For the Lebanese authorities, time seems to have become suspended in June 2001 when President Bashar Al-Assad was on visit to France. He then declared that there were no Lebanese prisoners in Syria. But the Lebanese government ignored the remainder of the Syrian President's statement, in which he welcomed any request submitted by the Lebanese government on this matter, thus admitting half-heartedly the persistence of the problem. Yet, things have dramatically changed since June 2001, and the fact of Lebanese political prisoners held in Syria is now officially recognized: -
On July 22, 2002, the Association of Families of Lebanese Prisoners Detained in Syria met with the Syrian Minister of the Interior and the Director of Syrian Jails, both of whom admitted that a number of Lebanese citizens, specifically Lebanese military personnel, were being held in Syrian jails.
- On November 9, 2002, the daily Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat published comments made by Prosecutor General Adnane Addoum in which he admitted the existence of 20 Lebanese political prisoners in Syria. In addition to the evidence that the families of the detained have gathered, substantial new information is continuously being collected on specific cases in the form of testimonies and official documents.
SOLIDA wishes to reaffirm that the arbitrary detention of no less than 200 Lebanese citizens in Syria is now an established fact that requires no further proof. This matter has become a purely humanitarian question that must be resolved strictly from its humanitarian dimension by both the Lebanese and Syrian authorities.
SOLIDA hereby urges:
1. Syria to release without further delay all Lebanese citizens who were kidnapped in Lebanon proper, and return to Lebanon the bodies of those who died while in detention.
2. The Lebanese authorities to seek a humanitarian resolution to this tragedy through an effective mechanism of negotiation with the Syrian authorities, or alternatively to seek the mediation of an international third party.
3. The European States, the European Parliament, and the United Nations to pursue their efforts on behalf of the Lebanese political prisoners who are arbitrarily being held in Syria, and of their families who continue to suffer from a lack of closure on this inhumane situation.
Paris, December 11, 2002