Mohammad Taher Batili is a refugee at risk of torture and possibly the death penalty. He is an Iranian national and member of Iran’s Arab minority. He and his family fled to Lebanon in May 2009 to escape reprisals from the Iranian government due to his and his father’s political activities in support of the Arab minority in Ahvaz, Khuzestan province. He is recognized as a refugee by the UN but was arrested in the Lebanese capital of Beirut on June 2, 2010 on the grounds that he entered Lebanon from Syria illegally. On June 26 he was convicted for “irregular entry” and sentenced to two months’ imprisonment and payment of a fine. One he serves his sentence he may be forcibly returned to Iran where he would be at risk of torture and possibly face the death penalty.
Mohammad Taher Batili has been interrogated twice by officials from Iran’s embassy in Lebanon regarding his father’s political activities and those of other members of Iran’s Arab minority in Syria and Lebanon. His father, Hadi Mohammad Jawad Batili, has been arrested in Iran several times because of his political activities and support of Arab minorities who had been marginalized and abused by government authorities.
Lebanon hosts a large number of refugees seeking protection from violence, war and systematic human rights abuses in their home countries. While many of them are formally recognized as refugees by the UN, they often face arrest and detention by Lebanese authorities. In 2008 the Lebanese authorities agreed to grant refugees a three-month grace period to find an employer to sponsor them and provide them with a residence permit, but it seems this agreement is not being honored. Lebanon is bound by international customary law, including the principle of non-refoulement which states countries may not forcibly return people to countries where they would face serious human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment.