On Friday, November 18, 2011, the Haigazian University Peace Building Committee organized a seminar entitled “Rights Behind Gates”, to address the issues of the rights of prisoners in Lebanon. The event was under the patronage of the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities, represented by Colonel Joseph Kallas.
The distinguished audience, was welcomed by President Paul Haidostian, as well as representatives of the Peace Building Committee. This committee was recently established as a result of an initiative by the UNDP.
The first speaker, Lana Baydas, representing the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced the topic of discussion by going over therights of prisoners based on the standards of the International Human Rights Law. Baydas traced the development of the law and offered a comparison to the Lebanese law, focusing on such issues as the prohibition of torture. Her lecture was concluded with a brief Q&A.
This was followed by a 15 minute documentary prepared by the members of the Peace Building Committee, who visited the Roumieh prison and shared their experiences based on what they saw. In addition, the documentary included footage of interviews with several people concerning the issue, including some members of parliament and a religious leader.
Colonel Joseph Kallas, addressed the challenges in the Roumieh, which is nevertheless in better shape than most Lebanese prisons. Problems include a lack of manpower to run the prison and overcrowding in the prison. In addition, he discussed the issue of finding lawyers to defend the prisoners, a process that is usually delayed in Lebanon.
After a short coffee break, Zeina Daccache, a Haigazian graduate, examined the topic from a psychological viewpoint, focusing on how prisons need to be a place of rehabilitation. It was with that aim in mind that she decided to promote drama therapy in prisons and worked for 15 months with a group of 45 prisoners. The result was a play, entitled “12 Angry Lebanese,” and Daccache shared a 22 minute documentary of the project.
The seminar concluded with the signing of a Bill of Recommendations prepared by the Peace Building Committee, as a list of 16 points of prison reform that the committee felt was necessary based on research and their own observations of the Roumieh prison.