mercredi 12 décembre 2007

Daily Star Article

Copyright (c) 2007 The Daily Star

Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Rights group cries foul in Chaaban case

By The Daily Star

BEIRUT: Amnesty International has written to the Lebanese authorities calling for an independent review of the case of Yusef Chaaban, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in October 1994, a statement issued by the human rights non-governmental organization (NGO). A Palestinian refugee resident in Lebanon, Chaaban was convicted by the Judicial Council of the January 1994 killing of Jordanian diplomat Naib Omran al-Maaita.
"On June 12, 2007, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared Yusef Chaaban's continuing detention to be arbitrary and called for the Lebanese authorities to remedy the matter," the statement said.
According to Amnesty, the working group found that he had been denied a fair trial, notably because he was denied the right to have his conviction and sentence reviewed by a higher tribunal. The UN body found also that the violation he suffered was the more severe because a "confession," accepted by the court as evidence against him, was allegedly extracted under torture and new information appears to support this claim.
Amnesty said following his arrest, Chaaban was held in "secret, incommunicado detention for 10 days without access to a lawyer and for a further month without contact with his family."
"He was initially held in secret by Syrian intelligence officials at [the] Beau Rivage detention center they previously operated in Beirut before being handed over to the Lebanese Criminal Investigations Police in Furn al-Shebbak," it said.
Amnesty explained that at his trial, Chaaban alleged that while detained he was tortured and otherwise ill-treated to make him "confess," but the court failed adequately to investigate his allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.
"He was also denied the opportunity to appeal against his conviction and sentence to a higher tribunal, as required by recognized international standards on the right to fair trial," the NGO said.
According to Amnesty, Chaaban alleges that various torture methods were used against him during his detention, including sitting in a metal chair with moving parts that stretch the spine, suspension from his wrists while they were tied behind his back, electric shocks, threats and denial of food, water and sleep. His family were not informed of his detention for 40 days.
"Amnesty International has previously expressed concern that trials before the Judicial Council fail to satisfy international standards for fair trials and has documented a number of trials which were deficient," the statement said.
Amnesty argued in its statement that it was unclear on what criteria cases are selected by the Cabinet for referral to the Judicial Council, and the latter has failed to order independent investigations into allegations of torture during pre-trial detention made by defendants at trial.
"Further, as the Human Rights Committee noted in 1997, 'the fact that decisions passed by the Judicial Council are not subject to appeal' breaches the fair trial requirements of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Lebanon's obligations as a party to this treaty," it added.
"In the case of Chaaban, new developments since 1994 have raised further questions about the safety of his conviction and consequent imprisonment," the statement said.
On December 3, 2001, the Jordanian State Security Court convicted Yasser Mohammad Ahmad Salameh Abu Shanaar, Aqaab Namer Suleiman Fuqhaa and Jamal Darwish Mustafa Fatayr of the same killing. Amnesty said the prosecution made no reference to Chaaban.
"Indeed, the only reference made to Yusef Chaaban during this trial was by one of the accused who explicitly denied that Chaaban had participated in the assassination," the group said.
Also, according to the NGO, the report of a ballistics expert appointed by Chaaban's lawyer that was presented to the Judicial Council on October 23, 2007, a copy of which Amnesty International has seen, "casts serious doubt on the description of events as portrayed at the trial before the Justice Council."
In view of these developments, the NGO urged the Lebanese authorities to ensure that the conviction and imprisonment of Chaaban is "made the subject of an urgent, thorough and independent review in order to ensure that any miscarriage of justice is remedied at the earliest opportunity and that he is guaranteed a fair re-trial in accordance with international standards or released." - The Daily Star