Since 2015, Legal Action Worldwide has had a presence in Lebanon, headed by Executive Director, Antonia Mulvey.
LAW seeks to identify potential avenues to justice for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. It does this through increasing the capacity of civil society to use international law and leading innovative litigation projects that seek to enforce international human rights standards.
At all stages, LAW works closely with a range of local partners, ensuring grassroots involvement in its work.
The ongoing conflict in Syria is highly complex and has had a devastating impact on the Syrian population. The violence has resulted in massive civilian casualties and the displacement of more than twelve million civilians, leading to a global refugee crisis.
Lebanon has the biggest per capita concentration of refugees anywhere in the world and currently hosts over one million Syrian refugees. Around one in five people in Lebanon are a Syrian refugee or asylum seeker.
Since 2013, Lebanon has increased controls on visas and tightened border restrictions, introducing onerous and expensive new criteria for Syrian nationals applying for and renewing residency permits that leave many without legal status and in breach of Lebanese law. In May 2015, the Lebanese Government requested UNHCR to stop registration for all new arrivals from Syria, including those that meet UNHCR criteria.
Many Syrians in Lebanon are unable to access the formal court systems. They may be unable to report crimes suffered in Syria, whilst fleeing the country or while residing in Lebanon.
Roundtable on access to justice for Syrian refugees in Lebanon
On 3 March 2016, LAW and the Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA) hosted a roundtable on increasing access to justice for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The objectives of the roundtable were as follows:
- To better understand the work legal organisations operating in Lebanon are currently doing in relation to access to justice for Syrian refugees;
- To share experiences and lessons learned;
- To identify opportunities to address remaining gaps in the legal response to ongoing violations;
- To discuss the potential of a more coordinated and collaborative response between justice-focused organisations.
LAW identified gaps in the Lebanese legal system and justice sector to securing access to justice for Syrian refugees as well as numerous opportunities for working with national partners to increase access to legal redress and accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations against those seeking asylum in Lebanon.
Roundtable on increasing accountability for sexual violence
In September 2016, LAW chaired a roundtable with lawyers and legal experts to discuss challenges and strategies for increasing accountability for sexual violence committed in Lebanon, with a focus on trafficking, rape and domestic violence. Information available indicates that these offences are being committed in very high numbers across Lebanon and that very few of these crimes are successfully prosecuted. The roundtable will bring together those working on access to justice and accountability to discuss who is doing what, what the challenges are and what is and is not working to address these. Its objective is to develop a comprehensive understanding of these issues, document the findings and use these to inform the development of future legal interventions to address these sexual violence offences.
Training on application of international law in Lebanon
In 2018, LAW will run a course on the practical application of international law for Arab lawyers with the Lebanese Bar Association, the Lebanese American University and Middlesex University in Beirut, Lebanon. The course will be run for a selected group of Arab lawyers over five days. The lawyers will develop skills which will enable them to undertake proactive legal strategies, including application of relevant international law and identification of strategic litigation cases. The objective of the course will be to build the capacity of the lawyers to challenge serious violations of international criminal and humanitarian law.