Open Letter to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan
Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation
15 March 1998

Phone & Fax: (905) 272-9389

March 15, 1998

His Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan
Secretary General of the United Nations
c/o The Executive Office of the Secretary General
United Nations
New York, NY 10017

Dear Mr. Secretary:

The Canadian-Lebanese Human Rights Federation is looking forward with great expectations to your coming visit to Lebanon on the 20th of March. Such a visit for a man with your qualities and zeal for the betterment of our world is definitely going to further the cause of peace and help restore the once impressive record of Lebanon in human rights awareness and commitment to its promotion and protection.

Mr. Secretary, Lebanon is the only remaining captive nation in the world. Like Poland or the Baltic republics until a few years ago, it is a small country struggling for freedom that has been infringed upon by its neighbors: 90 percent of its territory dominated by a larger totalitarian neighbor, Syria. The remaining 10 percent is occupied by its other neighbor, Israel.

Freedom and human rights are the ultimate issues at stake in Lebanon today. The scope of related violations raised the concern of the worldıs Human Rights Organizations and prompted the European Union to include those issues in their agenda for the upcoming negotiations with the Syrian government.

More than 1200 Lebanese nationals are detained in Syria and an equivalent number in Israel, all without charge or trial. Although some of them receive family visits, most are reportedly held in detention incommunicado. While many of those held are believed to have been taken during the civil war, the arrest of Lebanese nationals and their detention in Syria is a daily occurrence since the end of the war in 1990. In some cases, arrests were carried out directly by Syrian military personnel stationed in Lebanon, whereas in other cases detainees were handed over by Lebanese security and intelligence forces to Syrian intelligence services in Lebanon and then transferred to Syria. Detainees report all kinds of torture and ill treatment while under detention or interrogation by Syrian intelligence forces. Similar cases of torture and ill-treatment of detainees in the Israeli prisons have been reported.

Syria recently released 121 detainees representing ten per cent of the overall number. We are hoping that you, as the guardian of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its foremost promoter, intervene on their behalf to secure their immediate and unconditional release.

Building respect for human rights is one of the many challenging tasks that face us as we approach the end of the century. We sincerely wish you a complete success in your mission to Lebanon to pave the way for implementing UN resolutions 425,426 and 520 which will allow the people of Lebanon to recover their basic rights of freedom and sovereignty.

We hope that you, Mr. Secretary and other peace loving UN officials, will succeed in creating the conditions needed to bring the Universal Human Rights Declaration into the next 50 years with renewed vigor.

Yours truly,

Edmond El Chidiac
Chairman for the Federation Media Committee
Toronto, Canada
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