October 20/07

Bible Reading of the day
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 12,1-7. Meanwhile, so many people were crowding together that they were trampling one another underfoot. He began to speak, first to his disciples, "Beware of the leaven--that is, the hypocrisy--of the Pharisees. There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed on the housetops. I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more. I shall show you whom to fear. Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna; yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one. Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.

Free Opinions & Special Reports
Awaiting justice.Al-Ahram Weekly. October 19/07
When it comes to diplomatic contests, Israel tends to win by default.The Daily Star. October 19/07
The value of electoral administration in the Gulf states.By David Mikosz. October 19/07

Latest News Reports From Miscellaneous Sources for October 19/07
Turkish FM meets with Siniora and Lebanese FM.TREND
Syria ready to open ties with friendly Lebanon.AFP
US Reportedly Seeking Greater Influence in
Hezbollah slams US call for 'partnership' with Lebanese army.Ha'aretz
Hezbollah denounces US-Lebanon plan.USA Today
Syria says US interference in Lebanon threatens country's stability
.International Herald Tribune
Angry parents want refugees out of Lebanon schools
Report: Syria dismantling facility targeted by IAF
UN Nuclear Agency Examines Syria Images.The Associated Press

If they cannot agree, Christians will be marginalised, says - Italy
Visit of Mr Bernard Kouchner and his Spanish and Italian ...France Diplomatie (press release)
U.S. to Build "Strategic Partnership" with Lebanese Army-Naharnet
Turkey For Presidential Elections that End Lebanon's Crisis-Naharnet
Hariri Labels Berri "Leader of the Opposition-Naharnet

Syria Escalates Attacks on Lebanon's Government. Naharnet
Israel blamed for Lebanon cluster bombs.United Press International
UN Taking Action for Syria Error.The Associated Press

Ban pleased with progress on Hariri court-Daily Star
Aridi denies plan for US military bases in Lebanon-Daily Star
Sfeir prods MPs to pick president who 'unites Lebanese-Daily Star
Lebanon keeps losing ground in race for foreign investment-Daily Star

Hamadeh defends moves to prepare cellular sell-off-Daily Star
Conference urges Arab governments and peoples to tackle climate change-Daily Star
Chouf pine-nut growers demand curb on imports-Daily Star
LAU joins fight against world poverty-Daily Star
Social group rejects bias in efforts to assist needyDaily Star
AUB tests stem-cell therapy on patients-Daily Star
Legacy of Civil War still divides much of Beirut by sect-Daily Star
Rice puts positive spin on regional tour-Daily Star
Islamic Republic hangs nine convicted murderers.AFP
Germany against negotiating with Taliban.AFP
Ahmadinejad's government lashes out at Khatami.AFP
Baghdad expects to hang 'Chemical Ali' very soon.

Syria Escalates Attacks on Lebanon's Government Prior to Beirut Visit by European Ministers
Syria accused the United States of interfering in Lebanon's affairs and launched a vehement attack on Premier Fouad Saniora's majority government, stressing that it would only accept to set up diplomatic relations with a "cordial Lebanese government."
Syria expressed its hard line stand on Lebanon in a letter to U.N. Secretary Genera Ban ki-Moon on the eve of a visit to Beirut by the foreign ministers of France, Spain and Italy to help guarantee the forthcoming election of a successor to Syrian-backed President Emile Lahoud.
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) said the message accused "Lebanese officials of manipulating their recent visits to the United Nations to distort Syria's image and agitate the Security Council against it." It said a memo recently sent by the Saniora Government to the U.N. Chief, which accused Syria of supporting Fatah al-Islam terrorists, was based on "a variety of misguiding claims."
The Syrian message echoed claims by Damascus allies that pro-government factions in Lebanon have been involved in financing Fatah al-Islam terrorists.
The Saniora memo was based on testimonies by Fatah al-Islam terrorists arrested during the 106-day confrontation with the Lebanese Army that came to an end on Sept. 2
Meanwhile, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who would be one of the Lebanese leaders to hold talks with the visiting European foreign ministers stressed in a statement to an-Nahar daily that consensus on a presidential candidate would "certainly be achieved."
"Achieving consensus is a matter of time, we would certainly elect a president within the constitutional schedule."An-Nahar said the European ministerial delegation might also hold talks with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir. Sfeir said that in case the meeting was held he would ask the European ministers to step up interest in Lebanon's affairs. Sfeir, talking to reporters on the sidelines of the Catholic Patriarchs Congress at Ein Trez, warned that failure to elect a president "would affect the Christians' existence We hope that things would proceed normally."Sfeir Waned that vacuum in the presidential office would cause inter-factional disputes.
Beirut, 19 Oct 07, 09:33

U.S. to Build "Strategic Partnership" with Lebanese Army
A senior Pentagon official said Thursday the U.S. military would like to see a "strategic partnership" with Lebanon's army to strengthen the country's forces so that Hizbullah would have no excuse to bear arms. The comments by Eric Edelman, undersecretary of defense for policy, in an interview aired on Lebanese television two days after his visit, followed a published report in Beirut that Washington is proposing a treaty with Lebanon to make it a strategic partner to counter increased Russian influence in neighboring Syria. The report, published by the opposition-leaning newspaper As-Safir, was at the time vigorously denied by the government and ridiculed by the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon. "This is totally untrue, said Ahmed Fatfat, a leading member of the government team who holds the youth and sports portfolio, adding that Lebanon neither sought nor had the Americans asked for such a treaty.
Edelman's remarks, however, shed a new light on the emerging relationship between the Lebanese and U.S. militaries two months after the al-Qaida-inspired Fatah Islam group was crushed in a 3-month long battle. "What we've been trying to do consistently is to create circumstances in which Lebanon can have a strong state, strong army, a democratic system with the military accountable to civilian control and to the government and to the people's representatives in the parliament," he said on the privately owned Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. television. "We believe it's in our interest to have a strong democratic state in Lebanon ... That's what we're working toward."
The military in Lebanon is an all-volunteer force of 56,000, with about 220 battle tanks, no effective air power and no air defense system. It has over the decades been unable to halt Israeli incursions and take full control of its territory from armed groups like Hezbollah and Palestinian guerrillas. Since last year's war between Hizbullah and Israel, Lebanon's army deployed for the first time along the Israeli border with the help of 13,000 peacekeepers. Since that time, the United States has sharply increased its military assistance to Lebanon to US$270 million in 2007 -- more than five times the amount provided a year ago. Lebanon's opposition led by Hizbullah, the Shiite Muslim militant group allied to Iran and Syria, has accused Washington of seeking to take control of Lebanon and destroy the it. The heavily armed guerrilla group fought Israel to a standstill during last year's devastating summer war. Asked whether helping the Lebanese army aimed at eventually taking on Hizbullah, Edelman said that as the army strengthens its capabilities "there will be less excuse for other armed groups to continue to bear arms."
"I think what we will see over time is if we have an army that is capable of fulfilling all the normal requirements of a state then the idea of having other armed forces that are not accountable to the government or the people's elected representatives would no longer be necessary." Beirut's As-Safir newspaper reported Thursday that the U.S. proposal for a treaty was to counter the "heavy Russian presence" in northern Syria which presents a danger to the American presence in the region. There has been speculation for the last two years of Russia seeking to establish a naval base in northern Syria, once a close Russian ally in the Middle East. Under the blueprint of the alleged treaty, the United States will provide the Lebanese army with assistance and training and intelligence while Beirut would allow the establishment bases, radar stations and other facilities. The report added that the Americans wanted the Lebanese army's current doctrine, which describes Syria as a friendly state, Israel an enemy and Hezbollah as the "resistance" to the Israeli occupation, changed.
In his interview, however, Edelman maintained the United States was not putting conditions on Lebanon for assistance, saying it was up to the Lebanese to decide what strategy and military doctrine to adopt. But in a remark that is certain to anger the opposition, particularly Hizbullah which Washington brands as a terrorist organization, Edelman added: "I don't see any reason why Israel and Lebanon have to be enemies. Israel has peace treaties with two of its neighbors. I think in time there is no reason why there shouldn't be one between Lebanon and Israel as well."(AP) Beirut, 19 Oct 07, 13:44

Turkey For Presidential Elections that End Lebanon's Crisis
Visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan stressed Friday on the importance of settling Lebanon's political crisis through dialogue, noting that holding presidential elections is very important to end the impasse. Babacan, talking to reporters after meeting Prime Minister Fouad Saniora, noted that "Lebanon's stability is of extreme importance to Turkey and to the whole region." "We would like to see a solution to the problem or the political crisis in Lebanon through negotiations," he said.
Holding presidential elections "is a very important step to end the current political crisis," Babacan added. He described his talks with Saniora as "fruitful."
Beirut, 19 Oct 07, 13:02

When it comes to diplomatic contests, Israel tends to win by default

By The Daily Star
Friday, October 19, 2007
Israel offered a free lesson to its Arab and Islamic neighbors on Thursday, launching a diplomatic offensive designed to gain Russian and Chinese acquiescence in new UN sanctions against Iran over that country's nuclear program. Immediately following Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Tehran for a summit of Caspian Sea littoral states, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert headed for Moscow, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni reportedly will travel to Beijing on Saturday. The gambits stand in stark contrast with the habitual inactivity of Arab regimes, and the effect of these very different levels of performance could not be more obvious: It is true that Israel derives tremendous benefit from the slavish backing it receives from the United States, but it supplements this by missing no opportunity to state its case to other nations around the world as well.
All of this goes a long way toward explaining how it is that a country with less than 7 million people has managed consistently to outmaneuver 300 million Arabs and more than a billion Muslims. In fact, far from being effectively punished for its promiscuous violations of international law, Israel is generously rewarded for the contempt it shows the rest of the world. Its influence over the United States is such that Washington actually makes a policy of ignoring its own laws to support the Jewish state - and of encouraging its citizens to do the same by giving them tax breaks to subsidize illegal colonies on occupied Arab land. On issues great and small, Israeli officials maintain a steady stream of contacts with governments far and wide, ensuring that their country's influence remains out of all proportion to its size and population.
The rulers of most Arab and Islamic countries, on the other hand, remain holed up in their palaces even as their interests and those of their peoples are assailed on all fronts. To make matters even worse, those rare leaders who break with this pattern of complacency generally do themselves more harm than good: Witness the antics of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who routinely visits foreign capitals but employs the kind of rhetoric that provides his country's enemies with a steady supply of diplomatic ammunition. In essence, therefore, the Israelis win most of their battles for international influence by default.
This dangerous weakness applies not just to governments but also to individual parties as well. Hizbullah, for instance, has demonstrated high degrees of professionalism on the battlefield and in building its domestic support base, but it has floundered badly in its efforts to engage both the outside world and even sectors of Lebanese society that fall outside its mainly Shiite constituency. This has had dire consequences for the movement's efforts to shake off the preposterous "terrorist" label affixed to it by the Americans and the Israelis, as well as for its bid to enter mainstream Lebanese politics.
Those who refuse to define themselves should not be surprised when others do it for them - and none too flatteringly. Unless and until Arab and Muslim political figures learn this simple lesson, they will continue, in effect, to further the influence of their most dangerous enemies.

Awaiting justice

Amid continual massacres perpetrated by the US occupation and its local allies, millions of Iraqis have fled their homes. From Damascus and Amman, Amanda Noureddine reports on the exodus. Millions of Iraqis have turned into refugees scattered all over the region, and millions more displaced within Iraq. They grieve the death of their loved ones in the daily bombings that either kill tens or injure hundreds of their kinspeople
Since the US and UK forces invaded Iraq in 2003, an estimated 4.2 million Iraqis have fled their homes, the majority in the last two years. Up to two million are estimated to have sought refuge outside Iraq, while the remainder has been displaced within the country. The exodus is the largest the region has witnessed since the Palestinian Nakba. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the flight of Iraqis continues at a rate of 60,000 per month.
According to an Amnesty International (AI) report published last month, of those who have left Iraq, the US has resettled 753 since April 2003. The US refugee resettlement programme is designed to accommodate 70,000 yearly. In an apparent response to pressure to resettle more, it has issued pledges to resettle up to 25,000 refugees in 2007. However, AI is "concerned that the USA is trying to distance itself from these commitments" and that the numbers it has committed to resettling "are small compared to the extent of the need and the potential capacity."
Other industrialised countries with resettlement programmes have behaved similarly. The UK has recently agreed to join a resettlement programme, with an annual general quota that it has raised to 750, including 250 Iraqis. AI "believes the quota should be increased significantly and that Iraqis should be included at an increased rate as soon as possible."
For its part, Sweden, home to some of the West's most vocal advocates for refugee resettlement rights, has called on European Union members to welcome more Iraqis. On its own territory, it has accepted a small number, disproportionate to both its capacity and its "refugee-friendly" reputation. In 2006, for example, during a massive intensification of the exodus, Sweden resettled just 79.
IRAQIS SEEK REFUGE: With much of the West turned into forbidden ground, the overwhelming majority of Iraqis who have left their country since the invasion have sought refuge in neighbouring Arab states, namely Syria, Jordan, and to a far lesser but still significant extent, Egypt and Lebanon.
Syria has received by far the highest number of Iraqis, with current estimates running to approximately 1.5 million. According to UNHCR figures released August 2007, between 500,000 and 750,000 Iraqis are estimated to have fled to Jordan. Figures for Egypt are less clear, but a strict visa regime in place since April 2007 has meant that entry into Egypt above the current estimated 100,000 has become very difficult. As for Lebanon, it is estimated that a further 100,000 Iraqis have arrived since 2003.
With Saudi Arabia's borders closed from the very start, the relative ease with which Iraqis could enter Jordan and Syria constituted the only real source of hope for Iraqi families fleeing the invasion and ongoing occupation. Entry into Jordan and Syria was for some time easier than any other states. However, the two countries have recently announced changes to their visa regimes whereby visas can no longer be granted to Iraqis at their land crossings but must instead be processed by application at respective embassies in Baghdad. For many families this is impossible given the security risks attendant to the districts in which these embassies are located, and indeed to any travel in Baghdad.
Of the two, Jordan started to implement its visa restrictions early in 2007, allowing entry only to holders of Jordanian residency permits and invitations for medical and educational purposes. According to AI, Jordan is set to impose even tougher restrictions. Announced 10 September, Syria's restrictions are effective as of mid-October, thus effectively closing down for Iraqis their last way out.
Both countries have called on the international community, in particular donor states, to live up to pledges of assistance. There has also been criticism of lead industrialised states, in particular those that participated in the invasion and those currently occupying Iraq, of failure to accommodate significant numbers of Iraqi refugees. Their own resources overstretched by the crisis, it has now become difficult to realistically envisage Syria and Jordan accommodating more Iraqis, officials in both countries admit.
It is impossible to estimate how many Iraqis still in Iraq may yet need to seek safety for their families away from the occupation and away from Iraq. The manner in which the occupation has sought to distort the composition of the Iraqi nation, causing the displacement of well over one sixth of Iraq's population, and principally its middle class, followed by predictable moves to trap the rest, as if to punish them for holding on, appears telling of US intent in Iraq.
BARE SURVIVAL IN SYRIA: What is today the district of Sayida Zeinab on the outskirts of Damascus is home to a shrine dedicated to the granddaughter of the Prophet Mohamed. Muslim pilgrims the world over have for centuries visited her shrine, situated inside a mosque erected in her honour. It is said that Sayida Zeinab was until recently a quiet, rural quarter, well beyond the capital's reach.
But following Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights in 1967, thousands fleeing the occupation made their way, homeless and landless, to Damascus. To begin with, they lived in tents, perhaps in the hope that they would soon return home. It became apparent, however, that they had been stripped of their land, a region described by its natives as the most beautiful in Syria for many years to come. Theft by brute force and the imposition of an illegal regime of Israeli settlements that survives today necessitated for these refugees attempts at setting up a new, albeit hopefully temporary, life and to wait in dignity for their return.
Instead of tents, many of the displaced and their descendants would live to this day in buildings constructed with little planning, in a quarter that is now sprawling, generally badly serviced, crowded and, since the US-led invasion of Iraq, welcoming thousands of new tenants, this time from another land.
"Baghdad, Baghdad!" call out drivers who line Sayida Zeinab's main street, waiting for customers. There are scores of taxi companies specialised in making the 15- to 18-hour trip to the Iraqi capital, charging anything between $100 to $800 per passenger, depending on how easy or difficult it is to cross the border. There is generally no lack of clients. This is because Sayida Zeinab, where living costs are lower, has the highest concentration in Syria of Iraqi refugees.
Today, there are approximately 1.5 million Iraqis in Syria, the vast majority of whom have fled Iraq starting 2005. According to AI, Iraqis are now estimated to comprise seven per cent of the population of Syria. Until recently, it was relatively easy for Iraqis to enter Syria in safety. Syria's visa regime facilitates entry by citizens of Arab countries. Until January 2007, they were given three-month visas upon entry. Then, a new regime was introduced, whereby one-month visas, renewable for two months, were issued to Iraqis at the border. Practically that meant that every three months Iraqis wishing to remain in Syria legally were travelling to the border, exiting and usually re-entering immediately afterwards. Now, according to the IRIN UN-affiliated news agency, some Iraqis in Syria fear the new regime might affect even those who are already in Syria as their current visas inevitably expire and therefore become non-renewable short of applying to the Syrian Embassy in Baghdad. To date, Syrian authorities have proven lenient with restrictions on Iraqis already in Syria.
None of the four principal host states is party to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, and while UNHCR has recognised the majority of fleeing Iraqis as prima facie refugees since January 2007, authorities formally consider them "guests", and accordingly issue them tourist visas. Rules forbidding Iraqis from working, given that they entered on tourist visas, have been actively implemented in Lebanon and Jordan, leading to detentions and in many cases "voluntary" deportations as authorities presented them with a choice: stay in prison or sign a repatriation order. Despite the fact that such deportations are contrary to customary international law, UNHCR has not intervened on the basis that the two states in question have not signed the UN Refugee Convention.
In Syria, authorities have turned a partial blind eye to working Iraqis. According to AI, however, some deportations have been reported.
Iraqis in Syria face a wide array of problems, many of which stem from economic hardship as the savings they brought from Iraq run out. Many of the Iraqis currently in Syria are children and are thus in need of extra protection. In Syria, all Arabs are entitled to free public services, including education and health. Nonetheless, only 30,000 Iraqi children were registered in schools last year. This year, the number is estimated to have risen to around 80,000. Given a total Iraqi population of up to 1.5 million, both figures are desperately low and in part indicate the level of economic stress parents are facing as they refrain from enrolling their children in schools.
Many children and youth are working instead, making as little as 50 Syrian Lira ($1) a day, according to 15-year-old Osama (his name has been changed here to protect his identity). "I feel good because I am helping my family. At least this way my elder sister can continue in school," Osama told Al-Ahram Weekly as his mother waited to register her family with UNHCR. "I don't really mind what kind of job I do. I used to like school but now things are different."
Especially for minors out of school, part of the consequence of the flight of Iraqis has been a loss of hope in the future. Many have witnessed relatives and friends being killed, and with their lives as unstable in exile as they were in Iraq it has become especially hard for minors to overcome trauma. "I don't know where we'll end up," Osama said. "I don't really care any more about what happens to me in the future, or what I end up becoming."
Other children, including five-year-old Hadeer, still have nightmares about the brutal events in Iraq. "She wakes up crying in the middle of the night, telling me she's dreaming about bombing and people shooting," Hadeer's mother, Hala, told the Weekly. "She looks alright now, playing and laughing. But it will be a long time before she overcomes the pain she has inside."
One central conundrum to Iraqi families in Syria -- or anywhere -- is how to settle in a country outside Iraq. "We are being forced out; we have not chosen to travel. On the whole, Syria has been kind to us, even if we have become poor. But we want to be home, and we want our home free," said Fatima (surname withheld) at an Iftar at Damascus's landmark Umayyid Mosque. Mother of three and grandmother of several, she has every reason to worry about the future.
Fatima went on: "we know the occupation will end. But in the meantime, this time is not easy on us. There is uncertainty about everything, and families need security and stability. Neither of those exists for Iraqis today. Everything is up in the air, and we wait. We fled because we would have died otherwise. Now our lives are no longer on the line. But don't think that we are living. No, as refugees, we are only surviving."
ABANDONED IN JORDAN: Relative to Syria, in Jordan even temporary integration for Iraqis has been difficult to secure. Forbidden from working and coming under threat of deportation if they do, many Iraqis in Jordan are experiencing severe impoverishment. Although they too have been granted prima facie recognition as refugees by UNHCR, they have not been afforded full protection rights. They are at the mercy of both alienation and poverty, two evils that mutually compound one another.
"When the police discovered he had been working, my husband was arrested and put in prison for two months," said Yusra Jassem from Falluja. "He has been released now, but he won't come out at all any more. First our house was bombed, and now this. He feels his dignity has been destroyed. I understand it is not legal in this country for us, but can you honestly imagine being arrested for working? Even though he wasn't making much, our savings had run out so we pushed to make ends meet and maintain our dignity. Now I don't know how I will feed my children. I could never have imagined this happening: things were alright for us in Iraq."
The US-led occupation's intent to destroy the Iraqi professional, educated middle class is particularly apparent in Jordan, where high prices for basics, including rent, food and transport, have intensified Iraqis' growing financial problems. "For now, all my children go to school," Jassem said. "But there are many families sending their children out to work instead of the parents, as the children are less likely to be picked up by the police."
Meanwhile, other issues plague Iraqi families in Jordan, issues which can only be solved with time. Following advocacy by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), a royal decree was issued in August 2007 to allow all Iraqi children to attend public schools. Until this decree no government institution was open to Iraqis. But like Syria, the capacity of Jordanian schools is overstretched and there is uncertainty regarding the extent to which the decree is being implemented.
"I have been turned away by various schools," said 15- year-old Atheer, whose father is an engineer and whose mother is a teacher. He is now entering his fourth year out of education and is unsure of how he will make his dream of becoming an IT expert real. "I never expected this for my children," his father, Haitham Said, told the Weekly. "I worked hard on myself in my youth, precisely to give my children the best. But the world is full of tricks, it seems."
In addition to economic and education-related problems, a sense of abandonment is pervasive and playing a role in worsening conditions for Iraqis in Jordan. "Iraq is right across the border," said Jassem. "I think about my relatives in Iraq every day. Although Iraq is on the news all the time, people don't seem to care anymore. The world has abandoned our people."
Children are also affected by this sense of abandonment: "I cannot play. My Iraqi brothers and sisters are being killed. Do you know just how bad it is in there? I cannot play, or listen to music, or do anything nice, not until the occupation has ended, not even if I try and force myself," said 14-year- old Youssef, who has been attending an inexpensive private school in Amman for the past year.
According to school counsellor Samir Abu Moghli, "regardless of how long they have been in Jordan, the horror of the situation in Iraq is so intense that precious few Iraqis I have encountered have overcome the first stage of trauma. Compounding their agony has been the sense that assistance is not guaranteed. Even the few who still have some of their savings, or are receiving help from NGOs, fear what may happen tomorrow."
Displaced from their homes, not knowing when they might be allowed to return, many Iraqis in Jordan have yet to come to terms with their plight. Almost unanimously, Iraqis of all generations were keen to emphasise just how profound their desire to return home is, and that, had the invasion not happened, they would never have left.
The phase to come will be difficult too, as Iraqis increasingly begin to come to terms with the pain of the present. "Here there are no bombs," said 12-year-old Maryam as she wept, "but I am tired and sad. My parents are tired too. We try not to be, because this way we are resisting. But it is getting harder. How long do we have to be here?" At this, Youssef interjects, with strength in his voice that belies his young age: "we have to be here so long as there is war. Until the war stops, we are refugees."
WHAT COMES NEXT? According to AI, greater international commitment is required to improve the situation of Iraq's refugees. The AI report adds that existing pledges for assistance to governments hosting Iraqis must urgently be honoured. But beyond basic survival, it is not easy to determine the best way forward for Iraqi refugees barring the end of the US occupation.
To date, the question of where the crisis falls in the framework of international humanitarian action remains unanswered. At the grassroots level, it is host governments, international humanitarian agencies and local and international NGOs that implement assistance programmes. But at the higher level, the issue of funding is critical. International development and humanitarian action rests on an inter- governmental system dependent on the exigencies of power, which in its turn dictates when and to whom states provide, and when they don't.
It is telling that the states that led and participated in the illegal invasion and ongoing occupation of Iraq publicly cited human rights as one of their pretexts while their actions amount to genocide, not only in the figure of one million Iraqis dead, but in the creation of the largest refugee crisis the region has seen since the establishment of Israel. Just as the Nakba was essential to the attempted destruction of Palestine, the Iraqi refugee explosion is an integral part of the attempted destruction of the Iraqi nation. Ironically, the pressures this crisis produces increase as US plans for Iraq are resisted. And with inexorable defeat looming, the issue of Iraqi refugees and their needs may well be compounded by demands for individual and collective war reparations.
© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. All rights reserved

Subject: Press conference: speech
From: View Contact Details
Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2007 15:22:44 +0200 (CEST)
(La version française suit)
Speech of Wadih Al Asmar, Secretary General of the CLDH (Lebanese Center for Human Rights), on the occasion of the press conference held this Friday October 19, 2007, entitled:
Let me begin, on behalf of the Lebanese Center for Human Rights, by thanking you all for being here today. I particularly would like to emphasize the key role that the media play in contributing their support to our struggle for a greater respect for human rights in Lebanon.
We have invited you here today to this press conference in order to share with you our assessment of the lobbying and awareness campaign that we have conducted with the goal of drawing the attention of the political an d judicial authorities, as well as the religious ones, to the tragic situation of Youssef Chaabane. Mr. Chaabane has been detained for more than 14 years on the basis of a court judgment that violates Lebanon’s international commitments.
The opinion of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in this matter is a sign of the mistrust expressed vis-à-vis the Lebanese justice system in its totality. The experts of the United Nations were very explicit when they qualified the detention of Youssef Chaabane as “arbitrary”. The Working Group believes that: “to be sentenced to death, even when the sentence is commuted to a life term, while denying the concerned individual to have the conviction and the sentence reviewed by a higher jurisdiction, is in itself a very serious violation of the norms of a fair trial.”
The Working Group believes (…) that the violation of Paragraph 5 of Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – to which Lebanon is a party – is of such an egregious nature that it confers upon the detention and conviction of Mr. Chaabane an arbitrary character.”
Following this campaign, there is a lingering feeling of a profound malaise, since we have come to the unpleasant conclusion that since April 2005, when the Syrian forces withdrew, nothing has changed in Lebanon. How else should one interpret the dogged stubbornness of an entire judiciary to protect a decision made following an unfair trial which itself began with an illegal arrest and detention at the Syrian Intelligence Center in Beau Rivage, and following an investigation conducted under the aegis of Rustom Ghazaleh himself?
Does Mr. Ghazaleh’s g host continue to haunt the Justice Palace? Or are some people so afraid of what Mr. Ghazaleh could reveal of their past that they thus continue to tread carefully around him?
Lebanon has paid too dear a price in getting rid of the Syrian occupation that we cannot accept that crimes and judicial errors committed during that period go unpunished.
Many arguments can be, and have been, put forth by eminent and respected legal experts that it is impossible to re-open the case of Youssef Chaabane because he was tried before the Judicial Council and the decisions of the Council may not be appealed. We, however, would like to remind the experts that:
The Lebanese Constitution gives precedence to Lebanon’s international commitments over Lebanese law, and therefore nothing prevents the experts fro m relying on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to set up an appeals process for judgments issued by the Judicial Council, by simply adopting a positive interpretation of the law without recourse to Parliament.
Another trial took place in Jordan in 2000 on the same case, and at no time did that trial implicate Youssef Chaabane. This constitutes an exceptional factor that should prompt them to review the case. The question is not whether or not to put more credence in Jordanian justice; rather, it is basic common sense that should compel the Lebanese judiciary to immediately request from the Jordanian authorities to transmit those evidentiary elements that allowed them to make a decision and then review Youssef Chaabane’s trial in light of those elements.
Rustom Ghazaleh is no longer in Lebanon. The fact that he was directly or indirectly involved in the trial should be reason enough to repeal the trial.
We continue to dare and hope that there are still in Lebanon judges who are capable of placing their consciences ahead of their careers. It is to these judges that we address ourselves today to ask them to take up this case and be creative in finding a legal solution that would allow Youssef Chaabane to be re-tried fairly. We will never accept that decisions made under pressure from Ghazi Kanaan, Rustom Ghazaleh and their henchmen remain in the records of Lebanese justice.
Wadih Al Asmar,
CLDH General Secretary
Discours de Wadih Al Asmar, Secrétaire Général du CLDH (Centre Libanais des Droits Humains) lors de la conférence de presse de ce vendredi 19 octobre 2007, intitulée :

Tout d’abord, au nom du Centre Libanais des Droits Humains, je tiens à vous remercier de votre présence parmi nous, et je tiens tout particulièrement à insister sur le rôle essentiel des médias dans le soutien qu’ils peuvent apporter à notre combat pour un plus grand respect des droits humains au Liban.
Aujourd’hui nous vous avons conviés à cette conférence de presse pour faire le bilan de la campagne de lobbying et de sensibilisation que nous avons menée pour attirer l’attention du pouvoir politique, judiciaire ainsi que des in stances religieuses sur la situation dramatique que vit Youssef Chaabane, détenu depuis plus de 14 ans suite à un jugement contraire aux engagements internationaux du Liban. L’avis du Groupe de Travail sur la Détention arbitraire des Nations Unies est une marque de défiance vis-à-vis du système judiciaire libanais dans son ensemble, les experts des Nations Unies ont été très explicites quant à la qualification de la détention de Youssef Chaabane d’arbitraire. Le Groupe de Travail a considéré : « qu’être condamné à la peine capitale, même commuée en condamnation à perpétuité, sans que l’intéressé ait pu faire examiner par une juridiction supérieure la déclaration de culpabilité et la condamnation, constitue en soi une violation très grave des normes d’un procès équitable.»
« Le Groupe de Travail estime (…) que la violation du paragraphe 5 de l’article 14 du Pacte International sur les Droits Civils et Politiques (auquel le Liban est parti) est d’une telle gravité qu’elle confère à la détention et à la condamnation de Monsieur Chaabane un caractère arbitraire. »
Après cette campagne c’est un sentiment de profond malaise qui persiste, nous avons eu la désagréable impression de constater que depuis avril 2005, date du retrait des troupes d’occupation syriennes, rien n’a changé au Liban. Sinon comment expliquer l’entêtement de tout l’appareil judiciaire à vouloir protéger une décision prise suite à un procès inique qui a démarré par une arrestation illégale au centre des services de renseignements du Beau rivage, et à une enquête sous la tutelle de Rustom Ghazale ?
L’ombre de ce dernier continue-t-elle à rôder au Palais de justice ? Ou certains ont-ils peur de ce que ce dernier pourrait révéler sur leur passé et continueraient ainsi à le ménager ?
Le Liban a payé un tribut trop cher pour se débarrasser de l’occupation syrienne pour que nous acceptions que les crimes et erreurs judiciaires commis pendant cette période restent impunis.
Beaucoup d’arguments peuvent et ont été avancés par d’éminents et de respectables juristes quant à l’impossibilité de rouvrir le cas de Youssef car il aurait été jugé devant le Conseil de Justice et que les décisions de ce dernier ne sont passibles d’aucun appel ; à ceux-là, nous souhaitons rappeler :
La Constitution Libanaise place les engagements internationaux du Liban au dessus de la loi libanaise et par conséquent rien ne les empêche de s’appuyer sur le Pacte International relatif aux droits civils et politiques pour mettre en place un système d’appel des jugements devant le Conseil de Justice, et ceci par simple interprétation positive de la loi sans avoir recours au Parlement.
Un autre procès a eu lieu en Jordanie en 2000 dans la même affaire, et ce procès n’a, à aucun moment mis en cause Youssef Chaabane. Il s’agit bien d’un élément exceptionnel qui devrait les inciter à rejuger l’affaire. Il ne s’agit pas de faire d’avantage confiance à la justice jordanienne ou pas, mais le simple bon sens aurait exigé que la justice libanaise demande immédiatement aux autorités jordaniennes de lui transmettre les éléments de preuves qui lui ont permis de prendre cette décision et revoir le procès de Youssef Chaabane à la lumière de ces éléments.
Rustom Ghazale n’est plus au Liban, le fait qu’il soit intervenu directement ou indirectement dans le procès devrait être une raison suffisante pour annuler ce procès
Reste-t-il au Liban des juges capables de faire primer leur conscience sur leur carrière et leurs intérêts directs ? Nous continuons à oser l’espérer. C’est à ces juges-là que nous nous adressons aujourd’hui pour leur demander de se saisir de cette affaire et d’être créatifs pour trouver une solution juridique qui permettra de rejuger Youssef Chaabane d’une façon équitable. Nous ne pourrons jamais nous réso udre à accepter que les procès dont les décisions ont été prises sous la pression exercée par Ghazi Kanaan, Rustom Ghazale ou leur sbires restent dans les annales de la justice libanaise.
Wadih Al ASMAR
Secrétaire Général du Centre Libanais des Droits Humains