UN resolution sought to free prisoners
By Majdoline Hatoum -Special to The Daily Star
Thursday, November 18, 2004
BEIRUT: A Lebanese human rights group is lobbying the United Nations to issue resolutions calling for the release of Lebanese detainees held in Syrian prisons. The group says it hopes a UN resolution can bring international attention to the case of more than 280 detainees they estimate remain in arbitrary detention in Syria. "We are trying to get members of the Security Council to include the case of those detainees in resolutions expected to follow up on the implementation of UN Resolution 1559," Ghazi Aad, the general director of Solide (Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile), said during a conference held at Beirut's Saint Joseph University on Wednesday. "It is not a secret that we have tried to include our demands in the 'Syria Accountability Act' issued by the U.S. Congress back in 2003," he said. "And we will continue placing all our efforts to serve the case of those detainees who are forgotten by our official authorities."
Fourteen years after the end of the Lebanese civil war, the Syrian government has still released no word on the fate of hundreds of prisoners. The Lebanese government, according to Aad, has done little to help. "It is a crime against humanity, and what hurts more is that the Lebanese authorities are refusing to cooperate with us," he said. "We are left alone to face a country (Syria) that has no respect for human rights, and has been criticized by the international society over and over again for its breaches of human rights and the presence of torture in its system." Aad also said that reports by Amnesty International and testimonies by former detainees in Syria have proved the excessive use of torture in Syrian prisons.
The conference included a slide show about torture in Syrian prisons and the efforts of families to discern the fate of their missing sons. It also showed documents the Lebanese government issued on the detainees. "Two official committees have been formed so far, the first asked parents of the detainees to consider their sons dead - a decision we refused to give in to - and the second has not concluded its work so far," said Aad.
Former Army Commander General Michel Aoun, currently in exile in France, accused the Lebanese authorities of betraying its people in a telephone call to the conference. "We are dealing with a state which - instead of helping its own people - is working with the Syrian occupation to maintain its tutelage over our country," he said. "These Lebanese authorities are acting as accomplices in hiding the truth," he added, saying that efforts are being made to display Lebanon's suffering in the international community, and calling on youth to participate in bringing in the change.
"The youth should take every opportunity to raise their voice against the ruling regime, and I call on them to participate in Friday's demonstration," Aoun said.
The Free Patriotic Movement plans to hold a demonstration on Friday to commemorate Independence Day - despite an official ban by the Interior Ministry on public gatherings. "Such a ban should not prevent the youth from raising their voice high," Aoun said. Claude Hajjar, a Solide activist, also criticized the lack of interest in the case on the part of lawyers in Lebanon.
"Shame on the Beirut Bar Association for not lifting a finger to support our case," she said. "All the heads of unions are ignoring this important issue and all they care about is their posts," she said."The least Raymond Shedid (president of the Beirut Bar) can do, is file a request for the international committee of the Red Cross to investigate the circumstances of the detention.