Lebanon's arbitrary detainees in Syrian Jails!!
By: Elias Bejjani
June 28/2005

After assuming his post last year, Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister, Najib Mikati broke with Beirut regime's imposed official taboo in the case of the Lebanese citizens arbitrarily detained in Syrian jails since 1990.  In a precedent, he met with the detainees' families and SOLIDE'S (Support for Lebanese in Detention and Exile) representatives, and instructed his Justice Minister to do the same. A few days later during his first meeting as a PM with Syria's president, Bashar Al Assad and PM, Al Otari, he courageously raised the detainees' issue and was successful in getting a commitment from Al- Assad for the formation of a Joint Syrian-Lebanese commission to probe into the matter.

This commitment remains mere rhetoric and without any tangible practical transformation. Meanwhile the detainee's families, SOLIDE, human rights activists, and supporters continued their three on-going months sit-in protest from a tent erected in front of the UN headquarters in Beirut.

On June 22/2005 Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati issued a decree assigning an official commission designated to look into the long-standing case of the detained Lebanese citizens in Syrian prisons, the third commission of its kind since 1990.

The commission according to the ministerial decree is entrusted to collect all available data related to Lebanese citizens detained in Syrian jails, and to ensure channels of communication with designated Syrian security and judicial officials in an effort to identity and locate the detainees in Syrian jails and the kind of charges and judicial sentences issued against them. Then to ascertain their extradition to Lebanon where their cases will be dealt with in accordance with Lebanon's laws and through the country's judicial body.

The decree named Mr. Nasri Khouri, Secretary-General of the notorious High Lebanese-Syrian Council, as the commission's coordinator with Syrian authorities, and allocated a three month deadline for its mandate with room for extension if needed.

It is worth mentioning that this is the third such commission since 1990. One, during the rule of Prime Minister Salim Hoss and the other during the reign of slain PM Rafik Hariri. Both commissions were biased and fully controlled by Lebanese Syrian puppets and subservients. Accordingly both denied the presence of any Lebanese detainees in the Syrian jails in spite of all facts, documentation, witnesses and actual realities that prove otherwise.

The formation of such commissions has been a Syrian tactic of camouflage since 1990. Syria, and its Lebanese installed regime, have  formed a commission for every Lebanese national case and vital task they conspired to marginalize and bury.   It is well known to the Lebanese people, that commissions are vehicles of burial.

The majority of the Lebanese "made in Syria officials, politicians and parties" are now hiding behind the opposition mask. These chameleons were full partners in oppressing freedoms and infringing on the people's rights, among them, the fate of the Lebanese detained in Syrian jails. Some of these politicians are affiliated with parties and organizations that have kidnapped innocent Lebanese citizens and handed them over to the Syrian intelligence apparatuses to end either mutilated corpses or arbitrarily detained in the Syrian Stalinist jails deprived of all their rights.

Mr. Nassri Khoury  is a prominent member in the SSNP (Syrian Social National Party) whose armed militia has played, like many other pro Syrian militias a horrible role in arresting, kidnapping and handing over tens of Lebanese citizens to the Syrians. Meanwhile Mr. Khoury is biased and lacks both integrity and objectivity. He could not be trusted by the detainees' families nor by SOLIDE and other Lebanese Human Rights' activists and NGO groups. How could they trust him when he had continuously denied the presence of any Lebanese detainee in Syria's jails including two of his close relatives. Meanwhile the Syrian government has recently admitted to holding 76 Lebanese alleged "terrorists" after years of denial. The actual figure according to SOLIDE exceeds 800 and not one of them is a terrorist.

Mr. Khoury and all other Lebanese officials, parties and politicians who were directly or indirectly involved with the Beirut regime have boldly infringed on "Article 5 of the Universal Convention of Human Rights that reads: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment". Accordingly none of them is legally qualified to be a member of such a commission. Conflict of interest, as well as many other reasons, disqualifies Mr. Khoury.

From a legal point of view, the commission has no credibility because of the following reasons:
1- It does not fulfill any recognizable international criteria, while its mandate is not only ambiguous, but confusing.
2-The appointment of Mr. Nasri Khoury with his well documented blemished political and ethical background as a coordinator for the commission rips it of all objectivity and sends a frightening message to the detainees' families.
3- The detainees' families, the involved Lebanese Human Rights NGO organizations, the Red cross and UN are not represented in the commission.
4- The disappointing out come of the two previous commissions kills all hopes.

Apparently the main reason for the formation of such a commission is to block, thwart and ultimately abort the detainees' families and Lebanese NGO'S efforts that are in the making at the UN to internationalize the case.

Since 1990 the Lebanese regime officials and all parties who sided with it have committed, directly or indirectly, countless mistakes, unpardonable sins, horrible human rights atrocities, and moral infringements against the Lebanese people in all fields and all domains. In case both the President and his caretaker PM are genuine in their overt endeavors to put an end to the detainees' bleeding case,  NOW, and before it is too late, we call on them to head immediately to Damascus and meet with their very close friend, the Syrian president with an agenda of one article, the detainees' case. They should not return to Lebanon unless they escort with them all the detainees and all the relics of those deceased while in detention. 

Our request does not mean that Syria could rid itself of the problem by killing the Lebanese detainees and hand over their relics. This proposed mission would be a challenge for their credibility and a viable penances for the many sins committed by the Lebanese Syrian installed regime and its officials.

In conclusion, it is strongly believed that the newly formulated commission will attempt to camouflage, through cheap tactics of  procrastination, the regime's actual hidden agenda.  However, its efforts will be in vain unless the contrary is proven in a way which satisfies the hopes of the detainees' families. Based on the Syrian Baathists bloody and criminal thirty years record with tens of thousands of Syrian, Palestinian, Jordanian and many other detainees, the only left venue to save the lives of the Lebanese detainees is through a special UN commission. We call on the US, Canada, France and other world free countries to step in immediately and start advocating for such a commission

Elias Bejjani
*Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator.
*Spokesman for the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF)
*Media Chairman for the Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council (LCCC)
E.Mail phoenicia@hotmail.com