Security Sector Reform in Lebanon: Internal Security Forces and General Security

Omar Nashabe


What are the challenges of security sector reform in Lebanon? This paper argues that the main flaws in the Lebanese security apparatus concern: 1) financial and administrative corruption; 2) inadequate staff development; 3) insufficient and unsuitable equipment; 4) rivalry and lack of coordination; and 5) outdated regulations and organisation. Reform will need to include the demilitarisation of law enforcement agencies and the establishment of accountability.

Most Lebanese government institutions suffered substantial damage during the war. During the post-war phase, the internal security institutions were not rebuilt adequately, especially in terms of ethical standards and mechanisms of inspection and accountability.

Corruption is a major problem. This includes bribery and treatment based on religious and sectarian ties and political or ideological relations. Further challenges include the following:

  • Internal Security Forces (ISF) officers lack adequate training and are not specialised in their line of work. The required skills are particularly lacking in officers working in the prisons, street patrols and in criminal investigation. Investigators tend to use violence (or the threat of violence) when questioning suspects. Overall, police training in Lebanon does not reach professional standards.
  • The ISF and the General Security (GS) forces are both lacking basic equipment. This contributes to militarisation: officers wear military uniform, the ISF uses large military battalion trucks and army machine guns, and they are requested to line up as an army battalion and give tribute during formal ceremonies.
  • The Lebanese security apparatus is still characterised by a multiplicity of security organisations, which encourages rivalry and weakens accountability and coordination. Sources of failure are harder to define when many institutions are considered in charge of security without clear specialisation. Security institutions find themselves investigating the same crimes, which results in poor management of crime scenes, evidence and intelligence.
  • Legal flaws include the fact that the new Penal Law grants the chief prosecutor inflated authority over law enforcement, policing procedures and practices. Law 17, which concerns the organisation and function of the ISF, does not include a clear description of professional non military duties.

Law enforcement needs to be demilitarised. The paramilitary characteristics and the battalion identity of the Lebanese law enforcement institutions are limitations to successful police work, especially when dealing with citizens’ everyday issues such as traffic and minor infractions. Professional administrative procedures must be developed to facilitate investigative work.

  • Systemic accountability must be established. Inspection of law enforcement agencies should be rigorous and regular. Inspectors need to be independent from the inspected body.
  • Alternative incentives should be found. The system should avoid promotion when the new post to be held by the promoted officer is unavailable. (It is not acceptable to have over 70 generals in the ISF for a force of 24,000.)
  • Officers appointed to a post should remain in it so as to develop specialist expertise. Specific ISF task teams, for instance, could focus on crime scene management, riots, and hostage situations.
  • Increased representation of women is also needed, as the number of women involved in law enforcement is currently very limited in Lebanon. Involving women in the police force will require modifications to Law 17.


Nashabe, O., 2009, 'Security Sector Reform in Lebanon: Internal Security Forces and General Security', Arab Reform Initiative, Amman