by Jeremy D. Morley
NOTES ON LEBANON AND CHILD ABDUCTION
Return of children abducted to or in Lebanon
- Jeremy Morley has testified as an expert witness with respect to the laws and practices of Lebanon in respect of international child abduction to Lebanon, and his testimony has been accepted and relied upon.
- There are extreme difficulties in returning a child to the United States from Lebanon when retained by a Lebanese parent.
- Lebanon is not a party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
- There are no extradition treaties between Lebanon and the United States.
- Under Lebanese law, Lebanese nationals may prevent their wives and children (even if they are American citizens) from leaving Lebanon.
- Lebanon does not recognize international parental kidnapping as a crime.
- Issues of child custody and divorce in Lebanon are generally decided in religious courts under religious law. Thus, if the father is a Sunni Muslim and the mother is a Christian the custody of their children will normally be decided by a Sunni Muslim court.
- One might petition a civil court to handle a custody case instead of a religious court. The issue would be whether the religious court has jurisdiction. It could take up to two years to have the civil court assume jurisdiction and a minimum of four to five years to have the case decided.
- Among Sunni Muslims, the father has physical custody of a daughter over the age of nine and of a boy over the age of seven. For Shia Muslims the father generally has physical custody at for boys at age 2 and for girls at age 7.
- If a father establishes that the mother is unfit or lacking good moral character, she will lose any right to the child. Muslim law requires a child to be raised in the Muslim faith, and if it were proven that a mother tried to raise the child as a Christian, she could be found unfit.
- Lebanon does not recognize dual nationality. American/Lebanese dual nationals who carry Lebanese papers will be treated as Lebanese nationals by security authorities.
- A child who is a dual American and Lebanese citizen would be bound by Lebanese law in the eyes of the Lebanese civil courts.
- The U.S. State Department cannot offer any real assistance even if there were a United States court order directing the return of the child from Lebanon.
Lebanon & International Child Abduction
Lebanon demonstrated a pattern of noncompliance by persistently failing to work with the United States to resolve abduction cases in 2019.
Lebanon does not adhere to any protocols with respect to international parental child abduction. In 2004, the United States and Lebanon signed a Memorandum of Understanding to encourage voluntary resolution of abduction cases and facilitate consular access to abducted children.
In 2018, Lebanon demonstrated a pattern of noncompliance. Specifically, the competent authorities in Lebanon persistently failed to work with the Department of State to resolve abduction cases. As a result of this failure, 50 percent of requests for the return of abducted children remained unresolved for more than 12 months. On average, these cases were unresolved for two years and one month.
Lebanon was previously cited for demonstrating a pattern of noncompliance in the 2015 and 2016 Annual Reports.
Judicial Authorities: There is no clear legal procedure for addressing international parental child abduction cases under Lebanese law, and parents face difficulties resolving custody disputes in local courts.
Enforcement: Judicial decisions in Lebanon were generally not enforced, which contributed to a pattern of noncompliance. There was one case (accounting for 33 percent of the unresolved cases) that has been pending for more than 12 months in which law enforcement has failed to enforce a return order.