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Calls for ‘Independent Inquiry’ into Death of 4 Syrian Detainees in Lebanon | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Syrian refugee camps dotted in and around the Lebanese town of Arsal, near the border with Syria, Lebanon. September 21, 2016. Reuters photo

Beirut, London- Human rights organizations called on Wednesday for an independent probe after the Lebanese army announced that four Syrian nationals, who were arrested last week during raids on refugee encampments in the border town of Arsal, have died in custody.

Last week, five suicide bombers blew themselves up in Arsal in response to pre-emptive raids by the Lebanese army, which had received information about terrorist attacks being plotting in the area. During the raids, soldiers arrested more than 300 people.

But, on Wednesday, the army said in a statement that four Syrian nationals who were arrested in Arsal have died “after they suffered from chronic health issues that were aggravated due to the climatic conditions.”  

The announcement came following photos published on Wednesday showing dozens of Syrian refugees, stripped to the waist and handcuffed, while lying on the ground and covered with stones.  The photos showed Lebanese soldiers standing next to them.

Commenting on the development, Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said: “The army acknowledged not one but four deaths in custody without revealing the chain of events that led to these deaths. A formal, transparent, and independent investigation must be launched and in case of wrongdoing those responsible for the deaths should be held accountable.”

Human rights lawyer Nabil Halabi also called for an independent probe.

The Lebanese army did not issue an immediate reply to Fakih’s statement and the calls for such independent investigations.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the cabinet session held on Wednesday, President Michel Aoun was quoted as praising “the performance of the army and the security forces,” warning “against the transformation of Syrian refugee camps into hosts for terrorists.”

Prime Minister Saad Hariri also mentioned during the cabinet session the “death of four arrested Syrian refugees at a hospital.”