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Ceremony of handing over the official investigations file on the fate of missing persons

17 December, 2014

The Committee of the Families of the Kidnapped and the Disappeared and the organization SOLIDE for the support of Lebanese in detention and exile handed over today to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) the investigation files related to the persons who disappeared during the civil war in Lebanon, in a ceremony at the Beirut Bar Association.

CHOUAIB
First, the National Anthem followed by a minute of silence to recall the disappeared; then the President of the Commission for Public Liberties and Human Rights of the Beirut Bar Association, Dr. Abdel Salam Chouaib, spoke on the Bar’s behalf: “Unfortunately, Lebanon still suffers from political and security instability, which makes harder your work on this file. The Bar has already participated in the National Commission for Missing that worked for years and put therefore a report signed by the President of the Commission and the Bar representative, because of the abstention from signing by security members, including the names of the persons who, according to the Commission, are still alive in Syria and Israel. These names were made available to the public opinion and the biggest part was adopted in the work of the Lebanese-Syrian Government Committee. This file is still at the Bar and can be used. The Bar has also represented the disappeared before the Higher Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, putting at the disposal of the team involved in this issue all the names of the persons it believes are still alive”.
He pointed out that “the Bar supports and encourages any activity to reveal the secrets of this humanitarian file whatever its origin, whether it emanates from private organisms, the State, the ICRC or the UN. The Bar calls the Government to join the International Convention for the protection of those forcibly disappeared to benefit from its procedural provisions and to follow up the file of the disappeared available at the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In addition, the Bar requests to meet the desire of active organisms in the field of those disappeared to issue a law for the establishment of an independent organism in this respect, whose mission is to deal with all aspects of this subject”.

AAD
Ghazi Aad delivered the speech of SOLIDE: “We have cooperated with the ICRC for long years, which built trust between us. Today, we give it the official investigations file, or what is pretended to be investigations, and we will continue to work together until the State assumes its responsibilities towards its citizens and works to protect their rights. Only then, our role as local and international associations will be to help the State fulfill its national duty. Putting the file in the hands of the ICRC is part of integrity and preservation of rights”.
He added: “After the file handing over step, the next necessary and urgent step is entitled a DNA bank for the families of detainees and disappeared. In fact, the establishment of this information base is the simplest duty of the State, not to say the most evident; nevertheless, we still are at the stage of urging the State to accept the principle of creating a DNA bank”.

HALAWANI
The President of the Committee of the Families of the Kidnapped and Disappeared, Wadad Halawani, said: “We are a community of Lebanese from all sects; we are the only community in Lebanon without political, religious or community reference. We only address the State and only expect from the State. The only cause we have is our unique cause, and when it finds a solution with a scientific, fair and institutional approach, we will voluntarily disappear as a community”.
She added: “We are meeting today as part of a ceremony that we wanted to be official so that the families of the kidnapped and disappeared submit to the ICRC a copy of the investigations file that we have received from the presidency of the Council of Ministers after many efforts and following the binding decision of the State Council. If it was not thanks to the ICRC, we would have never been able to reach this point”.
She continued: “Thanks to the ICRC, we will not start, along with the State, from zero when the State starts to fulfill its mission to find a solution to our cause in a scientific, fair and institutional way; we will start from a base that we consider as acceptable, precious and loyal. We are giving you today, in all loyalty and trust, what we hold most dear, in order to remove it from the political and media framework”.
She said: “We ask the State to do with us and towards us what all countries that respect themselves did and are still doing towards their kidnapped and disappeared citizens, admitting their cause, looking for them, determining their fate and respecting their families, and I am saying this under the supervision of State representatives who know what I mean. Once again, I thank President Selim Al-Hoss who “formed the first official committee to ask about our loved ones in 2000 that is handing over today the investigations file to the ICRC. Once again, I thank his Excellency President Tammam Salam for implementing the decision issued by the State Council to give us a copy of this file. In both cases, i.e. the formation of the Committee and the handing over of the investigations file, these are two achievements realized after the campaign called “Hakna Na3ref” went to the street”.
She added: “The scientific, fair and institutional solution of our cause consists in two points:
First: Recognize us; recognize our cause and our sons through the establishment of the DNA bank and the signature of the convention, which has been waiting in drawers for two years, between the ICRC and the Lebanese Government. With DNA, the identity is protected from death that pursues the families and given to the bones appearing successively in the sites and accumulated in morgues”.
Second: Determine our sons’ fate by promulgating a scientific and fair law in the Parliament, just as the parliaments of the world; a law closing the file of war because it is still opened; a law that forgives, if you want, the kidnappers but is not free from determining the fate of its parents and kidnapped or disappeared citizens”.
She concluded: “I take this opportunity to show our solidarity with the families of the kidnapped elements of the Lebanese Army and Security Forces who suffer pains we have already experienced. I hope that these families find their children safe and sound as soon as possible without being obliged to join our ranks”.

CARBONI
The President of the mission of the Red Cross in Lebanon Fabrizzio Carboni said: “We are totally aware of our role and our responsibility in the examination of these documents and we hope that this will facilitate our work concerning our support of “the right to know” of the families of disappeared in order to give answers to the families who are suffering permanent pain”.
He added: “The ICRC launched, a few weeks ago, a program to accompany the families of the disappeared in the Province of Sayda, in collaboration with a number of local and international organizations and institutions. We will start to implement the psycho-social support groups program at the beginning of January with the families in the same region. With time, this program will expand to reach other Lebanese provinces”.
He continued: “In the absence of an official institution responsible for this file, and knowing that there is no procedure in this respect, the ICRC considers that it has a moral duty towards the families of those disappeared and that it must act. That is why it decided to launch, in 2012, a program at the national level to collect data on the disappeared from before their disappearance through their families. My colleagues have conducted, until now, 1700 interviews as a result of this work with the families of those disappeared who shared with us all available information on their loved ones before their disappearance”.
He said: “In conformity with international practices, the information that we collect will be submitted to a future neutral national body that will work to give answers to the families of the disappeared on their loved ones’ fate. According to the ICRC, it is necessary for this institution or body to emanate from the Lebanese Parliament, through a law related to the disappeared, as the case is in many other countries that suffer from similar circumstances. This draft law is currently in progress; that is why I take this opportunity to encourage politicians to support the said law when discussed at the Parliament’s next session”.
He added: “The second step of the ICRC project related to the disappeared consists in collecting DNA samples from the families we have already interviewed. The plan requires that elements from the criminal section of the Internal Security Forces (ISF) collect DNA samples with the technical support of the ICRC. Two samples will be taken for each case, the first one to be kept with the ISF and the second one at the ICRC headquarters in Geneva. We found an excellent support from the ISF during the first phase of the said project, and I would like to thank them for that”.
He continued: “The ICRC project for the collection of DNA samples is ready, but has not been approved yet given the complicated political situation these last years. However, the authorities’ reaction in this respect was encouraging. In order to facilitate the operation of approval of the project by the Lebanese authorities, the ICRC wrote a simple version of the project to be submitted to the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities in a few days. In addition, the ICRC Director, Peter Maurer, will submit it to the Prime Minister during his visit to Lebanon next January. We hope and we are rather sure that we will obtain the approval to start working on this project at the beginning of 2015”.
He said: “Unfortunately, time is no longer on our side, or on that of the families of the disappeared, because most of those who disappeared during the war are twenty-old-year men and their parents have reached the age of seventy, if they are not already dead. It is an urgent file; entire generations have the right to know what happened before it is too late”.
He concluded by confirming that the Committee is engaged towards the cause of those disappeared and their families and it insists on “supporting the efforts to find a solution to this humanitarian tragedy that lasted a long time”.

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