Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
Although the law provides citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections conducted by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage, lack of government control over parts of the country, defects in the electoral process, prolonged extension of parliament’s mandate, and corruption in public office significantly restricted this ability. The president and parliament nominate the prime minister, who, with the president, chooses the cabinet.
Elections and Political Participation
Recent Elections: Observers concluded that the 2009 parliamentary elections were generally free and fair, with minor irregularities, such as instances of vote buying. The NGO Lebanese Transparency Association reported its monitors witnessed election fraud through cash donations on election day in many electoral districts. In 2013 parliament postponed legislative elections to November 2014 and later rescheduled them for June 2017.
Municipal elections were held on May 8, 15, 22, and 29, and constituted the first nationwide elections since the 2010 municipal elections. Although the elections were largely free and fair, observers present at some polling centers witnessed irregularities including party agents present inside polling stations, no official preprinted ballots, instances of campaigning by party agents around and inside the polling center and polling stations, and electoral bribery.
Political Parties and Political Participation: All major political parties and numerous smaller ones were almost exclusively based on confessional affiliation, and parliamentary seats were allotted on a sectarian basis.
Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit the participation of women and members of minorities in the political process; however, there were significant cultural barriers to women’s participation in politics. Prior to 2004 no woman held a cabinet position, and there were only four female ministers since then. During the year one woman served in the cabinet. Only four of 128 members of parliament were women, and all were close relatives of previous male members. With a few notable exceptions, leadership of political parties effectively excluded women, limiting their opportunities for high office.
Minorities participated in politics to some extent. Regardless of the number of its adherents, every government-recognized religion, except Coptic Christianity, Ismaili Islam, and Judaism, was allocated at least one seat in parliament. Three parliamentarians representing minorities (one Syriac Orthodox Christian and two Alawites) were elected in the 2009 elections. None of the minority parliamentarians were women. These groups also held high positions in government and the LAF. Since refugees are not citizens, they have no political rights. An estimated 17 Palestinian factions operated in the country, generally organized around prominent individuals. Most Palestinians lived in refugee camps that one or more factions controlled. Palestinian refugee leaders were not elected, but there were popular committees that met regularly with UNRWA and visitors.
Section 5. Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A number of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally were not responsive to these groups’ views, and there was limited or no accountability for human rights violations.
Government Human Rights Bodies: The parliamentary Committee on Human Rights struggled to advance legislative proposals to make legal changes to guide ministries in protecting specific human rights or, for example, improving prison conditions. The Ministry of Interior has a human rights department to enhance and raise awareness about human right issues within the ISF, train police officers on human right standards, and monitor and improve prison conditions. The ministry staffed the department with two officers, two sergeants, and an information technology specialist, in addition to the department’s head. The department was not adequately resourced. Its leadership maintained high standards of professionalism, but due to the integrated structure, the department’s independence could not be assured.
In 2014 the ISF launched a revised complaint mechanism allowing citizens to track complaints and receive notification of investigation results. Citizens may file formal complaints against any ISF officer in person at a police station, through a lawyer, by mail, or online through the ISF website. At the time a complaint is filed, the filer receives a tracking number that may be used to check the status of the complaint throughout the investigation. The complaint mechanism provides the ISF the ability to notify those filing complaints of the results of its investigation.
The LAF has a human rights unit that engaged in human rights training through the Department of Defense’s Defense Institute of International Legal Studies and other organizations. The unit worked to ensure the LAF operated in accordance with major international human rights conventions and coordinated human rights training in LAF training academies. The LAF human rights unit also worked with international NGOs to coordinate human rights training and policies and requested the creation of legal advisor positions to embed with LAF combat units and advise commanders on human rights and international law during operations. The unit also has responsibility for coordinating the LAF’s efforts to combat antitrafficking in persons. The LAF also recently responded to requests for information on alleged human rights allegations by opening new investigations and provided updated information on those investigations.