World Lebanese Organization (WLO)
August 19, 2001
MS. Mary Robinson
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland
(41-22) 917-9016 Fax
Addressed to the United Nations,Commission On Human Rights
ON ONGOING MASSIVE ARREST, ABUSE AND TORTURE IN LEBANON
Dear Mrs Robinson
In the name of a number of Lebanese organizations in the Diaspora, it is with great regrets that we draw your attention on the ongoing mass scale abuse of Human Rights taking place in Lebanon as a result of last weeks campaign of mass arrest, beating and terror conducted by the Lebanese regime against its peaceful civilian population.
Lebanese security units and Syrian occupation security forces have so far proceeded to the arrest, beating and interrogation of more then 300 Lebanese citizens, both males and females, in the framework of a systrematic oppression, and in the continuation of political persecution of an entire segment of the Lebanese population. We, as well as many other associations representating the 7 million strong Lebanese Diaspora around the world, are extremely concerned of this mass scale abuse of Human Rights in Lebanon, and fear further abuse of basic liberties, as well as application of torture on the persons of the detainee and abductee.
As we raise this issue in the most pressing conditions, we call on you to lend it your utmost attention and to take action immediately.
Based on reports by Amnesty International, the International Federations of Human Rights, Lebanon's Human Rights associations inside and outside the country, Lebanese members of Parliament, Heads of Lebanon's national Churches, the main Lebanese opposition parties, exiled Lebanese leaders and associations around the world, Lebanese newspapers, student organizations from various political backgrounds, Lebanons Bar Association, the Medical and Engineers Unions, the permanent observers of our organization inside Lebanon, as well as the international news agencies such as AP, AFP and Reuters, the following facts have been confirmed:
On August 5th - 6th, and while the spiritual leader of the national Church of Lebanon, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir was visiting areas in the Shuf mountain, to preach reconciliation and encourage the return of displaced people to their villages, and accompanying his celebration of religious services in those areas, thousands of young Lebanese from Christian and Druse background were waving Lebanese national flags and chanting for the withdrawal of the Syrian Army from Lebanon. In addition, leaflets calling for the cessation of the occupation of Lebanon by Syria and the liberation of political prisoners were distributed during the events. In parallel, and during the same week end, youth in the East Beirut areas were peacefully distributing flyers calling for the implementation of UN resolution 520 calling for the pull out of the Syrian forces.
From August 6th till this hour, units of the Lebanese state security forces, and from the Syrian intelligence services operating in Lebanon, waged a massive campaign of brutal arrests, beatings and transfer to detention centers in various locations, including in the Ministry of Defense overlooking Beirut.
Amnesty International alert issued on August 9th, wrote that "Scores of members of outlawed opposition parties, including students and teenagers, have been arrested by military intelligence over the last three days. All are said to be detained incommunicado, and they are at risk of torture and unfair trial. (See Amnesty International Full text enclosed)
Human Rights and news services have reported that more then 150 persons have been detained, including lawyers, engineers, doctors, journalists, university and college students, human rights activists, as well as political activists. Among the arrested and detained leaders, University Professor Dr Toufiq Hindi, spokesperson for the disbanded "Lebanese Forces Party", and Mr Nadim Lteif, General Coordinator of the "Lebanese Free Patriotic Current." The two leaders were arrested from their homes by security unites and transfered to a military detention center. It is to note that the arrests have particularly targeted the partisans of the two main opposition currents, the Lebanese Forces Party, whose leader former minister Dr Samir Geagea is in jail, and the Free Patriotic Current, whose leader, former Prime Minister Michel Aoun lives in exile in France. Members from other Political Parties, such as the National Liberal Party and independant activists were also rounded up. The arrests, included young men and women as well as teenagers. Reports confirmed beatings during the arrests and the transfer to detention centers.
Moreover, another massive crackdown was reported on Thursday August 8th, when Syrian intelligence units, in plain clothes stormed a peaceful demonstration by Lebanese youth which was protesting the mass arrests. The SS-like blitz was staged by the Syrian security and pro-Syrian militiamen under the eyes of the Lebanese security forces who did not intervene. Hundreds of young men and women were beaten and dragged in the streets of Beirut, faces and bodies bleeding. Hospitals in the capital were overflown by victims of this terror attack against peaceful civilians.
The tension remains high as military spokespersons threatened to unleash further violence against the civilians if they persist in expressing their rejection of the Syrian occupation and they resume criticism against the Pro-Syrian President of Lebanon, General Emile Lahoud. Colonel Jamil el-Sayyid, head of the Lebanese General Security, warned in public statements from further crackdown and oppression in defense of Syria's presence of Lebanon. Information received by the Lebanese opposition confirms that the various security agencies are preparing for wider scope arrests and transfer to detention centers. The information also confirms that torture has already been applied to detainee.
In the last 48 hours, and according to the French NGO Journalistes Sans Frontieres, as well as to independant sources, we have learned that more persons and journalists were arrested and beaten, news media have been threatened, and orders were given to pro-Syrian squads to terrorize the civilian population. According to underground sources, the paramilitary elements, unleached by the regime and the Syrians have already inflitrated and massively deployed in the following areas in central Lebanon: East Beirut, Matn, Kesrouan, Jbail, Baabda, Zghorta, Koura, Becharre, Aley, Chouf, Jezzine and Zahle.
By the time this report would have reached you, an undetermined number of civilians, particularly youth are in the hiding inside Lebanon. Their fate as well as the one of the hundreds of arrested persons is unknown.
Based on the courageous statements made by Maronite Cardinal Sfeir, Druse leader Walid Joumblat, a number of members of the Lebanese Parliament, journalists and other national leaders, this mass scale abuse of Human Rigths indicates clearly that the Lebanese Republic, which is under Syrian military occupation, is falling under a military dictatorship controlled by the country's head of state General Emile Lahoud, his principal assistant, Colonel Jamil el-Sayyed and the various security agencies.
The Lebanese Diaspora and the Lebanese communities in exile are extremely concerned about the widening and the deepening of the brutal oppression of Lebanese youth and civilians and the mass arrest, torture and terror sponsored by the pro-Syrian regime in Beirut. These developments, which are increasng in violence by the day, are reminicent of the brutal oppression in East Timor were Indonesian security forces and their militias have brutalized the civilian populations causing ethnic cleansing and mass exodus. The Lebanese regime's suppression of liberties and its use of mass violence is comparable to the Pinochet regime's tragedies. The situation in Lebanon is closely coming to a stage where an entire segment of the society is being targeted and physically abused.
The current arrests, particularly of the two leaders, Toufic Hindi and Nadim Lteif, have sparked extreme concerns in Lebanon and worldwide. Amnesty International "believes that they may have been detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and association, and may be prisoners of conscience. All are said to be held at the Ministry of Defense Detention Center in all-Yarze, in the capital, Beirut, where torture and ill-treatment of political prisoners is routine.
Therefore, and based on those reports and their projected consequences, and in view of the fact that this mass abuse engages the responsibility of the international community and the United Nations,
We therefore call on you to:
1) Issue a severe condemnation of those violations of Human Rights, and ask the Lebanese and Syrian regimes to cease the oppression, frees the detainees without conditions, and bring to justice those responsible for the abuse.
2) Send a report to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Anan, so that he would order UN observers to immediately head towards Beirut and report on those mass abuses. It is to note that the United Nations maintains forces and infrastructures in Lebanon,
3) Invite a number of the detainee and particularly the two arrested leaders, Hindi and Lteif, to testify to your commission in Geneva on the circumstances of the mass arrest
As you are preparing for the Historical Conference on Racism, Persecution, Intolerance and Related Abuses in Durban South Africa in few weeks, on behalf of the many groups representing more then 10 million Lebanese inside the country and around the world, we urge you to immediately react to the collapsing Human Rights situation in Lebanon and engage your Commission in inquiry and action.
We, in the World Lebanese Organization (WLO), as well as other Lebanese groups worldwide, are ready to extend all our assitance, expertise and support to your action .