Lebanon: Families of the Missing Demand Independent National Body to Reveal Fate of Their Sons

Friday, 31 August, 2018 - 11:00
Beirut- Sanaa Al-Jack

“My son Maher was not 15 years old when they took him to fight Israel armed with a rifle, facing planes, battleships and armored vehicles.” Maryam Saidi told Asharq Al Awsat. “It was in 1982 when Maher disappeared, and when the heads of the parties entered the parliament to represent the people.”

Maryam is one of the mothers, fathers, sisters, sons and daughters who participated on Thursday in a gathering of the families of those who went missing during the Lebanese war (1975-1989) on the occasion of the International Day of Missing People.

“If the committee for the missing was doing enough work, we wouldn’t be here today,” she said. Her “partner in sorrow”, Najat Jrouj Maoushi, stressed: “The people are responsible because they re-elect those who have caused the kidnapping of 17,000 persons. The people are insensible. If they weren’t, they would have boycotted the elections.

But resolving the issue of the missing needs more than gatherings and statements. More importantly, it needs independent professionals. This is the first fruit of a new mechanism of action adopted by the Committee of the Families of the Kidnapped and Missing Persons in Lebanon.

The head of the committee, Wadad Halawani, said: “The continuous work has brought our voice to new circles, including political and partisan forces from inside and outside the Parliament. With the help of legal experts and a number of deputies, led by former MP Ghassan Mukheiber, we succeeded in completing a draft-law on the establishment of the National Independent Commission for Missing Persons.”

On this issue, Mukheiber told Asharq Al-Awsat that the proposed plan of action included the establishment of “an independent national body, whose mission is to reveal the fate of those missing and those who are forcibly disappeared. The body will have the necessary powers to carry out this mission, will not subject to any tutelage and will enjoy the maximum degree of independence.”

He added that the committee would consist of retired judges, representatives of the Bar Association and parents of the missing and those who are forcibly disappeared, noting that the formation of the committee was awaiting the adoption of the relevant law by Parliament.

“What we need is a specialized body whose mission is to make contact with the Syrian and Palestinian authorities and the old militias, to investigate the fate of the missing, to clarify the truth, and to set a follow-up plan,” Mukheiber explained.

ICRC spokeswoman Yara Khawaja said in response to a question about the responsiveness of the Lebanese authorities to the work of the organization: “I do not want to assert, but it can be said that the atmosphere is relatively positive. The bill passed through Parliament’s human rights and justice committees and we hope to achieve positive results.”

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