Maronite Christian community that dominated Lebanon before the war (Jane¿s 30 May 2002). The "suspicious" deaths in 2002 of several Maronite Christian activists tied to the Lebanese Forces have "led many to conclude that [Maronite Christian leaders, many former Lebanese Forces members] are being systematically eliminated" (Jane's 30 May 2002). Nevertheless, some former Lebanese Forces members remain politically active in Lebanon today (Jane's 6 Nov 2002).

BACKGROUND

Lebanon¿s 1975-1990 civil war was fought along religious lines, and the country¿s religious balance is such a sensitive issue that a census has not been taken since 1932. Most observers believe that the various Muslim groups, taken together, make up a majority of the country¿s population of 3 to 3.5 million (USDOS 26 Oct 2001).

The war effectively ended what had been Christian control of politics. Under the country¿s unwritten 1943 ¿National Pact,¿ Christians enjoyed a perpetual parliamentary majority. The pact also established a still-existing tradition under which the president is a Maronite Christian, the prime minister a Sunni Muslim, and the speaker of parliament a Shi¿a Muslim. The 1989 accord that ended the war divided parliamentary seats equally among Christians and Muslims and strengthened the power of the prime minister (FH 1995). By tradition, the commander-in-chief of the Lebanese army, currently General Michel Sulayman, is a Maronite Christian (Jane¿s 10 May 2002).

SPLIT WITHIN THE LEBANESE FORCES LED TO VIOLENCE AND ARRESTS

Some of the most serious accusations against the Lebanese Forces of human rights abuses came in the wake of a 1986 intra-party feud. Forces loyal to Samir Geagea, who seized control of the group in January of that year, were accused of arresting and possibly killing supporters of ousted leader Elie Hobeika. Geagea¿s forces arrested around 250 Hobeika supporters after Hobeika tried to regain power in September. Weeks later, 67 bodies were found in a grave near Jounieh, with 30 more later recovered from the sea. Although the identities of the bodies were never made public, they were believed to be those of some of the men arrested in September (AI 1987).

Geagea¿s ouster of Hobeika split the Lebanese Forces into Geagea¿s anti-Syrian faction and Hobeika¿s smaller, pro-Damascus wing, called the al-Waad (AI 1987). Christian Phalange militiamen under Hobeika killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians and Lebanese Muslims in the Israeli-controlled Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Beirut in September 1982. The Phalangists were avenging the assassination of president-elect and Maronite leader Bashir Gemayel, at the time believed to be the work of Palestinians (Jane¿s 31 Jan 2002).

The al-Waad faction and another pro-Damascus, Christian militia, called the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party-Emergency Command, were accused in 1990 of political killings, rape, and abductions of members and supporters of the mainstream Lebanese Forces faction loyal to Geagea. The violence largely ended after Lebanese government forces consolidated their hold over Beirut in the war¿s final phases (USDOS 1991).

Separately, the Lebanese Forces was accused of killing 16 of its own members in February 1990, allegedly for refusing to fight forces loyal to General Michel Aoun, a former Lebanese army chief who led a Christian faction during the war, according to Amnesty International (AI 1991). The Lebanese Forces also executed two men for treason in 1988 following a court martial in which the men apparently were denied defense lawyers (AI 1989). The Lebanese Forces reportedly also executed 13 Sunni Muslim detainees in 1990, according to Amnesty International (AI 1991).

POLITICALLY-MOTIVATED ARRESTS DURING LEBANON¿S CIVIL WAR

During the civil war, the Lebanese Forces also was accused of politically-motivated arrests. Amnesty International said in 1986 that the Lebanese Forces and the other two main factions in the conflict¿ the mainly-Shiite Amal militia and the mainly-Druze Progressive Socialist Party¿ reportedly arrested and detained both members of rival factions and fighters within their own ranks who broke rules or violated orders, as well as common criminals. Rival faction members often were arrested for use as bargaining chips to secure the release of hostages held by another faction (AI 1986).

In early 1986, after Geagea overthrew Hobeika as leader of the Lebanese Forces, and following repeated clashes by rival Christian factions, hundreds of suspected opponents of Geagea were arrested. Most were released after short periods (AI 1987).

The Lebanese Forces reportedly was holding at least 100 suspects at the end of 1986 in detention centers in Qarantina in East Beirut and the towns of Byblos, Amshit, Adonis, and Qattara, according to Amnesty International (AI 1987). Reports by both Amnesty International and the U.S. State Department from other years contained similar allegations (USDOS 1985; AI 1987; 1988; 1989).

Amnesty International also said in 1988 that it learned that the Lebanese Forces had tortured detainees in 1985 and 1986 (AI 1988).

In 1990, Lebanese Forces militiamen manning a checkpoint fired on supporters of General Aoun who were advancing on one of the many factional boundaries then dividing Beirut, killing 15 people (USDOS 1991).

CONTINUED CRACKDOWN AGAINST LEBANESE FORCES

While the Lebanese Forces remains a rallying point for many Christians, Syria¿s hegemony over Lebanon since the end of the civil war has marginalized the group. The Government in 2001 arrested more than 100 and possibly around 200 mainly Christian Lebanese suspected of supporting detained Lebanese Forces leader Geagea and the exiled General Aoun (USDOS 2002; AI 13 Mar 2002; AFP 11 Jul 2002).

Officials allegedly forced most of those arrested to sign affidavits swearing that they would keep out of politics, releasing them within two weeks of their arrests. Some who initially refused were beaten until they signed, according to the U.S. State Department¿s global human rights report for 2001 (USDOS 2002).

A military court in July 2002 reduced the jail terms of three Christians arrested during the 2001 Government crackdown, including former senior Lebanese Forces member Toufic Hindi. The three were convicted in March for ¿contacts with the enemy¿¿ Israel. Their sentences were cut to 30 months or less. The court also jailed for one week five other Christian activists arrested in the crackdown, including three Lebanese Forces members, for defaming the Syrian army, while acquitting a Christian general (AFP 11 Jul 2002).

Former Lebanese Forces leader Geagea has been jailed since 1994 and is serving three life sentences (AI 1 Jul 1999). His intra-party rival, Hobeika, was assassinated in Beirut in January 2002 (Jane¿s 31 Jan 2002).

At least three other Maronite activists linked to the Lebanese Forces were killed in suspicious circumstances in 2002, one of them in Brazil (Jane's 30 May 2002).

This response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the RIC within time constraints. This response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.

References:

Agence France-Presse (AFP). ¿Lebanon Military Court Commutes Jail Terms of Christian Activists¿ (11 Jul 2002). [WESTLAW]

Amnesty International (AI). ¿Amnesty International Expresses Concerns at Violations in Pre-trial Detention of Tawfiq al-Hindi and Co-defendants¿ (13 Mar 2002) http://web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/Index/MDE180042002? OpenDocument&of=COUNTRIES\LEBANON [accessed 3 Nov 2002]

Amnesty International (AI). ¿Lack of Judicial Review is a Denial of Fair Trial¿ (1 Jul 1999) http://web.amnesty.org/802568F7005C4453/0/83DF99E0005F65B98025690000692 EC3?Open&Highlight=2,geagea [accessed 3 Nov 2002]

Amnesty International (AI). REPORT 1985. ¿Lebanon¿ (London: 1985).

Amnesty International (AI). REPORT 1986. ¿Lebanon¿ (London: 1986).

Amnesty International (AI). REPORT 1987. ¿Lebanon¿ (London: 1987).

Amnesty International (AI). REPORT 1988. ¿Lebanon¿ (London: 1988).

Amnesty International (AI). REPORT 1989. ¿Lebanon¿ (London: 1989).

Amnesty International (AI). REPORT 1991. ¿Lebanon¿ (London: 1991).

Freedom House (FH). FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 1994-1995. ¿Lebanon¿ (New York: 1995).

Jane¿s Intelligence Group (Jane¿s). FOREIGN REPORT. ¿The Man Who Knew Too Much¿ (31 Jan 2002) http://www4.janes.com/search97/vs.vts? action=View&VdkVgwKey=/content1/janesdata/mags/frp/frp00042.htm&Collect ion=current&Prod_Name=FREP&Prod_Name=JTIC&QueryZip=([0.8] (lebanese+forces+)+++[1.0](+lebanese+forces+++ (lebanese+forces+++title)+))& [accessed 4 Nov 2002]

Jane¿s Intelligence Group (Jane¿s). FOREIGN REPORT. ¿Demons of a Dirty War¿ (30 May 2002) http://www4.janes.com/search97/vs.vts? action=View&VdkVgwKey=/content1/janesdata/mags/frp/frp00229.htm&Collect ion=current&Prod_Name=FREP&Prod_Name=JTIC&QueryZip=([0.8] (lebanese+forces+)+++[1.0](+lebanese+forces+++ (lebanese+forces+++title)+))& [accessed 4 Nov 2002]

Jane¿s Information Group (Jane¿s). JANE¿S INTELLIGENCE DIGEST. ¿A Convenient Death¿ (1 Feb 2002) http://www4.janes.com/search97/vs.vts? action=View&VdkVgwKey=/content1/janesdata/mags/jid/jid00025.htm&Collect ion=current&Prod_Name=JID&Prod_Name=JTIC&QueryZip=([0.8] (lebanese+forces+)+++[1.0](+lebanese+forces+++ (lebanese+forces+++title)+))& [accessed 4 Nov 2002]

Jane¿s Information Group (Jane¿s). JANE¿S SENTINEL SECURITY ASSESSMENT ¿ EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN - 13. ¿Security and Foreign Forces¿ (6 Nov 2002) http://www4.janes.com/search97/vs.vts? action=View&VdkVgwKey=/content1/janesdata/sent/emedsu/lebns140.htm&Coll ection=current&Prod_Name=EMEDS&QueryZip=([0.8](lebanese+forces+)+++ [1.0](+lebanese+forces+++(lebanese+forces+++title)+))& [accessed 6 Nov 2002]

Jane¿s Information Group (Jane¿s). JANE¿S WORLD ARMIES ¿ 12. ¿Lebanon¿ (10 May 2002) http://www4.janes.com/search97/vs.vts? action=View&VdkVgwKey=/content1/janesdata/binder/jwar/jwar1572.htm&Coll ection=current&Prod_Name=JWAR&QueryZip=(lebanon)++Country++ ([0.8](michel+aoun)+++[1.0](+michel+aoun++(michel+aoun+ +title)+))& [accessed 4 Nov 2002]

U.S. Department of State (USDOS). COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES FOR 1984. ¿Lebanon¿ (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1985).

U.S. Department of State (USDOS). COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES FOR 1985. ¿Lebanon¿ (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1986).

U.S. Department of State (USDOS). COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES FOR 1988. ¿Lebanon¿ (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989).

U.S. Department of State (USDOS). COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES FOR 1990. ¿Lebanon¿ (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991).

U.S. Department of State (USDOS). COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES FOR 2001. ¿Lebanon¿ (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002).

U.S. Department of State (USDOS). INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT FOR 2001. ¿Lebanon¿ (26 Oct 2001) http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2001/5615.htm [accessed 3 Nov 2002]

Attachments:

Agence France-Presse (AFP). ¿Lebanon Military Court Commutes Jail Terms of Christian Activists¿ (11 Jul 2002). [WESTLAW]

Amnesty International (AI). ¿Amnesty International Expresses Concerns at Violations in Pre-trial Detention of Tawfiq al-Hindi and Co-defendants¿ (13 Mar 2002) http://web.amnesty.org/ai.nsf/Index/MDE180042002? OpenDocument&of=COUNTRIES\LEBANON [accessed 3 Nov 2002]

Amnesty International (AI). ¿Lack of Judicial Review is a Denial of Fair Trial¿ (1 Jul 1999) http://web.amnesty.org/802568F7005C4453/0/83DF99E0005F65B98025690000692 EC3?Open&Highlight=2,geagea [accessed 3 Nov 2002]

Amnesty International (AI). REPORT 1985. ¿Lebanon¿ (London: 1985).

Amnesty International (AI). REPORT 1986. ¿Lebanon¿ (London: 1986).

Amnesty International (AI). REPORT 1987. ¿Lebanon¿ (London: 1987).

Amnesty International (AI). REPORT 1988. ¿Lebanon¿ (London: 1988).

Amnesty International (AI). REPORT 1989. ¿Lebanon¿ (London: 1989).

Amnesty International (AI). REPORT 1991. ¿Lebanon¿ (London: 1991).

Freedom House (FH). FREEDOM IN THE WORLD 1994-1995. ¿Lebanon¿ (New York: 1995).

Jane¿s Intelligence Group (Jane¿s). FOREIGN REPORT. ¿The Man Who Knew Too Much¿ (31 Jan 2002) http://www4.janes.com/search97/vs.vts? action=View&VdkVgwKey=/content1/janesdata/mags/frp/frp00042.htm&Collect ion=current&Prod_Name=FREP&Prod_Name=JTIC&QueryZip=([0.8] (lebanese+forces+)+++[1.0](+lebanese+forces+++ (lebanese+forces+++title)+))& [accessed 4 Nov 2002]

Jane¿s Intelligence Group (Jane¿s). FOREIGN REPORT. ¿Demons of a Dirty War¿ (30 May 2002) http://www4.janes.com/search97/vs.vts? action=View&VdkVgwKey=/content1/janesdata/mags/frp/frp00229.htm&Collect ion=current&Prod_Name=FREP&Prod_Name=JTIC&QueryZip=([0.8] (lebanese+forces+)+++[1.0](+lebanese+forces+++ (lebanese+forces+++title)+))& [accessed 4 Nov 2002]

Jane¿s Information Group (Jane¿s). JANE¿S INTELLIGENCE DIGEST. ¿A Convenient Death¿ (1 Feb 2002) http://www4.janes.com/search97/vs.vts? action=View&VdkVgwKey=/content1/janesdata/mags/jid/jid00025.htm&Collect ion=current&Prod_Name=JID&Prod_Name=JTIC&QueryZip=([0.8] (lebanese+forces+)+++[1.0](+lebanese+forces+++ (lebanese+forces+++title)+))& [accessed 4 Nov 2002]

Jane¿s Information Group (Jane¿s). JANE¿S SENTINEL SECURITY ASSESSMENT ¿ EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN - 13. ¿Security and Foreign Forces¿ (6 Nov 2002) http://www4.janes.com/search97/vs.vts? action=View&VdkVgwKey=/content1/janesdata/sent/emedsu/lebns140.htm&Coll ection=current&Prod_Name=EMEDS&QueryZip=([0.8](lebanese+forces+)+++ [1.0](+lebanese+forces+++(lebanese+forces+++title)+))& [accessed 6 Nov 2002]

Jane¿s Information Group (Jane¿s). JANE¿S WORLD ARMIES ¿ 12. ¿Lebanon¿ (10 May 2002) http://www4.janes.com/search97/vs.vts? action=View&VdkVgwKey=/content1/janesdata/binder/jwar/jwar1572.htm&Coll ection=current&Prod_Name=JWAR&QueryZip=(lebanon)++Country++ ([0.8](michel+aoun)+++[1.0](+michel+aoun++(michel+aoun+ +title)+))& [accessed 4 Nov 2002]

U.S. Department of State (USDOS). COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES FOR 1984. ¿Lebanon¿ (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1985).

U.S. Department of State (USDOS). COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES FOR 1985. ¿Lebanon¿ (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1986).

U.S. Department of State (USDOS). COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES FOR 1988. ¿Lebanon¿ (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1989).

U.S. Department of State (USDOS). COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES FOR 1990. ¿Lebanon¿ (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1991).

U.S. Department of State (USDOS). COUNTRY REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES FOR 2001. ¿Lebanon¿ (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2002).

U.S. Department of State (USDOS). INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT FOR 2001. ¿Lebanon¿ (26 Oct 2001) http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2001/5615.htm [accessed 3 Nov 2002]

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Last Reviewed/Updated: