Laval, Canada - October 17, 2002

Will the Francophonie Summit help Lebanon halt its ascent into the ranks of totalitarian regimes? 

From October 18 to 21, the IXth Summit of the heads of the French-speaking countries will be held in Beirut, formerly known as the "Switzerland" of the Middle East. Lebanon, in spite of its membership in the French-speaking international organization, is currently the scene of serious abuses of human rights and an alarming corruption level that has plunged the country into a debt exceeding the 32 billion US dollars, or 200% of GNP. Violent arrests of professionals and students, torture, detention without warrant, harassment of detained women, interference in elections, and oppression of the press have become a daily practice, thus violating human rights, as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which Lebanon is signatory.

The regime arrested in August 2001 over 300 professionals and students who peacefully expressed their opposition to the Syrian hegemonic presence in Lebanon, which is required to withdraw in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolution 520. The assassination of the engineer called Ramzi Irani and the death of Adel Ajouri under torture are all symptoms of a rising dictatorship. 

Recently, the freedom of press was a victim. While the fundamental values of the Francophonie include freedom, the Lebanese state closes and threatens closure to media outlets in politically maneuvered ways. The television station MTV, known for openly criticizing government policies, was shutdown in an abrupt and violent manner, which resulted in over 500 employees forcefully beaten out of their offices. 

In the next few days, our Prime Minister will lead a delegation that includes hundreds of politicians, bureaucrats and dignitaries, to the Francophonie summit in Beirut, Lebanon. Canada should lead the initiative of pressuring the Lebanese government to conform to the guiding principles of Francophonie, which is to promote democracy and to respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Francophonie must send observations missions to Lebanon to monitor the progress in regard to democratizing political system, respecting human rights and monitoring the independence of institutions such as the judiciary. The Francophonie has sent over 30 missions for similar reasons to several other countries since 1998. If the members of the Francophonie turn a blind eye to atrocities in Lebanon, then it loses its "raison d'être" and does not instill its values to promote the human rights and the democracy.

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