Canadian Lebanese Human
Rights Federation (CLHRF)

Web Site
Phone & Fax (905) 2729389

For Immediate Release
Toronto, Canada, 05 January 2004

1-CLHRF strongly condemns the arbitrary arrest of Mr. Muayyed Nureddin, the Canadian citizen who was most probably detained by the Baathist Syrian authorities, according to his family and friends. The Canadian Television (CTV), stated yesterday that Mr. Muayyed was returning from Iraq to Toronto via Damascus after visiting his family in Kirkuk at the end of last September
when he was arrested.

2-CLHRF calls on the Canadian government to urgently take all necessary diplomatic measures to secure the immediate and unconditional release of  Mr. Muayyed Nureddin, and to start dealing with both the Baathist Syrian regime and its Lebanese proxy as oppressive and terrorist bodies that do not represent their people.

3- Simultaneously, CLHRF also urges the Canadian government to clarify its position concerning the fate of hundreds of innocent Lebanese citizens who are prisoners of conscience, and who have been arbitrarily detained in Syrian horrible jails for years, deprived of their basic rights.

4-For the past 29 years of the Stalinist Syrian occupation of Lebanon, large scores of Lebanese citizens from all walks of life have been arbitrarily abducted from Lebanon by Syrian military and intelligence forces and their Lebanese proxy security apparatus and illegally transferred to Syria. While thousands of those unfortunate citizens have been brutally tortured and then liquidated, unknown numbers of Lebanese remain imprisoned today in Syria's notorious detention centers in and outside Damascus. Numerous attempts by human rights organizations and other governments to get Syria to admit to the existence of these detainees have so far failed.

5-The circumstances behind the abductions are as varied as the political, religious, and ethnic identities of the detainees, but not one of them was legal or followed due process as stipulated by the Charter of Human Rights and subsequent treaties. All were cases of arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances. Many detainees thought to be deceased have turned out alive, but the fate of many more remains uncertain.

6-Much as the political detainees held in Al-Ghrieba jail outside Baghdad were summarily executed by the Iraqi regime just days before it fell to the Coalition Forces, we fear for the lives of Lebanese and Syrian detainees and political dissidents as Syria faces mounting pressure by the international community. Time is of the essence, especially with unconfirmed reports indicating that the Syrian regime is currently "cleaning up" its mass graves by exhuming the remains of their political prisoners and eliminating any traces of them in anticipation of heightened international scrutiny of Syria's human rights record. These cleanup operations apparently take place at night, and the remains are scattered across smaller and dispersed graves both in Syria and in occupied Lebanon.

7-For over a decade, Syria's military occupation of Lebanon has had total dominance over the political, social, and economic will of the Lebanese people. The Baathist Syrians and their successive Lebanese puppet governments have used every cruel tool known to mankind to silence the opposition that calls for a free and democratic Lebanon and the end of Syria's occupation. As a result, many Lebanese have been assassinated, hundreds have been imprisoned and tortured, and thousands have fled, and others have been exiled.

8-While Canada is a soft strategic world power, it is a formidable moral power that has a long-standing record of peacekeeping and democracy-building in Lebanon and around the world. It shoulders great moral and legal responsibilities for a more visible and credible role in Lebanon. Canada has always played a significant role in assisting Lebanese and other NGOs in their work during the Lebanese war. This work has reinforced the work of those Lebanese striving for the return of a true civil, free and democratic society. In the last few years, Canadian engagement in Lebanon has been growing. Canada's interest in Lebanon should not be exclusively based on economic and financial aid but must include a political and moral component. We strongly believe that Canada's interests in Lebanon will be enhanced by a more visible and credible political Canadian involvement and sensitivity to the aspirations and concerns of the Lebanese people suffering from Syrian hegemony.

9-Lebanon remains in a precarious situation as a result of the Syrian occupation and its muffling and prosecution of opposition groups in Lebanon and overseas. Unfortunately, until United Nations Resolution 520 - calling for all foreign forces to completely withdraw from Lebanon is implemented, and until the West understands the suffering and oppression of the Lebanese people at the hands of the Syrian government, the Lebanese in Lebanon will have no chance of obtaining equality, justice, freedom, peace and democracy.

10- CLHRF urges the Canadian government to support Lebanese opposition groups and parties in occupied Lebanon and in the Diaspora in their peaceful strive to secure the recovery of Lebanese sovereignty, the evacuation of all foreign forces,  the dismantling and banning of all terrorist groups and organizations from Lebanese soil, the implementation of all UN resolutions pertaining to Lebanon, the pacification and normalization of the Lebanese-Israeli border on the basis of international law, the unconditional return of all Lebanese political exiles, the holding of internationally-supervised elections, and the immediate release of all political prisoners from Lebanese and Syrian jails.

CLHRF is a non-profit organization funded by Canadians of Lebanese origin and dedicated to building bridges of understanding and cooperation between Canada and Lebanon. Its Board members are recognized businessmen, community leaders, and professionals with a strong commitment to democracy, freedom of expression and human rights.

Spokesman for CLHRF
Elias Bejjani