LEBANON: Children's Rights in the UN Special Procedures' Reports

Summary: This report extracts mentions of children's rights issues in the reports of the UN Special Procedures. This does not include reports of child specific Special Procedures, such as the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which are available as separate reports.

Please note that the language may have been edited in places for the purpose of clarity.

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Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights aspects of the victims of trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Sigma Huda


Report published: 20 February 2006

Visit undertaken from 7 to 16 February 2005

Issues raised:

Sale of children: Neither the Ministry of Justice nor the Ministry of Interior were able to provide the Special Rapporteur with comprehensive statistics on investigations, prosecutions and convictions in cases involving trafficking-related offences. No information was provided either on prosecutions and convictions of buyers of prostitution. However, the General Security Department informed her that assault and ill-treatment of women in the sex industry and domestic migrant workers have led to arrests and prosecutions in many cases. The Internal Security Department recorded six cases involving the sale of children for the period of January 2002-November 2005. (Paragraph 10).

Legislation: Considering these shortcomings, it is a very positive step that the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior have embarked on a technical cooperation project with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Assessing both the trafficking situation and the adequacy of existing legislation on trafficking, the project aims at improving Lebanon’s capacity to draft and implement legislation in accordance with its obligations under the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons. The project also seeks to increase the law enforcement agencies capacity to investigate and prosecute in cases of trafficking, improve the level of training and encourage enhanced cooperation between the judiciary, the law enforcement agencies and civil society. (Paragraph 12).

Child labour: A comprehensive and properly implemented labour law framework that follows international standards is a key instrument in limiting the demand for trafficked persons, since it discourages the use of forced labour, child labour and other forms of exploitation. Therefore, the Special Rapporteur welcomes the fact that Lebanon has ratified the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour, 1999, and also brought its laws on child employment closer to compliance with the international standards set out by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and ILO Convention No. 138 concerning Minimum Age for Admission to Employment, 1973. Lebanese law sets the minimum age of employment at 14. Children under the age of 18 are prohibited from working more than six hours a day and from working at night. Children under the age of 17 may not perform any work jeopardizing their health, safety or morals. (Paragraph 15).

Since the 1970s, child labour has substantially declined in Lebanon but remains a problem in low-income families that often use all family members for income generation. Official figures for 2000 estimated that 1.8 per cent of all children aged 10-14 worked.12 For northern Lebanon, which has particularly high poverty levels, the respective figure was 3.3 per cent. Owing to their early entry into the labour market, the children generally have a low educational status. (Paragraph 62).

Monitoring bodies: The Special Rapporteur was surprised to learn that senior government officials outside the Ministry of Interior, including parliamentarians, were often unaware of the existence of these directives. In security affairs, the executive branch seems to operate with a worrying lack of parliamentary, judicial or other supervision, which can be partially attributed to a lack of effective human rights monitoring mechanisms within the structure of Government. Parliament has established a human rights committee but it does not have the resources to effectively monitor executive conduct and norm-setting. Within its limited mandate, the Higher Council for Childhood, administered by the Ministry of Social Affairs, has some monitoring functions. Lebanon still lacks an independent national human rights commission that could fulfil a comprehensive monitoring mandate. (Paragraph 20).

Child begging : Street children and other children from socio-economically marginalized backgrounds are also exploited as beggars by organized groups of adult handlers who take a large share of the children’s income. In organized operations, the children are picked up every day from their own neighbourhoods and driven to the city centre. Having been moved out of a zone of relative protection into an area where they are more vulnerable to being exploited by their handlers or third persons, they must be considered to be internally trafficked children. (Paragraph 63).

The Government has yet to develop a comprehensive strategy on how to resolve the problem of child begging. In ad hoc operations, police sometimes arrest begging children but then find that there are hardly any institutions to rehabilitate these children and give them educational or vocational training. Non-governmental initiatives have alleviated the problem, but their capacity and resources are limited. (Paragraph 64).

Sexual exploitation : Official statistics indicate very low levels of sexual abuse and exploitation of children. In 2002, only 97 cases were recorded in all of Lebanon.13 The actual number is very likely to be far higher, however, since strong social and cultural taboos and a fear of ostracism prevent victims and witnesses from reporting cases of sexual abuse and exploitation, particularly if they occur within the family. (Paragraph 65).

Child prostitution: Child prostitution is one form of child sexual exploitation that occurs in Lebanon, but it is hard to quantify the problem. The non-governmental organization Dar el Amal, which has had a programme to rehabilitate prostitutes and protect girls at risk since 1969, has analysed 450 cases of women involved in prostitution, including 157 girls. The survey found that most girls had experienced extreme poverty, early marriage and sexual abuse prior to becoming involved in prostitution. (Paragraph 66).

In some cases, family members, including stepmothers or second wives in polygamous marriages, induce or force girls to prostitute themselves. Zein and Ghada, two sisters aged 15 and 16, for instance, were forced by their own mother to endure men touching their private parts, while the men had sexual intercourse with adult prostitutes. Several non-governmental sources have also suggested that organized criminal groups are involved in procuring children for sexual exploitation by affluent clients in Beirut and Tripoli. The Special Rapporteur is particularly concerned about reports that Iraqi and Syrian girls as young as 12 years old are increasingly being trafficked to Lebanon, where they are forced to prostitute themselves. (Paragraph 67).

Early and forced marriage : No unified personal status law exists in Lebanon and each Lebanese citizen is subject to the laws and courts pertaining to his or her religious community with regard to the regulation of personal status. Marriage ceremonies are therefore conducted by religious authorities. Some local religious authorities do not pay due regard to minimum age requirements stipulated even in their own religious law. As a result, child or early marriages remain a problem, particularly in northern Lebanon. (Paragraph 68).

In some cases, these early marriages can be preceded by an act of transnational trafficking. In an ill-conceived attempt to preserve the family links to their home country, some families in the Lebanese diaspora deceive their daughters into travelling to their Lebanese home village, where they are forced into a marriage with a local man. The Australian Embassy has documented 12 such cases involving Australian girls of Lebanese descent. Seven victims were younger than 16 years old. Other countries with a Lebanese diaspora are said to be confronted with the same problem. (Paragraph 69).


Legislative reform: Legislation should also strengthen the mandates of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee and the Higher Council for Childhood. Sufficient resources should be allocated to these institutions as well. (Paragraph 84).

Prevention and non-criminal sanctions: Police methods for dealing with children living or working in the streets, children in conflict with the law and children who are victims of crime should be modernized through greater focus on proactive outreach work, confidence-building measures and cooperation with social services. Social services should reach out and assist children living and working in the streets and other high-risk groups; professionals coming into contact with children living or working in the streets should be sensitized to child protection, as should the general population. (Paragraph 90).

Prosecution: The Ministries of Interior and Justice, collaborating with civil society, the judiciary and the international community, should systematically compile statistics on investigations, prosecutions and convictions relating to trafficking in persons. Data on the traffickers’ modes of operation and networks should also be systematically gathered and analysed. In this regard, the Ministries should, as a matter of priority, give their attention to their technical cooperation project with UNODC and UNICEF on enhancing measures to combat trafficking. (Paragraph 96).

Increased efforts should be made to identify and combat all forms of child trafficking, especially for exploitation in begging and child prostitution. Special training on trafficking of children and the protection to which they are entitled under national and international law, as well as child-focused methods of intervention, detection, identification and assistance should be given to all relevant actors (officials, judges, social workers, NGOs and the media). (Paragraph 98).

Recommendations to civil society, the media and the international community :

The media has a key role in raising awareness of the situation of foreign nationals in Lebanon and increasing the visibility of problems faced by foreign domestic workers, women in the sex industry and children from socially marginalized backgrounds. The media should also address social, cultural and religious taboos preventing public discussion of problems related to sexuality and take a strong stand against all forms of discrimination on the basis of gender, race, colour, ethnicity or social status. (Paragraph 104).

The international community should devote special attention to the situation of foreign nationals. It should encourage, politically support and fund initiatives to combat trafficking in persons and the various forms of exploitation emanating from it, including exploitative domestic labour, sexual exploitation, forced labour and child labour. Particular emphasis should be placed on the training of officials and efforts to address the root causes of trafficking, including discrimination, early marriage, poverty and lack of access to education and vocational training. (Paragraph 106).



Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston; the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Paul Hunt; the Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights of internally displaced persons, Walter Kälin; and the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, Miloon Kothari


Report published: 2 October 2006
Visit undertaken from 7 – 14 September 2006

Issues raised:

Children and armed conflict: While Hezbollah was in conflict with Israel, it does not follow that every member of Hezbollah could be justifiably targeted. Individuals do not become legitimate military objectives unless they are combatants or civilians directly participating in hostilities. Many members and supporters of Hezbollah do not meet either criterion. Similarly, not every building owned by or associated with Hezbollah constituted a legitimate military objective. Hezbollah is, in addition to being an organization using violence, a political movement and social services enterprise, particularly in the Dahiye and the areas of southern Lebanon with a Shiite majority population. It runs medical facilities, schools, groceries, an orphanage, a garbage service and a reconstruction programme for homes damaged during Israel’s invasion. It is the country's second-largest employer,46 holds 14 seats in parliament and, since 2005, is part of the Government . (Paragraph 40).

Education: The existence of highly volatile, unexploded cluster bomb sub-munitions constitutes a threat to clearing building rubble and, more generally, to the rights to life and health of the population, as evidenced by the 104 casualties they caused as of 23 September 2006, 14 of which were fatal.118 Until the identification of cluster bomb strike locations and the clearance of the sites are completed, or at least significant progress made (a process which UNMACC estimates will take 12-15 months119), people will not be able to go back to their homes, children will not be able to go to school and returnees previously active in agriculture will be deprived of a livelihood.12 (Paragraph 86).

Health: Damage to medical facilities combined with shortages of fuel, power, water and supplies have had a major impact on service delivery throughout the districts affected by the conflict.121 There is a serious gap, for example, in maternal and child care services. Just one in four primary health care facilities are able to provide pre-natal care, and just one in 10 can support proper delivery and emergency obstetric care. One third are able to store vaccines and just 13 per cent are able to provide some mental health services. Normally, all of these facilities should be able to provide all of these services.122 The situation remains particularly acute in those communities in the south that were badly damaged during the conflict (see para. 63 above). The conflict is likely to have deepened pre-existing inequalities in the delivery of health care services in Lebanon.1 (Paragraph 89).

Mental health: Although frequently neglected, mental health is an integral element of the right to the highest attainable standard of health.127 The recent conflict poses a profound and continuing challenge to the mental and psychosocial well-being of many.128 Women, children and the disabled suffer particular stress. Often struggling to care for their families, women may be at increased risk of domestic violence. Behavioural and emotional difficulties are a common and normal reaction to events such as the recent hostilities. Some individuals are suffering from disabling post-traumatic stress disorder and in some cases this condition will continue for the rest of their lives. (Paragraph 91).

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, on his mission to Lebanon.


Report published: 29 September 2006

Issues raised:

Children and armed conflict: In his discussions with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Social and Family Affairs, the Special Rapporteur was informed that apart from the material damage, the psychological damage and deep trauma of the war will have long-term effects on the civilian population that will affect the reconstruction of traditional economic and social life, particularly in rural areas. The loss of family members, as well as the loss of normal functions for those who are permanently injured including amputatees, contribute to psychological stress. On 4 August 2006, the village of Qaa, in the eastern part of the country, Israeli forces attacked a group of agricultural workers in full daylight. Some were unloading a truck of fruit and vegetables; the others were working close to a refrigeration truck. Twenty men and 6 women were killed and 20 others were wounded, most of them seriously. On the night of 29-30 July 2006, the aerial bombardments of Qana left 56 people dead, including 34 children, according to the High Relief Council. Sabrina Tavernise, in her article entitled “The night the children of Qana died,16 wrote that on arriving at the site of the carnage, she witnessed rescue teams pulling bodies out of the rubble. She counted 28 bodies, including 20 children, the youngest only 10 months old. As she left, bodies were still being pulled out. In its report entitled “Fatal strikes: Israel’s indiscriminate attacks against civilians in Lebanon”, Human Rights Watch argue that many of these massacres were not “collateral damage”, but were intentional and deliberate acts against the civilian population. Human Rights Watch argues that these indiscriminate attacks on civilians could amount to war crimes. The indiscriminate nature of attacks on civilians is well illustrated by an article by Meron Rapoport in 8 September issue of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Referring to an army officer uncomfortable with his orders to indiscriminately attack a village, Mr. Rapoport wrote: “His battalion was given an entire village as a target one night. He thinks it was Taibeh. A village in what is called the Eastern sector. But he is not sure. The battalion commander assembled the men and told them that the whole village had been divided into parts and that each team was supposed to ‘flood’ its allotted space – without specific targets simply to bombard the village.” (Paragraph 18).

Health: The destruction of infrastructure in relation to agriculture, including the destruction of agricultural land and civilian infrastructure such as ports, roads, warehouses, food industries, bridges and markets, has made and will continue to make the production of food and its distribution throughout the country extremely difficult. It has been estimated that 145 bridges and overpasses and 600 km of roads were destroyed or damaged.32 The Special Rapporteur was also concerned at the destruction of agro-processing factories and plants. For example, in the Bekaa valley, the Liban Lait dairy farm and processing plant, the leading producer of milk and dairy products in Lebanon, was completely destroyed in an Israeli aerial attack on 17 July 2006. The Special Rapporteur was told that this attack has left unemployment in its wake, with 170 employees unable to return to work, and the surrounding 40 farms that used to provide milk to Liban Lait have now lost their livelihoods as well. Liban Lait produced more than 90 per cent of long-life pasteurized milk in Lebanon. The destruction of Liban Lait has also had wider impacts given that fresh milk provision to local schools by Liban Lait, in collaboration with NGOs and intergovernmental organizations, has now been interrupted and children are deprived of fresh milk.33 In addition, at least 1,500 Bekaa residents have reportedly lost their sources of livelihood. (Paragraph 24).

Water and sanitation: There have been shortages of potable water, especially in the south. A joint United Nations assessment team, including representatives of OCHA, UNICEF, UNHCR and WFP, that travelled from Tyre to Aitarou on 26 August 2006 found an urgent need for clean drinking and washing water in villages following extensive damage to the water network. In Tebnine, Aita Ech Chaab and Bint J’bail the need for water was a priority.38 In some areas, only bottled water is available and the price of water is becoming unaffordable.39 Concerns have been raised about the threat of widespread outbreaks of water-borne disease; the first cases have been reported in the village of Yahoune. The authorities, the United Nations and many NGOs are working to provide the minimum standard of 15 litres of water per person per day. (Paragraph 28)



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