BEIRUT, February 28, 2012—A two-day roundtable discussion on a draft law on the missing and forcibly disappeared persons was held February 24–25 in Beirut, Lebanon. Organized by the Committee of the Families of the Kidnapped and Disappeared in Lebanon, Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile (SOLIDE), Act for the Disappeared, and the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), the roundtable was part of the project “Lebanon’s unaddressed legacy: the missing and the families’ right to know,” funded by the European Union (EU) and the Embassy of Switzerland in Lebanon.
The Committee of Families and SOLIDE consulted with local and international non-governmental organizations, legal and forensic experts, activists, judges, and jurists, before asking attorney Nizar Saghiyeh to develop the draft. Based on the “right to the truth” recognized in international conventions and protocols, the draft law proposes the formation of a national commission to investigate the fate of the missing and the disappeared.
Ambassador Angelina Eichhorst, head of the delegation of the EU to Lebanon; representative of the Justice Minister Massoud Nohra; and Member of Parliament Ghassan Mokheiber, along with other parliamentary representatives, international and Lebanese experts, human rights activists, and civil society organizations attended the opening session.
Ambassador Eichhorst reiterated the EU’s call for Lebanon to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and to explore full accession to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. She added the draft law is a “milestone” as it “acknowledges the basic rights of the families of the disappeared in Lebanon to know the fate of their loved ones.”
Nohra confirmed the Ministry of Justice is formulating a decree to develop a national commission addressing the issue of the forcibly disappeared persons. In his remarks Habib Nassar, director of ICTJ’s Middle East and North Africa program, praised the draft law, describing it as comprehensive and applying to all victims of enforced disappearance regardless of the perpetrators’ identity.
Discussions on the draft law and its implementation were conducted over two days, focusing on the concept of the right to truth, the importance of providing and exchanging information, and cooperation toward this end. Comparative examples were presented by international experts including Jeremy Sarkin, international legal expert and chairman of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, who was present in his personal capacity.
Nicholas Marquez-Grant from the Association for the Recovery and Recuperation of Historical Memory in Spain reflected on what his country had learned from its civil war and the importance of dealing with the past. Andreas Kleiser from the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) presented his experience in Bosnia. Fredy Peccerelli, executive director of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation, spoke on the scientific aspects of exhumation of bodies and mass graves.
The second day focused on the challenges to getting the law passed based on international and local experiences. The organization KAFA Enough Violence and Exploitation presented the perspective of a Lebanese NGO based on its experience lobbying for a law against domestic violence.
The last session focused on strategies for getting a bill passed in the Lebanese parliament. Strategies discussed included media campaigns and civil society’s role in lobbying for the draft law. Participants had the chance to raise questions and comments that will be taken into consideration as the draft law is developed.
About ICTJ The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) works to redress and prevent the most severe violations of human rights by confronting legacies of mass abuse. ICTJ seeks holistic solutions to promote accountability and create just and peaceful societies. For more information, visit www.ictj.org.
About Act for the Disappeared The mission of the Act for the Disappeared is to engage Lebanon’s youth and larger segments of society in efforts to address Lebanon’s past legacy of enforced disappearances and find a meaningful and sustainable solution to the issue of those who disappeared in the country since 1975.
About Committee of the Families of the Kidnapped & Disappeared in Lebanon Established on November 17, 1982 and is comprised of the families of the kidnapped and the disappeared. For several years, the committee has been struggling for this cause and for the right to truth.
About Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile (SOLIDE) Established in 1990 and works on the issue of the forcibly disappeared and arbitrary detention, particularly those detained in Syrian prisons.
Manal Sarrouf Resources Coordinator, Middle East and North Africa Program Phone: + 961 1 738 044 firstname.lastname@example.org
Refik Hodzic (New York) Director, ICTJ Communications Office +1 917 637 3853 Cell: +1 917 975 2305 email@example.com