- For defenders
- How can I help?
Lebanon- President of the Palestinian Human Rights Organization Mr Ghassan Abdallah was interrogated and threatened by a Lebanese military intelligence unit
Human rights defender Mr Ghassan Abdallah was interrogated and threatened with torture by a Lebanese military intelligence unit. Ghassan Abdallah is the president of the Palestinian Human Rights Organisation (PHRO), an independent human rights NGO which works to promote, protect, and defend the rights of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The PHRO is a member of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and of the Euro Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN).
According to Ghassan Abdallah, on 5 October 2010 he received a phone call from Colonel Asmar, who asked him to pass by the investigation department of the military unit. Colonel Asmar insisted that the meeting was not for investigation purposes but to “have a cup of coffee” (an expression used in Lebanon which also means investigation).
On 9 October 2010 at approximately 9.30am Ghassan Abdallah went to the investigation department where he was interrogated for three hours. The interrogation took place in Colonel Asmar's office but was not officially recorded. Ghassan Abdallah was questioned for 30 minutes about PHRO membership of EMHRN. He was accused of dealing with the EMHRN, which according to the interrogator, includes other organisations perceived as Zionist. Mr. Abdallah replied that the PHRO is, since 2002, a member of the EMHRN, a well-established network of international human rights organizations working jointly to improve the human rights situation in Europe and in the Southern Mediterranean countries.
Colonel Asmar then left the room for one hour and thirty minutes during which time Ghassan Abdallah was able to hear screams and references to a torture instrument coming from the next room. When Ghassan Abdallah asked why he was being interrogated Colonel Asmar responded by saying that he was awaiting orders from the leadership. The interrogation continued for a further 45 minutes during which time Ghassan Abdallah was questioned about a new PHRO office in Nahr al-Bared, a Palestinian Refugee camp located in Lebanon, as well as a recent PHRO seminar which addressed the access policy to Palestinian refugee camps.
Finally the leadership decided that it did not want anything more from Ghassan Abdallah, but Colonel Asmar stated that “each time you want to renew your access permit to the camp, you have to visit the Intelligence Department in the North.” Colonel Asmar stated that the reason for this was connected with meetings held between Ghassan Abdallah and foreign bodies, an issue of which “the army's Intelligence wants to preserve the security .”
The PHRO was established in 1997, and has been a member of the EMHRN since 2002. EMHRN, set up in 1997, is a network of over sixty human rights organisations,* institutions and individuals based in 30 countries in the Euro-Mediterranean region.* In the past Ghassan Abdallah has received death threats from a Lebanese military unit, and attempts have been made to prevent him from entering Palestinian refugee camps.
Front Line believes that the interrogation of Ghassan Abdallah is directly related to his legitimate work in the defence of human rights. Front Line is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Ghassan Abdallah and all members of the PHRO.