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Families of disappeared demand action

[Lebanon] Wearing a badge that identifies her missing brother, Samia Abdallah points at Imad's picture as the UN building is seen in the background. [Date picture taken: 01/22/2006]
Wearing a badge that identifies her missing brother, Samia Abdallah points at his picture outside the UN building (Linda Dahdah/IRIN)

Ten months after the start of a sit-in protest in front of UN headquarters in Beirut, the families of Lebanese nationals who have disappeared or been detained in Syria say their campaign for information is making little progress.

"None of our demands have been met and nothing new is being done on the issue," said Samia Abdallah, whose brother, a member of the Palestinian National Liberation Movement in Lebanon, was arrested by Syrian agents in 1984.

Families of the missing are demanding that the UN Security Council consider the implementation of last year’s Resolution 1559 – calling Syrian troops and intelligence to withdraw from Lebanon – incomplete, as long as the issue of the country’s disappeared remains unresolved.

Syrian troops entered Lebanon in 1976, a year after the outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War, and maintained de facto control of the country for almost 30 years until their withdrawal in April 2005.

"The number of cases of detention and disappearances…reached 643 in November and new cases are under study," said Ghazi Aad, head of Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile, a local NGO. "We are now looking at 700 cases."

"The problem is that, unless our demands are official, i.e. made by the government, nothing will happen," he added.

Protestors are also calling on the Security Council to establish an international commission of inquiry into their cases.

Since last April, hundreds of friends and relatives of disappeared persons have taken turns at the sit-in in front of UN offices, surrounded by hundreds of placards of men and women who have disappeared over the last 30 years.

Syria, meanwhile, has consistently denied accusations of arbitrary arrests and kidnappings.

In June 2004, the Syrian and Lebanese governments established a joint commission mandated with looking into the issue of disappeared nationals from both countries.

"We’re doing our best to reach tangible results,” said commission member Judge Georges Rizk. “Several meetings took place at the border with the exchange of documents, lists and names."

According to Rizk, however, the exchange of information remains problematic.

"The issue is really touchy, considering the current tensions between Lebanon and Syria, and this is hampering our work," he said.

A commission meeting is expected next Saturday.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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