Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Free the Arab Prisoners Now!

It is illuminating that Hezbollah becaome Lebanese "heroes" by freeing one terrorist from Israeli jails through a campaign of kidnappings that cost Lebanon over a thousand dead in the Second Lebanon War, while at the same time no Lebanese party has dared to lift a finger to free the Lebanese who have simply disappeared in Syria.
What is wrong with this picture?
Ami Isseroff

Dilemma of the Lebanese detainees in Syrian jails
By: Elias Bejjani
August 19/08

Like parrots, the Syrian Baathist regime's officials keep rhetorically insisting that there are no arbitrarily Lebanese detainees incarcerated in their notorious and Nazi like jails. 
Logically and legally these false allegations and big lies cannot be acceptable unless a United Nations team is formed to investigate the whole matter without any kind of involvement or pressure from both the Lebanese and Syrian authorities. 
For thirty long painful years families of the detainees and Human rights organizations have been calling for the release of all the Lebanese detainees (700 -1000) arbitrarily held in Syria's jails and for the end of this human tragedy. Unfortunately their calls have fallen on deaf ears, complete disregard for laws, disrespect for human dignity, and stony-like consciousness.

The Free people of Lebanon are extremely concerned and frustrated because of the way that their officials have been handling this humanitarian calamity. The Syrian and Lebanese officials' conduct is mostly characterized by complete disregard for human rights, and an apparent shameful contempt for the dignity of the Lebanese citizens.  
Concerned  Lebanese citizens are wondering for how long these officials are going to keep pretending that this predicament does not exist?
Do they really think it will disappear and die without clear knowledge of the fate and whereabouts of each and every detainee?  
The newly elected Lebanese president Michel Suleiman has paid last week an important visit to Syria and met Syria's ruler Bashar Al Assad. The detainees' file topped his agenda as was officially announced.
Unfortunately Suleiman returned home empty handed. Knowing the Syrian regime's vicious mentality of camouflaging and elusiveness, that was not a surprise. The joint Syrian- Lebanese statement that was released after the visit stated that the detainees' file will be dealt with by joint committees. 

It is worth mentioning that committees in Lebanon's and Syria's political dictionaries denotes to graves where taboo files are usually buried.

For the last 30 years this on-going human tragedy has been advocated for locally, regionally and world wide through the highest level of diplomacy.  These efforts forced Damascus in year 2000 to comply partially with the issue and release 54 detainees. Sine then very few releases took place.

Human rights' atrocities inflicted by the Syrian regime on the Lebanese peaceful citizens are not new; they have been unfolding on almost a daily basis during the years of the horrible Syrian occupation (1976-2005) of Lebanon.
The Syrian invading army had fought vigorously with many Lebanese and Palestinian factions, groups and parties. Its Intelligence Services had abducted many citizens from all across Lebanon. Some were abducted for being members of parties opposing the Syrian hegemony, while others for taking up an armed struggle against them. In addition, hundreds of Lebanese soldiers and citizens are still currently held arbitrarily in Syrian Nazi-like jails for years without any knowledge of their whereabouts.
The procedures used by the Syrian army and intelligence to abduct Lebanese citizens are as follows:
1-Directly kidnapped by the Syrian forces in Lebanon and transferred to Syria.
2-Indirectly kidnapped by militias and armed individuals collaborating with Syria.
3-Held by Lebanese internal security and then handed over to the Syrians illegally.

According to a pile of testimonies delivered by Lebanese citizens released from Syrian jails and documented by Human Rights' Organizations, the abducted went through the same routine criminal interrogative procedures. After being arrested and questioned for hours or days at times under torture and abuse, they are either let go, or transferred to Syria for more questioning, lasting at times for months or years.  They could be held indefinitely unless someone with some political clout intervene on their behalf and set up their release.
However, a great number of the detainees remain held for questioning for years. Once the questioning is over the detainees are transferred to one of the many notorious Syrian jails without any kind of trial nor the presence of a lawyer. They then undergo a series of torture and abuse that differs in intensity according to their charges.
They are stripped of their names and instead given numbers. Those who dare to utter their names are harshly punished.  Their detention is kept secret, and no information whatsoever is given to the detainees' families, to the Red Cross or to the Human Rights International organizations.
For the last 30 years Syria has continuously refused to allow the Read Cross or any of the international Human Rights' organizations to visit its jails. The Syrian authorities has also been adamantly refusing to issue a list with the names of the detainees held in its jails.

The detention conditions in all the Syrian jails is far from humane.  The rooms are dark with no sunlight. No proper sanitation facilities; detainees have to relieve themselves inside the room. Very poor hygienic conditions, food is the left over crumbs and very few lucky detainees escape malnutrition, asthma, heart problems, cancer, tuberculoses and many other health threatening diseases.
Charges inflicted on the detainees were always the same; collaboration with Israelis against Syria, or spying for an opposition party such as the Lebanese forces, Free Patriotic Movement and other Lebanese opposition groups. Such atrocities have never been reported that bad anywhere in the whole world according to statements issued by lawyers and scholars worldwide.

The security agreement signed between Lebanon and Syria under the so-called brotherhood collaboration does give in any of its articles the Syrian army any right to abduct or jail any Lebanese for questioning inside or outside Lebanon.
According to an earlier Lebanese-Syrian agreement drafted in 1951, Lebanon reserves the right to reject the extradition of any individual to the Syrian authorities even if he was a Syrian citizen. The individual will have to undergo his trial in Lebanon in compliance with its laws. All agreements signed between Syria and Lebanon do not allow such Syrian atrocities.  All the practices that the Syrian army and its intelligence services had conducted in Lebanon are illegal and were practiced against all local and international laws.
The Syrian regime will not put an end to this 30 year ongoing dilemma unless the whole file is referred to the United Nations. This regime knows no mercy and pressure is the only language that its officials comprehend. Accordingly, we call on the Lebanese officials, politicians and human rights NGOs to work seriously on handing over this file to the United Nations. All free world countries should come to the rescue of our living Lebanese victims in those notorious jails and spare no effort in pressuring the Syrian regime to put an end to this human dilemma.
Elias Bejjani

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