Agony of detainees in Syrian jails.
By: Elias Bejjani

The Lebanese-Syrian installed Lebanese officials, including the three presidents (Lahoud, Berri,Hariri), keep insisting that there are no more Lebanese detainees left in Syrian jails and detention centers.  They foolishly state that those who were not released by now should be considered dead.  Legally this mockery is not acceptable unless a United Nations team is formed to investigate the matter without the involvement of Lebanese or Syrian authorities.  Families of the detainees have been screaming for years with the world organization for Human rights to release all prisoners and put an end to this human tragedy. But unfortunately their demands have been met with deaf ears, complete disregard for human consciousness, and stony-like spirits.

The people of Lebanon are very angry because of the way their officials are handling this humanitarian tragedy. The officials' conduct is characterized with complete disregard for human rights and an apparent shameful disrespect for the dignity of the Lebanese citizens.   Concerned  Lebanese are wondering for how long these officials are going to keep pretending that this predicament not exist? Do they really think it will disappear and die without clear knowledge on  the fate and whereabouts of each detainee?   For the last 10 years this on going human tragedy has been advocated for locally, regionally and world wide through the highest level of diplomacy.  These efforts forced Damascus to comply partially with the issue, its authorities have released 54 detainees some months ago. What is more disturbing is that the Beirut authorities who took responsibility for the released, refused to free most of them.. There are held  in its jails under poor conditions. Three of them have died as a result of ill treatment and lack of medical care.

Such atrocities are not new to the Lebanese- they have been happening since 1976.  During the last 26 years of the Syrian occupation, The Syrian invading army had  fought vigorously with many Lebanese and Palestinian  factions, groups and parties. Its Intelligence Services had abducted many citizens form all across Lebanon. Some were abducted for being members in parties opposing the Syrian presence, while others for taking up an arm struggle against them. In addition hundreds of Lebanese soldiers and citizens are still currently held arbitrarily in Syrian Nazi-like jails for years without any knowledge of their whereabouts. The procedures used by the Syrian army to abduct Lebanese are as follows:.
1-Directly kidnapped by the Syrian forces in Lebanon and transferred to Syria.,
2-Indirectly kidnapped by militias and armed individuals collaborating  with Syria,
3- Held by  Lebanese internal security and  then handed over to the Syrians illegally.

According to testimonies delivered by  Lebanese citizens released from Syrian jails and documented by  Human Right Organization, the abducted go through the same routine interrogative procedures. After being arrested and questioned for hours or days at times under torture and abuse either are let go, or transferred to Syria for more questioning, lasting at times for months or years.  They could be held indefinitely unless someone with some political cloud intervene on their behalf and set up their release. However, a great number of the detainees remain for questioning for years at times or even more.  Once the questioning is over the detainees are transferred to one  the many notorious Syrian jails without any kind of trial or the presence of a lawyer. They than undergo through a series of torture and abuse that differs in intensity with their charges. They are ripped of their names and instead given numbers. Those who dare to utter their names are harshly punished.  Their detention is kept secretive, and no information what so ever is given to the detainees' families, to the Red Cross or to the Human Rights International Organizations. for the last 30 years Syria has continuously refused to allow the Read Cross or any of the international Human Rights' organizations to visit its jails. The Syrian authorities has also been adamantly refusing to issue a list with the names of the detainees held in its jails..

The detention conditions in all the Syrian jails is far from humane.  The rooms are dark with no sunlight goes through. No proper sanitation facilities, detainees have to relieve themselves inside the room. Very poor hygienic conditions, food is the left over crumbs and very few lucky detainees escape malnutrition, Asthma, heart problems, cancer  tuberculoses and many other health threatening diseases.  Charges inflicted on the detainees are always the same, collaboration with Israelis against Syria, or spying for for an opposition party such as the Lebanese forces, Free Patriotic Movement and other Lebanese opposing groups. Such atrocities has never been reported that bad any where in the whole world according to statements issued by lawyers and scholars world wide.

Mr. Ghazi Ad, President of a Lebanese organization lobbying for detainees and exiled citizens, has said that the security agreement signed between Lebanon and Syria under the so-called brotherhood collaboration does give in any of its articles the Syrian army any right to abduct or jail any Lebanese for questioning inside or outside Lebanon.

According to a Lebanese-Syrian agreement  drafted in 1951 ,  Lebanon reserves the right of not extraditing any individual to the Syrian authorities even if he was a Syrian citizen. The individual will have to forgo his trial in Lebanon in compliance with its laws.

According to a report released on 2-26-2001 by the USA State Dept, all agreements signed between Syria and Lebanon do not allow such Syrian atrocities, All the practices that the Syrian army and its intelligence services are conducting in Lebanon are illegal and done outside the Law.

The real question remains who would be the one taking responsibility when the time comes, how long the dignity of the Lebanese people is going to be raped, and for how long the current status quo is it going to last?

Long Live Free Lebanon