Open Letter to Lebanese President Emile Lahoud

SOLIDA (Soutien aux Libanais Détenus Arbitrairement)
Paris, 30 November 1998 (Translated from French by: AFL)
Mr. President,

Since its establishment, SOLIDA (Soutien aux Libanais Détenus Arbitrairement) has campaigned on behalf of Lebanese prisoners arbitrarily detained in Israel, Lebanon and Syria. The particularly dramatic plight of Lebanese prisoners in Syria and their families led us to begin on April 3, 1997 a "campaign for the release of Lebanese detainees in Syria", and it is within this framework that we wish today to announce our concerns to you.Hundreds of Lebanese citizens have been abducted in Lebanon since 1976 and transferred to Syria or held in secrecy. This represents a serious violation of international agreements ratified by both Lebanon and Syria .In a 1987 report on Syria, Amnesty International raised 38 methods of torture commonly used in Syrian prisons. This problem does not appear to have changed, judging from the health conditions of recently released detainees, who suffer from serious after effects of torture and contagious diseases such as tuberculosis.

In addition, the state of uncertainty experienced by families of these prisoners constitutes a form of unacceptable psychological torture. Indeed, these families receive little news about their detained relatives except for that which is conveyed to them by former prisoners and are rarely granted visitation privileges. They are usually unaware of the reason for the detention and how long it will last. Moreover, they are often victims of extortion by unscrupulous intermediaries who demand large amounts of money in return for the release or right to visit their loved one, promises which are seldom kept. Lastly, these families have experienced serious intimidation by Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services, who attempt to dissuade them from legitimately pressing for the return of their relatives. On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Humans rights, to which Lebanon is a signatory, we hope that you will not allow the inauguration of your presidency to be sullied by this inhumane state of affairs, a clear violation of articles 5 to 13 of the aforementioned declaration.

As a former head of the Lebanese army, we expect your intervention for the release of tens of Lebanese soldiers held in Syria since the end of the war--soldiers who were under your command at the time of their abduction. As the new President of the Republic, we urge you to intervene for the immediate release of all detainees, both soldiers and civilians, whose illegal detention in Syria is from this point on your responsibility. As a father with a family, we ask you to empathize with the distress of the parents of these detainees, so that their voices may be heard and respected at the highest level.

We await your intervention, Mr. President.

Sincerely yours,