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Summary record of the 291th meeting : Lebanon. 24/05/96. CRC/C/SR.291. (Summary Record)

CRC UNITED NATIONS Convention on the Rights of the Child

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GENERAL CRC/C/SR.291 24 May 1996
Original: ENGLISH

COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD
Twelfth session
SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 291th MEETING
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Tuesday, 21 May 1996, at 3 p.m.
Chairperson: Mrs. BELEMBAOGO

CONTENTS

This record is subject to correction.

Corrections should be submitted in one of the working languages. They should be set forth in a memorandum and also incorporated in a copy of the record. They should be sent within one week of the date of this document to the Official Records Editing Section, room E.4108, Palais des Nations, Geneva.

Any corrections to the records of the meetings of the Committee at this session will be consolidated in a single corrigendum, to be issued shortly after the end of the session.

GE.96-16451 (E)

The meeting was called to order at 3.05 p.m.

CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS OF STATES PARTIES (agenda item 4) (continued)

Initial report of Lebanon (continued) (CRC/C/8/Add.23) (continued)

1. The CHAIRPERSON invited the delegation of Lebanon to reply to the questions raised by members of the Committee.

2. Mrs. GEORGIADIS (Lebanon) said that there were plans to introduce schooling allowances. There were not enough State schools for all the children in Lebanon. However, programmes had been introduced to provide training for children and for women so that they could supplement the family income. With regard to the question on discrimination against poor children, it was true that the children of higher-income families had greater access to medical assistance. Children whose families were not members of an independent medical insurance scheme were entitled to health care provided through cooperation between Lebanon and the World Health Organization (WHO).

3. It was true that it was often difficult for disabled children to attend private schools, many of which were simply not equipped to cope with children with disabilities. However, in the State school system, disabled children were being integrated with other children in years 1 and 2. From year 3 onwards they were given more specialized education by specially trained people. New structures specifically designed to improve the situation of disabled children would be introduced as of 1997.

4. With regard to public information on health, mothers were advised, as a matter of course, to breast-feed their children and the Government had banned television advertising of substitute milk products. Many women gave birth at home with the assistance of highly trained midwives. Unfortunately, there were no statistics on the number of births in maternity hospitals. Although the AIDS education programme was targeted mainly at women, television programmes and posters were also used to raise men's awareness of the problem.

5. With regard to chastity in women, she said that the situation varied according to social class and traditions. It was taken for granted that women would be chaste but if they were not they were not punished. Prenuptial examinations referred to by a member of the Committee were compulsory.

6. Miss MASON asked about the role and use of traditional medicines in Lebanese society, given the general population's lack of access to health care and hospitals.

7. Mrs. GEORGIADIS (Lebanon) said that traditional medicine was not widely practised in Lebanon, not least because there were no doctors specializing in that kind of treatment.

8. Mrs. KARP asked about the ethical rules regarding abortions for medical reasons in a society in which abortion was strictly prohibited.

9. Mrs. GEORGIADIS (Lebanon) said that abortion was prohibited by law. However, in cases where the pregnancy endangered the life of the mother or the child abortion was a possibility. There was no legal provision relating to that situation; it was left to the discretion of the doctor. Certain hospitals refused to carry out abortions under any circumstances.

10. The CHAIRPERSON invited the delegation of Lebanon to reply to the Committee's questions on education, leisure and cultural activities contained in paragraphs 28 to 31 of the list of issues (CRC/C.11/WP.7).

11. Mr. KHALIL (Lebanon) said that, although education was free in Lebanon, there were too few State schools. The Ministry of Education was in the process of restoring schools that had been destroyed or damaged during the war and intended to ensure that schools were located around the country to improve access to education. Under Decree No. 22 of October 1995, education would be compulsory for children up to the age of 12. There were also plans to raise the age-limit to 15. Compulsory schooling was one aspect of the programme to encourage education introduced by the Centre for Resources and Development, which worked closely with the Ministry of Education. Other aspects of the programme included education on the environment and emphasis on the role of the family in Lebanon. The Decree on compulsory education was, however, awaiting adoption. The school curriculum was being expanded to include chemistry and mathematics. Education in Lebanon comprised three levels. The first lasted for six years and the second and third for three years each. The Ministry of Social Affairs had set up the National Literacy Committee in an effort to combat illiteracy in Lebanon.

12. The Ministry of Social Affairs had begun to set up free centres in villages so that poorer people could enjoy greater access to leisure and cultural facilities. Organizations such as the YMCA were also setting up free camps around Lebanon. However, much still remained to be done.

13. Mr. HAMMARBERG said that UNICEF reports indicated that the education plan had not been implemented. He asked whether the problem was linked to finance, as had been intimated in other reports. It seemed that Lebanon's private schools tended to attract higher quality teachers, which inevitably meant that levels of teaching were higher in private schools. He asked what measures could be taken to improve the situation to the benefit of State schools. Statistics indicated that there was a high drop-out rate in secondary education. He invited the delegation to comment. He also asked what measures were being taken to introduce the Convention into the school curriculum, especially at the primary level.

14. Mrs. KARP asked to what extent children were involved in decisions on curricula. Did they take part in disciplinary proceedings and have the chance to air their opinions on school issues?

15. Mr. KHALIL (Lebanon) said that the education development plan had not been fully implemented. However, in recent months efforts had been made to restore public education institutions and introduce an education programme.

16. State schools could not be condemned out of hand as some of them had a very good record and the same teachers were sometimes employed in both State and private schools. Many of the problems lay with the management and administration of State schools and staff shortages. Lebanon was proud of the cultural and educational level of Lebanese women.

17. The Centre for Research and Development was trying to raise the issue of introducing the Convention into the school curriculum. Plans were afoot to produce a book on the rights of the child, based on the Convention. The project would go ahead as soon as additional funding was available.

18. Pupils were involved in school life, particularly in private schools where class prefects were elected to represent their fellow pupils and take part in decision-making processes on matters that concerned them. Extramural activities depended on the size of the school.

19. Miss MASON asked about the ratio of men to women teachers in schools, the attitude to teaching in Lebanon, and whether there were parent-teacher associations.

20. Mr. KHALIL (Lebanon) said that there was a commission made up of parents and teachers whose members were elected by teachers and pupils. It worked with school administrations in preparing study programmes and monitored schools' finances. Parent-teacher associations had existed before the war. Since then, however, they had fallen into disarray. Private schools usually had social workers or other professionals on hand to help with pupils' problems. Teachers enjoyed full trade-union freedom, including the right to strike. A council made up of six elected members plus observers represented all parents in Lebanon. Its main responsibility was to monitor the financial situation of schools.

21. Miss MASON noted the high drop-out rate and low level of enrolment in Lebanese schools and asked what measures were being taken to encourage school attendance.

22. Mr. KHALIL (Lebanon) replied that there were some programmes organized with the help of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to feed children in school, but that most State schools did not normally provide meals to pupils. Lebanese schools did offer a broad education, in various combinations of Arabic, French and English. Drop-outs from school took place mainly at secondary level: 96 per cent of Lebanese children received primary education.

23. The CHAIRPERSON invited the Committee to take up the question of special protection measures dealt with in paragraphs 32 to 41 of the list of issues (CRC/C.11/WP.7).

24. Mr. KHALIL (Lebanon) said that for historical and geographical reasons, the Lebanese Government gave special attention to Palestinian refugees, and had received no non-Palestinian refugees for some time. Nevertheless, it was working to establish procedures for dealing with non-Palestinian refugees.

25. The Lebanese army had removed all land-mines from the lines separating parties during the war, although there had been some unfortunate accidents and there were still land-mines in southern Lebanon. A special disabled-persons service had been set up to help victims of anti-personnel land-mines.

26. The largest programme aimed at alleviating the suffering of children had been the Education For Peace Programme implemented by UNICEF in cooperation with the relevant ministries and civil associations. No up-to-date figures were available on the number of children helped by the programme. Various social programmes aimed at alleviating the effects of war and preventing delinquency had been initiated by the Ministry of Social Affairs and were specifically aimed at poor families.

27. With regard to the "deprivation of liberty" referred to in paragraph 35 of the list of issues (CRC/C.11/WP.7), he said that children were not detained or imprisoned in Lebanon. Children under the age of 8 were kept in institutions, and older children were kept in rehabilitation centres, not prisons. No figures on the number of children in such centres were available. Child vagrants between the ages of 7 and 12 were not incarcerated; only if their families were unable to look after them adequately were they taken into care. Funds were needed to finance such care, especially in the case of girls. As a result of the lack of accommodation in rehabilitation centres, some children had had to be placed in adult prisons, where they were segregated in special sections. There were plans to build rehabilitation centres with training and sports facilities for children.

28. There were five juvenile courts in Lebanon, each presided over by special judges who dealt only with children. Lawyers were nominated by the court to represent children, and anyone else who could not afford to hire one. There were as yet no special training courses for the judges or lawyers in juvenile courts, although they took part regularly in seminars.

29. Only two detention centres were available to house juvenile delinquents. Social workers visited them regularly to ensure their welfare. The centres were guarded and no child had ever escaped from one, but they were not prisoners; parents and others, including psychologists and students of psychology, were allowed to visit the children. Health care and education were made available in the centres, although the education, managed by a non-governmental organization, was incomplete. Children had opportunities to learn woodwork, metalwork and other trades. Delinquents could be pardoned if they were considered to have been rehabilitated during their stay in the corrective institution. Staff were aware of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. He wished to stress that juvenile delinquency was a major concern of the Lebanese Government.

30. No child was arbitrarily deprived of his or her liberty, and could seek redress under the law if detained for longer than 48 hours. Every child had the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty, and there were special surveillance centres where children were taken to be arrested.

31. The Committee would be kept up to date on the move in Lebanon to raise the minimum age for employment to 14 and on the Government's contacts with the International Labour Organization (ILO).

32. The measures envisaged to protect child workers included introducing compulsory education and sanctioning parents who did not cooperate. To combat exploitation outside school hours, the number of inspectors at the Ministry of Labour had been increased from 20 to 105, and their powers had been extended. If the budget allowed for it, they would be able to work at night as well as during the day.

33. Mr. HAMMARBERG said that the Lebanese Government painted a very positive picture of the situation in Lebanon, but NGOs and other witnesses painted a very different one. Palestinian refugees had been deprived of social and economic rights, which could not fail to have an impact on children. Not surprisingly, many delinquents were Palestinian, and social workers were worried about prostitution and drug abuse among them. He wanted to know what the Lebanese Government considered to be its obligations towards Palestinian children. Despite an agreement between the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the Government to reserve some hospital beds for the poor, secondary and tertiary health care for the refugees was inadequate; nor was adequate secondary education provided.

34. He asked whether the Lebanese Government intended to ratify the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. As matters stood, refugees other than Palestinian refugees were not recognized in Lebanon. He also asked what the Lebanese Government intended to do about the many Syrian street children in Beirut, and whether southern Asian guest workers enjoyed any legal protection.

35. On the question of juvenile justice, reports from NGOs suggested that children were not always kept separate from adult prisoners, particularly in the case of girls, and that there were shortcomings in health provisions, educational programmes and vocational training inside prisons. NGOs also reported that some under-18s had been held in custody for up to two years before being brought to trial. The Convention clearly indicated that pre-trial custody should be resorted to only in extreme cases, and then for the shortest possible time.

36. It appeared that army intelligence had been given the task of supervising prisoners, and there was one special section in some prisons for women and children. He asked for clarification on those points, possibly in the form of a written answer, as army intelligence did not seem the most appropriate group to be supervising children, and as children were supposed to be segregated from adult prisoners.

37. Mr. KOLOSOV said that there were numerous contradictions in the report with regard to the juvenile justice system. Paragraph 120 of the report, for example, stated that no one under 18 years of age is considered criminally responsible, whereas paragraph 121 stated that "criminal charges may not be brought against anyone under 7 years of age"; in paragraph 34 it was stated that "no minor under 7 years of age can be legally sued or penalized when he or she commits a crime or violates the law in any way" and in paragraph 35 that "Protective and supervisory measures are imposed on children under 12 in the event of their committing a crime"; paragraph 36 stated that "Disciplinary and reformative measures are imposed on criminal children between 12 and 15", while paragraph 122 referred to "Detention in a reformatory" and "Reduced criminal sentence (for children over 12)". Furthermore, paragraph 125 of the report stated that "Lebanese law prohibits the detention of children 7-12 who may commit unlawful acts, unless they are vagrants", paragraph 126 that "it is not permitted by law to lock up children between 12-18 with adults", paragraph 135 (a) that "no criminal charges can be taken against a child under 15" and paragraph 135 (c) that "if a young person over 15 and younger than 18 commits a criminal act punishable by death or life sentence with hard labour, he shall be detained from 5-15 years". Considerable clarification was needed if the Committee was to arrive at meaningful conclusions and recommendations.

38. The Lebanese delegation claimed that there were virtually no cases of children held in detention, whereas other sources claimed the contrary. A team which had recently visited Lebanon reported that children were being held in prison in appalling conditions, in some cases without having been sentenced.

39. Mrs. KARP said she would welcome information concerning the status of the programmes and plans to provide new detention facilities and to implement legislation regarding juvenile courts. She asked whether the Association for the Protection of Young People was part of the juvenile justice system and was present at all proceedings concerning juveniles throughout Lebanon. She would also like to know whether it was subsidized by the Government and what powers it had, if any.

40. Mrs. EUFEMIO said that she would welcome information concerning the position of the Government with regard to alien children who lived in Lebanon and were exploited in the labour market. In that connection, she drew attention to paragraph 154 of the report, which stated that "In Lebanon there are a number of aliens who are imported for a fee to serve as hired help in homes and other menial jobs. Some of these are maltreated. Others are brought in as barmaids and showgirls who are exploited by their impresarios". What was being done to help?

41. With regard to the media, the authorities exercised no control over them and they were free to express themselves. Concerning the possibility of children lodging complaints when they were victims of violence, a speedy mechanism should, admittedly, be set up to which children could resort. Such a mechanism was provided for in the bill on violence in the family.

42.Regarding the age of majority and children's civil and political rights, there were two types of rights: those enjoyed and those exercised. Enjoyment of rights was guaranteed to all children, from the moment of conception; but the exercise of rights implied that the child should have reached a certain degree of maturity. Concerning religion, article 10 of the Constitution recognized freedom of belief and worship, as long as that freedom did not conflict with public order or morals.

43. On the subject of children's access to information technology, 70 per cent of the private schools had set up computer courses and some were using audiovisual teaching methods. Lebanon did not make toys and all such articles were imported. However, the authorities were aware of the harm done to children by toys that encouraged violence.

44. Mr. KOLOSOV asked whether the Convention was studied as a part of school curricula.

45. Mr. HAMMARBERG , referring to the question of violence in the family and in schools, asked whether Lebanon had a comprehensive plan of action against violence including legislative and social measures, as well as information campaigns.

46. The CHAIRPERSON invited the delegation of Lebanon to answer the latter two questions and then to turn to questions 20-23 of the list of issues.

47. Mr. KHALIL (Lebanon) said that he would answer Mr. Kolosov's question on the study of the Convention when the issues relating to education were taken up. Concerning violence in the family, as he had already indicated, a bill on that subject was under consideration by Parliament; it called, in particular, for a mechanism that would allow children to lodge complaints more easily.

48. The family was the very foundation of Lebanese society. Even when children were separated from their families and placed in rehabilitation centres, the families could visit them. No instances of children ceasing to have any further contact with their parents had been reported. The Lebanese authorities had no statistics on cases of abuse of parental authority. Instances of children being abandoned by their parents were very rare. Lebanese society was a small community where people all knew each other, and that made such abandonments impossible. Articles 501 and 502 of the Penal Code established that parents, and especially the father, were responsible for their children's education and that, if they could not provide for it, even for economic reasons, they were punished. In reply to question 23, on whether the Government had considered the possibility of providing family education and counselling, the Ministry of Social Affairs, through its Department of Family Affairs and its development centres, was planning to provide assistance from social workers for those in need. The aim of the bill on violence in the family was to protect children better and to prevent all forms of abuse, cruelty and neglect within the family.

49. Miss MASON asked how parents who neglected their children were punished and what action was taken to enforce the law. She also wished to know whether the State helped children whose parents had died or were imprisoned.

50. Regarding sexual abuse, a taboo subject usually passed over in silence, article 149 of the report stated that "there is hardly a day that passes without the news of abuse and exploitation in the media". She would therefore like to know what steps were taken to help the victims of such abuse and to implement article 39 of the Convention, which required States parties to take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of any form of neglect, exploitation or abuse. Did Decree No. 119 of 1983 cover incest? How were the child victims of incest protected and were they allowed to testify against their fathers in a patriarchal society like Lebanon? With regard to the crimes of honour often mentioned in the media in Lebanon, what became of girls who were sexually abused by their parents? Could they count on getting married when, in accordance with tradition, they had to undergo prenuptial examinations? Lastly, did the media broadcast programmes aimed at changing popular attitudes in that regard.

51. Mr. HAMMARBERG said he agreed with those members of the Committee who felt that legislation was not enough in itself and should be accompanied by concrete measures, particularly in the areas of social welfare, education and health. He would therefore like to know, for example, what social measures were planned to support the proposed law on family violence. Also, besides sanctions against the father, what measures were envisaged to protect the children of separated parents in the case of non-payment of alimony? Lastly, he asked for more information on street children and the background to that phenomenon.

52. Mrs. KARP asked about the fate of young prostitutes and the validity of a report that there was a Lebanese law protecting those who murdered prostitutes. She also wished to know whether there were reintegration programmes for girls who engaged in prostitution.

53. Mrs. EUFEMIO said she was surprised that the plan of action for the protection of children, copies of which had been distributed to the Committee by the Lebanese delegation on 20 May, contained no mention of steps to protect the family unit and that there was a relatively high proportion of consanguineous marriages. She would like more information on possible changes in the family structure - for example, on the situation of single-parent families - and the impact on parental responsibility and social benefits. In that respect as well, legislation was apparently not enough to change attitudes.

54. Mrs. KARP asked whether it was the judicial authorities or State bodies that took the decision to remove a child from his family when the child was in danger, and what remedies were available to each party.

55. Mr. KHALIL (Lebanon) said that the object of the exercise was to give an accurate, unembellished picture of reality. At the same time, it should be pointed out that laws, in Lebanon as elsewhere, were needed to permit social projects to be undertaken, if only in order to define institutional responsibilities. Decree No. 119, which made it possible to excuse a minor from attending a trial if that was in his best interest, was implemented in 90 per cent of trials involving children.

56.There were other projects, too, in the social area. Any child who could not be taken care of by one of his divorced parents was placed in a social institution. There was also an integrated recovery plan for abandoned children, as well as a plan for combating child labour; those plans would be made available to Committee members.

57. The problem of street children had both social and economic dimensions. In the case of Lebanese children, a social worker made inquiries in the family, and if the family was guilty of neglect, sanctions were taken against the father. If the parents were unable to care for their children, the children were placed in social welfare institutions, in conformity with Decree No. 119. In that connection the Ministry of Social Affairs was expected to sign a contract with local communities in June 1996 to strengthen care-giving structures.

58. There was no law in Lebanon authorizing the murder of girls who engaged in prostitution.

59. With regard to family programmes aimed at complementing the national plan of action, a draft was being considered by the Ministry of Social Affairs, and another draft might be prepared jointly with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). It was not possible to take children away from their families except to place them in a social welfare institution.

60. The CHAIRPERSON said that the documents cited by the delegation of Lebanon would be distributed (in Arabic) to Committee members. She invited the delegation to move on to questions 24-27 of the list of issues, relating to basic health and welfare.

61. Mrs. GEORGIADIS (Lebanon) said that, regarding progress achieved in the field of child health, vaccination campaigns against tetanus, organized in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), had been well under way at the time of the Israeli aggression, and infantile paralysis was expected to be totally eradicated within a short time.

62. Concerning question 25, on the effectiveness of health information and education programmes, the information service of the Ministry of Social Affairs disseminated regular programmes, including on the prevention of disability, which was also the subject of a bill. Family planning services were provided in the community health centres, each of which catered for 30-40,000 families. There were no national school programmes for hygiene, nutrition and health, but the community centres arranged visits to schools.

63. On question 26, concerning measures for disabled children, there were plans to issue disability cards for all disabled persons. There were 36 specialized institutions for rehabilitating disabled children in Lebanon. In 1997, the University of Lebanon would open a department of speech therapy. Everything was done to integrate children with physical disabilities into ordinary educational programmes when structures so allowed. There were approximately 4,000 disabled children who were cared for by Government services and 2,000 by NGOs. Social workers from the community health centres made house visits to offer psychological help to the families of disabled children. Educational staff none the less remained inadequate. To solve that problem, some NGOs concerned with the blind sent their staff for specialized training abroad. The training centre of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also provided training during employment to the staff of private establishments.

64. Concerning question 27, on credit facilities to raise the standard of living of families with children from the poorer sectors of the population, the Ministry of Social Affairs had been independent only since 1993. At the present time, it was being guided by the activities of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in that field. NGOs such as CARITAS and Save the Children granted loans to women under certain conditions, which they repaid once they were working. The Ministry hoped to continue the scheme if it had sufficient means.

65. Mrs. KARP asked whether the law provided for benefits to parents taking care of disabled children at home.

66. Mr. HAMMARBERG said that he was concerned about the risk of discrimination against the poorest children, which was posed by a health system basically controlled by private interests, as indicated in the national plan of action, and would like some information on steps taken to solve the problem. He would also appreciate details of measures planned to help children whose parents did not automatically receive social security benefits.

67. With regard to disabled children, he wished to be apprised of measures to help them become integrated into the ordinary education system whenever possible and to train teachers in special education. Had there been any evaluation of the current system regarding health education? Lastly, what steps were being taken to promote breast-feeding and increase awareness of the advantages of breast milk?

68. Miss MASON, raising the question of restricted access to hospitals, asked for information on the percentage of births in hospital and the number and training of midwives. She would also like to know the role of traditional medicine in the Lebanese health system.

69. Regarding family planning and AIDS, the report indicated in paragraph 88 that the pattern of transmission of the disease was predominantly heterosexual. Given that health education seemed to be directed primarily at women, how much information was communicated to men? She also wished to have more information on how, within a patriarchal society that placed a high value on chastity in women, the measures to prevent AIDS and unwanted pregnancies cited in the report were perceived.

The meeting rose at 1 p.m.