Hasna Abdul Reda: Defence of the most vulnerable victims in the Lebanon
- 30 September 2014
AEDH has been supporting the Lebanese Centre for Human Rights since 2007. In October 2014 we welcomed Hasna Abdul Reda, a lawyer working for CLDH, during the Fortnight for Equality between Women and Men organised under the auspices of the Rhone Alpes Region of France.
In your opinion does the Lebanon respect the principles underlying Human Rights?
Hasna: There are a huge number of human rights violations in the Lebanon despite the fact that the Lebanese constitution gives prominence to the Declaration of Human Rights and its international commitments therein and, furthermore, gives the Declaration precedence over the laws of the country. The Lebanon has ratified most of the international treaties that protect human rights, but in reality it does not put them into practice.
What are the main activities of CLDH in the fight against human rights violations?
Hasna: CLDH fights against forced disappearances, arbitrary imprisonment, torture and racism. In particular it does this through a programme of help to the most vulnerable in prison, through the Nassim Centre for the rehabilitation of victims of torture and through legal aid for migrant workers in the Lebanon.
What are your main challenges on a daily basis?
Hasna: In the first place the difficult question of deciding which are priority cases, and once that is decided, providing concrete support.
The problem is that the demand for legal help far exceeds what CLDH and, indeed, what the legal profession as a whole can provide. Thousands of people have their rights abused every year but do not have the means to seek redress. They come and see us. Clearly those whose physical or psychological integrity has been affected are the priority. The choice is often impossible for we would like to help everyone. But if we did that we would neglect the cases that we have already accepted. Where we can not offer sustained help we try to refer them to other organisations that may be able to help, and we never refuse to give them legal advice.
Once we have agreed to help someone, the difficulty for us lawyers then arises from having to work in a context in which who are and what you know is more important than the law itself. In addition in some cases the violations are committed by the security services themselves working on the basis of confidential information and completely outside the framework of the legal system. Although an appeal is possible in such cases the waiting list is so saturated that decisions are likely to be in abeyance for years, during which time the victims’ human rights continue to be abused. In such cases it can be preferable to do a deal with the security services rather than to pursue the official legal channels to the detriment of the victim.
CLDH is working to defend migrant in the Lebanon. What is the current situation?
Hasna: Thousands of migrants come to the Lebanon every year to work as domestic help or as unqualified labour in private enterprises. Women are the most vulnerable in most of these cases.
They come to the Lebanon to provide support for their families back home and very often become modern day slaves. They have to work between 12 and 17 hours a day, seven days a week, sleeping in a corner of the kitchen. Sometimes they are not even paid. They are frequently locked into the house where they work, and their employers take their passports away. Dozens commit suicide every year. Our challenge is to provide help to some of these victims and to put an end to these inhuman situations.