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Legal Field Study: A Survey of Court Cases against Syrian Nationals in Lebanon for Criminal Matters



Centre International des Sciences de l'Homme (CISH-UNESCO)

Karim El Mufti 

November 2015


With the outbreak of war in neighbouring Syria, Lebanon is hosting a growing Syrian refugee population (estimated today at 1.1 million). Struggling between its international obligations under humanitarian principles and security and terrorism concerns, the Lebanese government has sent mixed signals as to how to deal with the Syrian refugees (displaced as per the official rhetoric). As a result, the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon is vulnerable and has difficulties accessing basic elements of justice.

International Alert, the Lebanese American University and the International Centre For Human Sciences (CISH) in Byblos has joined efforts under a NWO-WOTRO grant for Science for Global Development on Embedding Justice in Power and Politics (Netherlands) to further study the Access to Justice of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. Using quantitative data extracted from a selection of Lebanese Courts’ decisions, this paper aims to identify the professional trend of the Lebanese Judiciary towards Syrian defendants in conflict with the Lebanese law.


Between February and June 2015, the author and his team worked on collecting lawsuits details of criminal type, involving Syrian nationals living in Lebanon (either as plaintiff or defendant) from three specific Court jurisdictions in Lebanon: Beirut Registry; Zahle Registry; Tripoli Registry, each in one of its chambers. The data collected form the sample used in this study and offer an important overview of the different elements of the cases such as: nationality of plaintiff/defendant and gender; date of arrest; list of charges; date of first judicial hearing; nature of court’s jurisdiction; name of the sitting judge and status of lawsuit, whether it ended, and if so if the plaintiff was convicted or released. 
The dates of these court cases stretch from June 2011 to April 2015 (based on date of arrest of the defendant). The latest court decision in this survey is dated 30 May 2015.

Out of the three geographically different registries in Beirut, Zahle and Tripoli, a total of 807 lawsuits were identified involving a Syrian national as a defendant, in addition to lawsuits where both plaintiffs and defendants were Syrians.

The study of this large sample of cases is deemed useful to identify a number of items that interest the larger research of the consortium, such as:
-       Nature of most common charges filed against Syrian nationals in Lebanon since the start of the crisis in Syria.
-       Outcome of these lawsuits as to the ability of Syrian nationals to acquire a solid judicial defence.
-       The sentencing policy of the Lebanese judiciary in these cases when it comes to Syrian nationals.

Full study available on this link.

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