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Lebanon

Executive Summary

Lebanon is a parliamentary republic based on the 1943 National Pact, which apportions governmental authority among a Maronite Christian president, a Shia speaker of the Chamber of Deputies (parliament), and a Sunni prime minister. The law officially recognizes 18 religious sects or confessions. In 2016 parliament elected Michel Aoun to the presidency, ending more than two years of political deadlock. Following the 2017 passage of a new electoral law, the government held parliamentary elections in 2018, after parliament had extended its legal term three times between 2013 and 2017. The elections were peaceful and considered generally free and fair. In October 2020 former prime minister Saad Hariri was designated to form a new cabinet following the resignation of Hassan Diab, becoming the third prime minister-designate since his own resignation in October 2019. Hariri resigned on July 15. Former prime minister Najib Mikati was designated on July 26 to replace him; Mikati formed a cabinet on September 10.

The Internal Security Forces, under the Ministry of Interior, are responsible for law enforcement. The Directorate of General Security, also under the Ministry of Interior, is responsible for border control but also exercises some domestic security responsibilities. The Lebanese Armed Forces, under the Ministry of Defense, are responsible for external security but are authorized to arrest and detain suspects on national security grounds. In recent years the Lebanese Armed Forces also have arrested alleged drug traffickers, managed protests, enforced building codes related to refugee shelters, and intervened to prevent violence between rival political factions. The General Directorate of State Security, reporting to the prime minister through the Higher Defense Council, is responsible for investigating espionage and other national security matters. The Parliamentary Police Force reports to the speaker of parliament and is tasked with protecting parliament premises, as well as the speaker’s residence. Both the Internal Security Forces and the Lebanese Armed Forces provide units to the Parliamentary Police Force. Civilian authorities maintained control over the government’s armed forces and other security forces, although Palestinian security and militia forces, designated foreign terrorist organization Hizballah, and other extremist elements operated outside the direction or control of government officials. Members of security forces committed some abuses.

The Syrian conflict affected the country economically and socially. Over the past 10 years, the conflict has generated an influx of more than one million Syrian refugees and further strained the country’s already weak infrastructure and ability to deliver social services.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: serious political interference with the judiciary; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including violence, threats of violence or unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists, censorship, and the existence of laws criminalizing libel; serious restrictions on internet freedom; refoulement of refugees to a country where they would face a threat to their life or freedom; serious high-level and widespread official corruption; existence or use of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex persons; and the existence of the worst forms of child labor.

Although the legal structure provides for prosecution and punishment of officials who committed human rights abuses and corruption, enforcement remained a problem, and government officials enjoyed a measure of impunity for human rights abuses, including evading or influencing judicial processes. The country suffered from endemic corruption.

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were reports by human rights groups asserting that the government or its agents committed an arbitrary or unlawful killing.

On January 25, large-scale demonstrations erupted for three consecutive nights in Tripoli, leading to violent clashes between protesters and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF). The Lebanese Red Cross, ISF, and media reported that one protester died when he was hit by live fire and that 226 were injured. International NGOs and human rights activists claimed authorities used excessive force, including the use of live ammunition. Killings by security forces are investigated internally and prosecuted through the Military Court. The military prosecutor charged 35 individuals, including two minors, with terrorism, forming criminal associations, stealing public property, using force against and trying to kill members of the security forces, arson, vandalism, and protesting without permission. All detainees were later released. According to the LAF’s leadership, no organizations or individuals filed formal complaints of torture with the LAF or the judiciary. The LAF conducted an internal investigation into the allegations of abuse and mistreatment of protesters by LAF members, but findings from the investigation have yet to be released.

On February 4, Lokman Slim, a prominent political activist and vocal Hizballah critic, was found dead in his car in the southern village of Addousieh in an apparent assassination, from multiple bullet wounds. Investigations were ongoing at year’s end.

On August 1, armed clashes erupted between Hizballah supporters and members of the Arab tribes of the Khaldeh neighborhood during the funeral procession of Hizballah member Ali Chebli, who was killed the night before in an apparent vendetta shooting. Media reported that five individuals, including three Hizballah members, were killed. The LAF subsequently intervened and warned that it would open fire on any gunman in the area; the LAF was able to restore order in Khaldeh by August 2.

The state prosecutor requested an investigation to determine whether security force actions were justifiable in the April 2020 death of a protester who died after being hit in the leg by a rubber bullet by a LAF officer during a protest in Tripoli. The investigation was ongoing by a Military Court with no further information available at year’s end. The LAF maintained that the rubber bullet was shot from more than 15 yards away and at an angle acceptable under LAF regulations.

In August 2020 the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) announced its verdict in the 2005 killing of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, which also killed 21 others and injured 226. The STL found Hizballah operative Salim Jamil Ayyash guilty on all charges, while Hizballah operatives Hassan Habib Merhi, Hussein Hassan Oneissi, and Assad Hassan Sabra were acquitted. In December 2020 the STL sentenced Ayyash to five concurrent terms of life imprisonment, the maximum punishment allowed. The STL’s mandate was renewed in March for a further period of two years or until the exhaustion of available funds. Its work may continue for several more years to handle record keeping, sentencing, and possible appeals.

b. Disappearance

There were no known reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities during the year.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits using acts of violence to obtain a confession or information about a crime, but the judiciary rarely investigated or prosecuted allegations of torture. In 2019 the cabinet appointed the five members of the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) against Torture, a body within the 10-member National Human Rights Institute (NHRI). The NHRI is mandated to monitor the human rights situation in the country by reviewing laws, decrees, and administrative decisions and by investigating complaints of human rights abuses and issuing periodic reports of its findings. The NPM oversees implementation of the antitorture law. It has the authority to conduct regular unannounced visits to all places of detention, investigate the use of torture, and issue recommendations to improve the treatment of detainees. As of December the NHRI had not begun its assigned functions. Some NGOs alleged that security officials tortured detainees, including incidents of abuse at certain police stations. The government denied the systematic use of torture, although authorities acknowledged violent abuse sometimes occurred during pretrial detention at police stations or military installations where officials interrogated suspects without an attorney present.

The LAF Investigation Branch began an internal investigation in May 2020 into the alleged torture of detainees in LAF detention facilities in Sidon and Tripoli following protests in those cities. The investigation was suspended due to a lack of formal allegations from the victims and because the original investigating judge resigned from his position. Cases remained open for both facilities as of December.

The LAF imposed the highest penalties allowed by the military code of justice in several cases involving torture, while noting that only a judicial decision could move punishment beyond administrative penalties.

Although human rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) organizations acknowledged some improvements in detainee treatment during the year, these organizations and former detainees also reported that ISF officers mistreated drug users, persons involved in commercial sex, and LGBTQI+ individuals in custody, particularly outside of Beirut, including through forced HIV testing, threats of prolonged detention, and threats to expose their identities to family or friends. LGBTQI+ rights NGOs reported forced anal exams of men suspected of same-sex sexual activity have been banned in Beirut police stations but were carried out in Tripoli and other cities. While physician syndicates in Beirut banned their members from performing such procedures, NGOs stated that local syndicates outside the capital had not all done so.

NGOs reported impunity was a significant problem in the security forces, including the ISF, LAF, and Parliamentary Police Force (PPF). Impunity was also a problem with respect to the actions of armed nonstate actors, such as Hizballah. ISF and LAF impunity was due in part to a lack of transparency when these forces conducted investigations. Investigations of alleged abuses by security forces were conducted internally by the implicated security force, and security force members could be tried in Military Court for charges unrelated to their official duties (see section 1.e., Trial Procedures). Individuals allegedly belonging to the PPF were captured in photographs and on video shooting live ammunition at protesters during the August 2020 protests. PPF personnel were recorded in several other instances beating protesters, with no known repercussions. The foreign terrorist organization (FTO) Hizballah continued the practice of extrajudicial arrest and detention, including incommunicado detention (see section 1.e., Trial Procedures).

The LAF, ISF, and the Directorate of General Security (DGS) have new codes of conduct that they developed and implemented in 2020 with the help of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to promote respect and protection of human rights and introduce accountability elements. The ISF gendarmerie unit also instituted a training program that included human rights training with the support of donor countries.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

Prisons and detention centers were often overcrowded, and prisoners sometimes lacked access to basic sanitation. As was true for most buildings in the country, prison facilities were inadequately equipped for persons with disabilities.

Nongovernmental entities such as FTO Hizballah and Palestinian nonstate militias also reportedly operated unofficial detention facilities.

Physical Conditions: As of September 10, there were approximately 7,401 prisoners and detainees, including pretrial detainees and remanded prisoners, in facilities built to hold 3,500 inmates. Authorities often held pretrial detainees together with convicted prisoners. There were 110 minors and 207 women held in prisons, according to ISF statistics. The ISF incarcerated women at three dedicated women’s prisons in Baabda, Beirut, and Tripoli.

According to a government official, most prisons lacked adequate sanitation, ventilation, and lighting, and authorities did not regulate temperatures consistently. In Roumieh prison groups of prisoners often slept in rooms originally built for many fewer persons, and basic medical care suffered from inadequate staffing, poor working conditions, and extreme overcrowding. The ISF reported that 19 individuals died in detention facilities during the year. According to the ISF, 18 prisoners died of medical problems, including heart attacks, cancer, and COVID-19, and one committed suicide. Some NGOs complained of authorities’ negligence and failure to provide appropriate medical care to prisoners, which may have contributed to some deaths. The ISF reported that none died of police abuse.

Administration: The ISF’s Committee to Monitor against the Use of Torture and Other Inhuman Practices in Prisons and Detention Centers conducted 30 prison visits as of September 2020. These monitoring visits were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If detention center investigators assigned by the minister of interior found physical abuse, the military investigator assigned a medical team to confirm the abuse, and a judge ruled at the conclusion of the review. As of September 2020 there were no complaints reported to the ISF committee. Historically, complaints were generally submitted during or following in-person prison visits by family members. In-person visits were halted in February 2020 due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts and did not restart during the year. As of October 2020, prisoners submitted 12 complaints to the ISF Human Rights Department. According to the ISF Human Rights Department, the ISF took disciplinary action against officers it found responsible for abuse or mistreatment, including dismissals, but it did not publicize this information. The ISF reported that five ISF officers were punished for not informing suspects of their rights upon detention per article 47 of the Code of Criminal Procedures.

Most investigations were initiated by prisoners’ family members contacting the Ministry of Interior to report complaints, although prison directors could also initiate investigations. Prisoners and detainees can report abuse directly to the ISF Human Rights Department. According to a government official, prison directors often protected officers under investigation.

Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison and detention conditions by local and international human rights groups and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and such monitoring took place. The ICRC regularly visited 16 prisons and detention centers and visited a further 12 on an ad hoc basis.

Improvements: ISF training and corrections staff institutionalized best practices to protect human rights through developing and implementing standard operating procedures and modifying hiring practices and training programs to improve professionalization among new officers. During the year an NGO renovated the Nabatieh prison in South Lebanon, and ICRC worked to improve the electrical network in Roumieh prison. The World Health Organization (WHO) equipped a special room for medical examinations in Roumieh prison. In addition, the United Nations provided and equipped a prefabricated trailer to conduct trials via Zoom. The government undertook the renovation of several detention centers across the country. Prisoners gained access to potable water in Roumieh prison following the completion of a 2019 ICRC construction project. Prisoners in other prisons gradually achieved access to potable water as the result of an agreement signed by the Rotary Club and the Directorate General of the ISF in 2020, which resulted in the installation of filters in existing water tanks.

Overcrowding in detention facilities raised fears of COVID-19 outbreaks within the detention centers, particularly in the notoriously overcrowded Roumieh prison. The ISF ensured early and sustained use of masks, gloves, detergents, and temperature checks and limited visits for inmates. The ISF identified buildings at Roumieh prison as quarantine sites for inmates transferred to the prison and for existing inmates in the prison who showed COVID-19 symptoms. In September 2020 more than 200 inmates tested positive for COVID-19 in Roumieh prison, prompting social media allegations of “rioting” in the prisons and media coverage of inmate families protesting outside the justice palace. The ISF quarantined and treated COVID-19 patients, including daily testing of inmates and staff to identify and track cases.

The judiciary approved the use of a modernized but previously unused courtroom at Roumieh prison to expedite the processing of Mount Lebanon criminal cases by reducing the need to transport prisoners to court hearings. Since March authorities allowed those detained for minor, nonviolent offenses to be released after the ISF brought their cases to public prosecutors over the telephone or through video chat. Prosecutors dropped charges against some detainees following virtual reviews, while others were expected to face trial eventually but would not be kept in pretrial detention.

Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government

The country suffers from endemic corruption. Although the law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, the government has not implemented the law effectively, and officials reportedly engaged in corrupt practices with impunity on a wide scale. Government and security officials, customs agents, and members of the judiciary were subject to laws against bribery and extortion, but the lack of strong enforcement limited the law’s effectiveness.

In May 2020 parliament approved a law lifting the secrecy of bank accounts of sitting and former ministers, parliamentarians, and civil servants. The law gives power to the Special Investigation Commission of the Central Bank and the National Anticorruption Commission to investigate corruption cases against these groups.

In September 2020 the government signed a contract with an accounting firm to conduct forensic and financial audits of the Central Bank’s accounts, but the auditor withdrew in November 2020 over a political impasse related to obtaining financial records. The auditor signed a new contract with the government on September 17.

The Central Inspection Board (CIB), an oversight body within the Office of the Prime Minister, is responsible for monitoring administrative departments, including procurement and financial actions, and remained mostly independent of political interference. The CIB may inspect national and municipal government employees and has the authority to seek their removal or refer cases for prosecution. The CIB’s authority does not extend to cabinet ministers or to municipal officials. The Social Security Fund and the Council for Development and Reconstruction, public entities that managed large funding flows, were outside the CIB’s jurisdiction.

In the wake of the massive Beirut port explosion in August 2020, which many citizens blamed on systemic government corruption and negligence, tens of thousands of protesters demanded the resignation of the second government in less than a year, ousting of the political elite, and accountability for the port disaster. The judge leading the inquiry into the explosion paused the investigation under political pressure after he pursued indictments against several current and former high-ranking officials, before being dismissed from the case on February 18. The new judge assigned on February 19 was also forced to pause the investigation on September 27 under political pressure. The investigation resumed, however, following rulings by the Court of Appeals on October 4 and November 4, and the Court of Cassation on October 11 and 14, which rejected protests from the three politicians under investigation. Media sources continued to report that political interference has delayed the investigation.

There was contention between politicians and judges on whether elected government officials suspected of criminal activity should be tried in the Supreme Council for the Trial of Presidents and Ministers or in normal criminal courts. This divisive matter has also delayed the Beirut port explosion investigation.

Corruption: The government continued to lack control over corruption. There was limited parliamentary or auditing oversight of revenue collection and expenditures. Various government initiatives intended to limit corruption were not successful. Parliament approved the public procurement law on June 30, which was intended to improve transparency and promote open tendering in the public procurement process. In April 2020 parliament endorsed the anticorruption law and approved the establishment of the Anticorruption Commission. In May 2020 the government approved the Anticorruption National Strategy drafted by the Ministry of Administrative Reform and the UN Development Program. During the mass protests that began in October 2019 and continued to varying degrees during the year, demonstrators accused the government and public sector of widespread endemic corruption, lack of transparency, and limited accountability, all of which generated popular outrage. Within the first month of protests in 2019, there was an uptick in the number of corruption-related investigations and prosecution actions, but no verdicts were reached in any cases involving high-ranking officials during the year.

The most common types of corruption generally included political patronage; judicial failures, especially in investigations of official wrongdoing; and bribery at multiple levels within the national and municipal governments. Several cases were referred to the judiciary, including one involving off-speculation fuel oil purchased by the national electricity utility. Ministers and directors general were questioned, and more than 20 individuals were indicted in that case. On February 23, financial prosecutors pressed money-laundering charges against foreign exchange dealers and forwarded the case to an investigative judge. Investigations were ongoing at year’s end. On April 7, a prosecutor pressed charges against Central Bank governor Riad Salameh, Chairman of the Societe General Banque du Liban Antoun Sehnaoui, Michel Mecattaf from Mecattaf company, and Central Bank Banking Control Commission president Maya Dabbagh based on suspect transfers of large sums by the bank leading to the depreciation of the pound. The case was referred to an investigative judge and was ongoing as of December.

On April 29, the Prosecutor General launched an investigation against Salameh after a Swiss legal request alleged that more than two billion Lebanese pounds ($300 million) were embezzled from the bank through a company owned by his brother, Raja. On August 1, a judge questioned Salameh on charges of money laundering, embezzlement, forgery, tax evasion, and illicit enrichment. The case was ongoing. France also launched a parallel investigation into charges of aggravated money laundering in May.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape and the use of threats or violence to claim a “marital right to intercourse,” although it does not explicitly outlaw spousal rape. While the government effectively enforced the law, its interpretation by religious courts in cases brought before them, and not to civil courts, precluded full implementation of civil law in all provinces, such as in the case of an abused wife compelled to return to her husband under personal status law, despite battery being outlawed. The minimum prison sentence for a person convicted of rape is five years, or seven years for raping a minor. The law no longer frees rapists from prosecution or nullifies their convictions if they married their victims.

The law criminalizes domestic violence, calls for provision of shelters, gives women the ability to file a restraining order against the abuser, and assigns special units within the ISF to receive domestic violence complaints. NGOs alleged that the definition of domestic violence was narrow and as a result did not provide adequate protection from all forms of abuse, such as spousal rape. Although the law provides for a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for battery, religious courts could cite personal status law to require a battered wife to return to a home shared with her abuser. Some police, especially in rural areas, treated domestic violence as a social, rather than criminal, matter.

NGOs and activists criticized the domestic violence law, claiming that it does not sufficiently protect victims or punish abusers, who they alleged often received disproportionately light sentences.

Police and judicial officials worked to improve their management of domestic violence cases, but they noted that social and religious pressures – especially in more conservative communities – led to underreporting of cases. Some victims, often under pressure from relatives, sought arbitration through religious courts or between families rather than through the justice system. There were reports and cases of foreign domestic workers, usually women, suffering from mistreatment, abuse, and in some instances rape or conditions akin to slavery.

According to women’s rights NGO KAFA, victims reported that police responses to complaints submitted by battered or abused women improved during the reporting period. During the year ISF and judicial officials received training on best practices for handling cases involving female detainees, including victims of domestic violence and sexual exploitation. NGOs that provided services to such victims reported increased access to potential victims in ISF and DGS custody. The ISF continued its practice of alerting its human rights unit to all cases involving victims of domestic violence and other vulnerable groups, so officers could track the cases and provide appropriate support to victims.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the ISF encouraged reporting of domestic violence including raising awareness on social media of their hotline for abuse survivors. NGO ABAAD was quoted in 2020 saying that the government needed to increase services and availability of shelters to keep up with demand.

The Women’s Affairs Division in the Ministry of Social Affairs and several NGOs continued projects to address sexual or gender-based violence, such as providing counseling and shelter for victims.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: In February 2020 dozens of women gathered in front of the Higher Islamic Shia Council to protest the law giving full child custody to the father automatically upon divorce. The organizers, Protecting Lebanese Women and the National Campaign to Raise the Age of Custody, called for raising the age of custody (age of emancipation) recognized by Shia courts. The protest was in reaction to a widely viewed video of a woman sneaking into the funeral service of her late daughter, who had been killed by stray bullets. The mother had lost custody of both her children when she filed for divorce, and her husband had forbidden her to attend the funeral.

Marriage is governed by 18 different sect-based personal status laws, and all sects allow girls to be married before age 18.

Sexual Harassment: A law criminalizing sexual harassment was adopted by parliament in December 2020. Despite the new law sexual harassment remained a widespread problem that ranked among the October 2019 protesters’ most vocal complaints. On September 22, the Public Prosecution pressed charges against journalist and director Jaafar al-Attar for sexual harassment and referred the case to the Beirut criminal judge. A group of women pressed charges against al-Attar on May 26 for sexual harassment after posting their experiences under the hashtag #Expose_the_harasser and #Believesurvivors. The investigation was ongoing at year’s end. This was the only case in the year where the Public Prosecution pressed charges for sexual harassment.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and to manage their reproductive health.

Women, including survivors of sexual violence, generally had the information and means to manage their reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence, although women in rural areas faced social pressure on their reproductive choices due to long-held societal values. According to a 2017 study conducted by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the most recent available, 32 percent of male respondents indicated that their wives used oral contraceptive pills, while 32 percent of female respondents indicated that they used natural methods; followed by 29 percent using intrauterine devices; 4.6 percent tubal ligation; and the remainder using female condoms, hormonal injections, or suppositories.

There were no known reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of government authorities.

Discrimination: Women suffered discrimination under the law and in practice, including under the penal and personal status codes. The constitution does not explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sex. In matters of marriage, child custody, inheritance, and divorce, personal status laws provide unequal treatment across the various confessional court systems but generally discriminate against women. All 18 recognized religious groups have their own personal status courts responsible for handling these matters, and laws vary depending on the religious group. For example, Sunni religious courts apply an inheritance law that provides a daughter one-half the inheritance of a son. Religious law on child custody matters favors the father in most instances, regardless of religion. Sharia courts weigh the testimony of one man as equal to that of two women. Nationality law also discriminates against women, who may not confer citizenship to their spouses and children, although widows may confer citizenship to their minor children born of a citizen father. By law women may own property, but they often ceded control of it to male relatives due to cultural norms and family pressure. The law does not distinguish between women and men in employment and provides for equal pay for men and women, although workplace gender discrimination, including wage discrimination, exists.

Since 2018 divorced women have been allowed to include the names of their children on their civil records.

Children

Birth Registration: Citizenship is derived exclusively from the father, which may result in statelessness for children of a citizen mother and noncitizen father who may not transmit his own citizenship (see section 2.g., Stateless Persons). If a child’s birth is not registered within the first year, the process for legitimizing the birth is long and costly, often deterring families from registration. Syrian refugees no longer need legal residency to register the birth of their children. Authorities also waived several requirements for late birth registration by Syrian refugees. Birth registration remained inaccessible to some because the government required proof of legal residence and legal marriage, documentation often unavailable to refugees.

Education: Education for citizens is free and compulsory through the primary phase. Noncitizen and stateless children, including those born of noncitizen fathers and citizen mothers and refugees, lacked this right. The Ministry of Education and Higher Education directed that non-Lebanese students could not outnumber Lebanese in any given classroom during the regular school shift, which sometimes limited enrollment. Syrian refugee children were not legally entitled to enroll in public schools at regular hours, although they could attend schools’ second shifts.

Educational institutions reported that, due to the economic crisis, the depreciation of the Lebanese pound, and lack of funding, some schools were forced to close during the year. In addition, many teachers were either laid off or resigned. According to the Syndicate of Private School Teachers, every school in the country lost between 10 to 40 teachers during the year.

Child Abuse: The country lacked a comprehensive child protection law, although legal provisions furnished some protection to children who were victims of violence.

The Ministry of Social Affairs has a hotline to report cases of child abuse. In a typical example from 2020, representatives of a local shelter for abused women and children described the case of a father who sexually and physically abused a child in the shelter’s care. According to the organization, the father escaped punishment through religious courts, as many families chose to handle such cases through these courts rather than the national justice system.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: There is no legal minimum age for marriage, and the government does not perform civil marriage. Most religious leaders oppose civil marriage, despite the law recognizing heterosexual civil marriages conducted outside the country. Each sect has its own religious courts governing matters of personal status, such as marriage, divorce, child custody, and inheritance. The minimum age of marriage varies from ages 14 to 18, depending on the sect. UN agencies, NGOs, and government officials noted high rates of early marriage among the Syrian refugee population, in some cases four times the rate of child marriage as before the conflict began. They partially attributed this circumstance to social and economic pressure on families with limited resources.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits and punishes commercial sexual exploitation, child pornography, and child sex trafficking. The minimum age for consensual sex is 18 for both men and women, and statutory rape penalties include hard labor for a minimum of five years and a minimum of seven years’ imprisonment if the victim is younger than 15 years old. The government generally enforced the law.

Displaced Children: Some refugee children lived and worked on the street. In view of the poor economic environment, limited freedom of movement, and little opportunity for livelihoods for adults, many Syrian refugee families often relied on children to earn money for the family, including by begging or selling small items in the streets. Refugee children were at greater risk than Lebanese children for exploitation, gender-based violence, and child labor since they had greater freedom of movement compared to their parents, who often lacked residency permits. Some refugee children and the children of foreign domestic workers also faced obstacles to equal treatment under the law. NGOs reported discrimination against them, including bullying linked to race, skin color, religion, and nationality, although some could attend public school.

The Ministry of Education and Higher Education facilitated enrollment of almost 200,000 non-Lebanese children in the 2019-20 academic year. More than one-half of refugee children ages three to 18 were out of school, according to UNHCR. The government and some NGOs offered several informal education programs to eligible students.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

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