A statement from the Lebanese Information Center on the visit by the congressional delegation to Syria, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
April 04,2007
The Lebanese Information Center (LIC) is grateful to the members of congress led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for their visit to Lebanon earlier this week. The Speaker’s historical support for Lebanon’s independence and the statements she made during her recent visit to Beirut were consistent with her earlier support of HR1828, the “Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003”.

Commenting on HR 1828 on October 15, 2003, then Congresswoman Pelosi stated, "…Syria’s assistance to terrorist organizations is well known, and the State Department continues to list Syria as a state sponsor of terrorism, in violation of resolutions on that issue by the United Nations Security Council. The Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, which Syria controls, provides a haven and the site of training facilities for Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist groups. These activities could not occur without the assent of the Syrian government….”

Regrettably, despite the withdrawal in April 2005 of regular Syrian Army personnel from Lebanon in the aftermath of the Cedar Revolution, which had climaxed on March 14, 2005, Syria continues to provide “a haven and the site of training facilities for (…) terrorist groups”. Additionally, it continues to instigate and to materially support an attempted counter-revolution in Lebanon that seeks to overthrow Lebanon’s democratically-installed Government and to create instability in Lebanon. Furthermore, its destabilizing role in Iraq and in the Palestinian territories continues unabashed.

Therefore, the US administration has been successful in isolating the Syrian regime, an isolation which would and should end only when the latter changes its behavior, abandons its support for anti-American insurgents in Iraq and for terrorist organizations in the Palestinian territories, shuts down the headquarters of Hamas and its ilk in Damascus and stop its meddling in Lebanon’s internal affairs.

Given the continued intransigence of the Syrian regime and House Speaker Pelosi’s historic support for the Lebanese pro-democracy movement, her visit to Damascus is regrettable. Irrespective of the Speaker’s good intentions to conduct a fact-finding trip to the Middle East, the Syrian regime had already started to misrepresent this visit even before the above referenced delegation arrived to Syria as a break in the US’ isolation of its rogue regime. It has peddled the visit of the Speaker and her accompanying delegation as a thaw in US-Syrian relations, which is a representation that could not be farther from the truth.

While we can well understand the logic of dialogue as a general rule, we reiterate Speaker Pelosi’s own words, “…Rhetoric has thus far not been effective in encouraging the Syrian government to cease its assistance to terrorists…” To her words of wisdom we add, “And it won’t”.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007
AKOURI TO PELOSI: Bring home Lebanese detainees out of Syria
Letter to House Leader highlights plight of captives

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, John Akouri, former Senior Advisor and Press Secretary to US Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), urged her to bring home all Lebanese Detainees out of Syria as she departs Damascus. The letter went on to say:

“Madame Speaker, though I disagree in the strongest terms possible with your visit to Syria at this time, while there, I urge you to demand the immediate and unconditional release of all Lebanese detainees held in that country and to insist upon the return of remains of any POW’s to their families in Lebanon.”

In the letter, Akouri cited a report published by the Associated Press just last week noting: “Human rights groups and families say they have evidence of at least 176 Lebanese in Syrian jails, many of whom have been there for more than a decade. The list includes dozens of soldiers, two Maronite Christian monks and at least one politician.”

According to the report: “International human rights groups say hundreds of Lebanese have been taken to Syria since it first sent troops into Lebanon in 1976. The detainees were from various Muslim and Christian sects and different political factions, from right-wing Christians to Muslim extremists.”

Akouri also stressed the global call for the freedom of these detainees. Just last month, Montreal's Lebanese Community campaigned for prisoners arbitrarily held in Syrian jails with a presentation of this tragic human rights crisis, which shed light on the fact that hundreds of Lebanese prisoners have been held in Syrians jails under the cruelest conditions for over a decade. These individuals, who have been kidnapped and taken as prisoners, are regularly subjected to extreme forms of torture.
Syria's denial of holding these prisoners is making their release a near-impossible task.

However, some human right activists are fighting back. A humanitarian NGO known as SOLIDE (Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile) along with the families of the detainees, have been holding an open-ended sit-in in front of the United Nations building in Beirut since April 11, 2005, hoping that their cry for justice might prompt some action.