Cedar Centre For Legal Studies

Case Title

Disappearance of a Syrian in Lebanon Sparks Concern


12/02/2024

Rafaat

The recent disappearance of Rafaat Falih, following his arrest in Lebanon on 10 January 2024, has raised serious concerns regarding the possibility of his extradition from Lebanon to Syria. The number of unlawful extraditions from Lebanon to Syria has steadily increased in recent months.

Mr. Falih, a former member of the Syrian Army who sought refuge in Lebanon two years ago, falls under the protection of the Geneva Refugee Convention, despite Lebanon’s non-ratification of the treaty. He was registered with the UNHCR Lebanon, regularising his admission to the country.

On 10 January 2024, Mr. Falih was arrested at a checkpoint in Madfoun, Tripoli, Lebanon, while on his way from Tripoli to Beirut for his work-related. It is believed that Lebanese military intelligence is responsible for his arrest and subsequent disappearance. Initially, his family learned informally that he had been transferred to the military police in Qoubbeh, Tripoli. However, subsequent inquiries revealed contradictory information, with officials stating that he had been moved to the military police in Rihaniyye district, Baabda, Mount Lebanon province.

On 24 January 2024, the legal support team at the Cedar Centre of Legal Studies on behalf of his family went to Qoubbeh to inquire about him and confirm that he was detained there. The military police officials replied that he was no longer detained there but had been transferred to the military police in Rihaniyye district, Baabda, Mount Lebanon province. The legal support team hereafter asked a notary to organise a proxy. The assigned notary went to Rihaniyye district on 25 January 2024, but the military police officials there refused to confirm the detention, so the proxy could not be organised. On 6 February 2024, his family knew informally that he was transferred “secretly” to Syria and from there he was transferred to Palestine Branch.

We fear that Mr. Falih has already been extradited to Syria and might be subjected to physical harm respectively torture, therefore the Cedar Centre for Legal Studies wrote on 27 January 2024 to the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances. On 30 January 2024, the legal support team submitted on behalf of his family a complaint on his disappearance to the Public Prosecutor of Cassation Court. And on 31 January 2024, Cedar Centre reported on his case to the UNHCR office in Beirut.

The UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment that Lebanon ratified in 2000, states in article 3, para. a that: “no state party may expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite any person to another State, if it has substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”

We ask all the responsible authorities to protect Mr. Falih and inform his relatives about his whereabouts and furthermore to respect human rights and execute the convention.

Update: On 14 May 2024, Mr. Falih’s family was able to visit him in Sednaya Prison.