BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Groups urge formation of committee for missing Lebanese

The relatives of the missing gathered to call attention to the issue in Downtown Beirut. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Lebanese rights groups called on the government Thursday to approve a draft decree for the formation of an independent committee to investigate the cases of those who disappeared during the Civil War.

Thousands of citizens went missing between 1975 and 1990 across Lebanon and Syria. The call was issued during a news conference held at the sit-in tent at Gebran Khalil Gebran Garden in Downtown Beirut, set up by relatives of the Lebanese missing in Syria.

Ghazi Aad of SOLIDE (Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile) said the conference aimed to clarify confusion surrounding the calls for the formation of the Independent National Commission – tasked with investigating the fate of the missing Lebanese – after families were reported to have demanded a draft law instead of a draft decree.

Declaring that there was no dispute over the draft decree, Aad said: “There is no contradiction between a decree and a [draft] law.

“We are demanding a [draft] law because it is more comprehensive and wider. We thank the justice minister for adopting the issue so that Parliament can begin to take practical steps to help us search for the missing.

“We support the decree and we need real steps to be taken to help us find a solution,” he added.

“A decree will give us a step to begin [work], while a law, once adopted by Parliament, will govern and direct the commission’s work.

“Our ultimate demand is to have legislation on the issues of the missing.

The press conference was also attended by Mohammad Safa, head of the Khiam Center for the Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, Wadih Asmar, head of the Lebanese Human Rights Center, as well as families of the Lebanese detainees and missing in Syria.

Aad said the issue of the missing does not only include those in Syria, but also the missing in Lebanon and those buried in mass graves during the Civil War.

Last month, Aad told The Daily Star that his foundation had the names of 600 Lebanese who were still missing in Syria.

He believed, however, that there could be many more.

The Syrian government has long denied holding Lebanese prisoners of conscience, while at the same time proceeding to release some every so often.

Before the outbreak of the popular uprising in Syria last year, Lebanese officials had met Syrian officials to discuss the cases of Lebanese detainees in Syria. They were told that all Lebanese prisoners had been released.

Justice Minister Shakib Qortbawi has sent the draft decree to establish the INC to the Cabinet.

Qortbawi told The Daily Star in August that the INC was taking into consideration the observations of the Shura Council, but stressed that it would be an independent and nongovernmental body.

He added that its members would include judges as well as representatives of the Red Cross and the families of the missing.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 12, 2012, on page 4.

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