government: parliamentary republic
state of civil and political rights: Partly free
constitution: 23 May 1926, amended several times, most recently in 1990
legal system: contains elements of Ottoman, Canon, Napoleonic and civil law
legislative system: Unicameral National Assembly (Majlis Alnuwab)
judicial system: four Courts of Cassation; Constitutional Council (rules on constitutionality of laws); Supreme Council (hears charges against the president and prime minister as needed)
religion: Muslim 59.7% (Shi'a, Sunni, Druze, Isma'ilite, Alawite or Nusayri), Christian 39%; other 1.3%
death row: at least 100 (2016)
year of last executions: 0-1-2004
death sentences: 3
international treaties on human rights and the death penalty:
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Convention on the Rights of the Child
Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
In January 2014, Lebanon became a “de facto abolitionist” country, as no further executions have been carried out since January 2004.
Lebanon reinstated the death penalty in 1994 in a bid to stem a rise in violent crime following the 1975-90 civil war. Crimes punishable by death are: murder, attempted murder, treason, espionage, aggravated robbery, economic crimes, military offences, collaboration with Israel, terrorism and acts of riot and strife.
Lebanon and Israel technically remain at war, and more than 100 people in Lebanon have been arrested since 2009 on suspicion of collaborating with the Jewish State.
On the basis of the Lebanese Constitution, it is necessary to have the signature of the President, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice to carry out an execution.
Between 1994 and 1998, 14 murderers were executed by hanging or firing squad.
When President Emile Lahoud took over from Elias Hrawi in 1998, executions were interrupted because then Prime Minister Salim Hoss, an opponent of the death penalty, refused to sign any execution order.
In July 2001, the Lebanese Parliament voted unanimously to repeal Article 302 of the Penal Code, which prescribed a mandatory death sentence for all premeditated murders and stripped judges of discretion to consider mitigating factors.
In December 2001, President Lahoud pledged to maintain a moratorium on executions for the duration of his mandate. However on January 17, 2004 three Lebanese men sentenced to death for murder were executed at dawn in Rumieh prison, northeast of Beirut, on his authorisation. These are the last executions carried out in Lebanon.
The first campaign in Lebanon against the death penalty dates back to 1998, when several activists rallied in Tabajra to protest the execution of Wissam N. and Hassan A. “From that day onwards, civil society’s battle to defend life and refuse death as part of the law began,” according to Abbott Hadi Ayya, who is active in the group Justice and Mercy. “The death penalty is not a solution and has not helped reduce crime. It only increased the number of victims by observing the barbaric law of an eye for an eye,” said Ayya.
In July 2010, President Michel Suleiman said that he would approve death penalties issued by military tribunals that were trying the vast majority of spying and terrorism cases. “I trust verdicts issued by the military court and I will sign them,” Suleiman said. The Hezbollah leader, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, called for the speedy application of death sentences against anyone convicted of collaborating with Israel. Other Lebanese political figures added their voices in support.
On 22 September 2011, the Parliament approved a bill amending law No. 463/2002 on the implementation of sentences, creating a formal status for those “sentenced to death without being executed.” This amendment is a sign that the concept of punishment in the Lebanese penal system has begun to evolve. Indeed, although the amendment did not abolish the death penalty, it has enhanced the unofficial position of the Lebanese authorities in favour of a de facto moratorium on executions.
In a 2012 Gallup poll, up to 63 percent of the respondents said they were in favor of the death penalty for a person convicted of murder.
Although a large number of death sentences have been passed since Lebanon's independence, only 51 people have been executed and in the country a de facto moratorium on executions continues to be in place since 2004. This figure does not include sentences issued during the Civil War when the judicial system collapsed and militias passed "sentences" without trials.
On 24 January 2014, Lebanon hosted the global national symposium for the abolition of the death penalty. The conference, held at the House of the Lawyer in Beirut, was also to celebrate the tenth year of a de facto moratorium on executions. Minister of Justice Chakib Cortbawi told the symposium that he would not sign any execution warrant, and that he hoped that the de facto moratorium could clear the way towards abolition in Lebanon. “You can’t kill a person in the name of the society, otherwise there is no difference between us and an assassin,” said the Minister of Justice. “The battle for the abolition of the death penalty must never rest,” he added. Former Justice Minister and currently member of the International Commission Against the Death Penalty, Ibrahim Najjar, followed the way, stressing that it is important that the death sentence is scrapped from the codes. However, Najjar has acknowledged that “the death penalty will not be abrogated in short times though. That is because of political, religious and legal reasons.” “The death penalty is to kill a person by virtue of a judgment; here is the big problem and the most terrible harm,” said the President of Beirut Bar Association, Georges Jreij, addressing the conference. “In fact, a judgment rendered by a jurisdiction involves achieving justice not revenge, equity not retaliation, and especially not the reproduction of the crime as punishment for general prevention and deterrence. What kind of justice turns life into death, existence into emptiness, palpitations into silence and movement into calmness?”
On 17 November 2014, Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi stressed that "death sentence against Islamist detainees is reduced to life imprisonment." Rifi's remarks came in an interview with the National News Agency. "I was committed since I had assumed my post at the Ministry to accelerate all verdicts, especially verdicts of the Islamists... There is no doubt that the Lebanese state had committed a crime against Islamist detainees when it had delayed their trial 5 years or more," Rifi said.
On 22 June 2016, Minister of Justice Ashraf Rifi, taking part in the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Oslo, Norway, stressed that this penalty was not a deterrent to crime. "The death penalty must be deleted from the Lebanese law in accordance with modern laws and in line with the international will to cancel this sanction," Rifi said. "The diligence of Lebanese courts shows that they are going to decrease the death penalty and replace it with that of hard labour for life," he added.
In 2015, at least 32 people were sentenced to death, including 27 for terror-related crimes. As of February 2015, there were about 90 people under death sentence in Lebanon. In 2016, at least 126 people were sentenced to death, included at least 107 for terrorism. In 2017, at least 12 new deaths sentences were issued according Amnesty International.
The death penalty on women
Death sentences are suspended during a death-sentenced woman’s pregnancy.
On 2 November 2015, Lebanon was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review of the UN Human Rights Council. In February 2016, in its response to the recommendations received, the Government did not accept recommendations to establish a de jure moratorium on the death penalty and commute all the death sentences with a view to its abolition, and ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR.
On December 19, 2016, Lebanon abstained again on the Resolution on a Moratorium on the Use of the Death Penalty at the UN General Assembly.