Red Cross officially recognizes it has no access to Syrian prisons
By Linda Dahdah and Majdoline Hatoum
Daily Star staff
Thursday, December 30, 2004
BEIRUT: While Lebanese families have been trying to raise their right to know about their relatives detained in Syrian prisons - a case that has been facing constant rejection from Lebanese and Syrian authorities - the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) officially recognized Wednesday that it had no access to Syrian prisons.
ICRC's statement came in response to ICRC in Quebec's demand to convey letters sent by friends to Karam and Ziad Morkos, detained since 1984.
"We have received information that the ICRC is banned from entering Syrian prisons and because of this, it is impossible for us to convey your letter to the two prisoners," the ICRC in Quebec told the senders.
"It is known that the ICRC delegates have no access to Syrian jails," said Ghazi Aad, the general director of SOLIDE (Support for Lebanese in Detention and Exile). "Only this time it was officially stated that it is incapable of seeing Lebanese prisoners," he added.
It is believed that the Morkos brothers, who were first taken to the Syrian detention camp in Anjar, were then taken to Sednaya Prison in Syria, where they were sentenced to 15 years imprisonment on charges of collaboration with Israel.
Twenty years later, the Morkos brothers are still detained and all attempts to contact them have been fruitless.
According to SOLIDE, if a few came out, hundreds of Lebanese detainees remain jailed and tortured, with no official news on their situation.
But Syrian and Lebanese governments keep denying the existence of Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons.
Recently in the "Kalam al-Nass" talk show on Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation, Marwan Fares, the head of the Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights, said: "We should not presume that every one lost during the civil war was taken to Syrian prisons."
Fatima Abdullah has been searching for the whereabouts of her brother, Ali, for more than 20 years ago. "We had information from former detainees ... They (officials) keep us in the dark," she said.
"We have been suffering for a long time. For me, the war has not ended yet, and it will not end until my brother is back with his family."