Lebanon News

Families of missing pressure government for probe report

Lebanese women hold pictures of their disappeared relatives, during a sit-in in front of the United Nations House in Beirut. (The Daily Star/Grace Kassab)

BEIRUT: Families of Lebanese who went missing during Lebanon’s 1975-1990 Civil War will begin weekly protests Thursday to pressure the Cabinet to hand over the full final report of an investigation into the fate of their loved ones.

The move comes six months after the Shura Council ruled that families had the right to have full access to the probe.

“The aim of this campaign is to pressure the government to implement the decision of the Shura Council, which grants us the right to have a copy of the full report without any omissions, exclusion or restrictions,” said Wadad Halwani, the head of the Committee of the Families of the Kidnapped and Disappeared in Lebanon.

In an interview with The Daily Star, Halwani, whose husband disappeared in September 1982, said that families had been repeatedly calling on the government to implement the decision over the past six months, but to no avail.

Families of the kidnapped and disappeared will gather from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday near the Grand Serail, where the government will be holding a session and where the report is being kept. A similar protest will be held every Thursday.

A commission, which was formed by the government of former Prime Minister Salim Hoss to investigate the fate of the missing, issued its final report in July 2000.

It said that none of the disappeared or missing had been found alive in Lebanon, adding that several mass graves were present across Lebanon.

“Grant us access to the full report and to investigations so that we know where these mass graves are, who the people who were investigated are and how these results were reached,” Halwani said, addressing the government.

The Shura Council issued a decision in March 2014, urging the Lebanese government to hand over the full files of the investigation.

But rather than implementing the decision, the government requested the freezing of the decision, saying that it jeopardized civil peace. But the Shura Council reiterated its decision in June.

There are no exact figures regarding the number of the missing, but the number is estimated to be around 17,000.

“Why doesn’t our government want to solve this problem?” Halwani said. “Why is the government turning its back on us when we have been taking to the streets for the past 40 years? We want to turn the page of the Civil War and build real peace.”

Halwani said that MP Ghassan Moukheiber was currently working on merging two draft laws into one, which would allow the formation of an independent committee to investigate the cases of the disappeared.

The weekly protests will be organized by the Committee of the Families of the Kidnapped and Disappeared in Lebanon and the Support for Lebanese in Detention and Exile group.

“We don’t want to hold those who kidnapped or killed accountable,” Halwani said. “Our only demand is to know the fate of our families.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 18, 2014, on page 4.




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