Montréal, Canada - September 30, 2003

September 2003 - Vol. 3

RCPL September 2003 Newsletter includes the following items:

1.
Arrest of rights activists
2.
Infringement on expression rights by charging Aoun
3.
Lebanese army patrol southern town after militia clashes
4.
Elections: appear impartial, but participation low

1. Arrest of rights activists

In the past month, Lebanon has witnessed a series of arrests to Lebanon's leading human rights activists, including Mohammed Mugrabi and Samira Trad (now released). Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch requested the immediate and unconditional release of the respected human rights activists, claiming their arrest was politically motivated. Such rare condemnations by both international organizations within a month demonstrate the importance of taking actions. RCPL urges the Canadian government to make a demarche to the Lebanese authorities in regards to these arrests.

2. Infringement on expression rights by charging Aoun

Ex-prime minister and army commander, Michel Aoun, now based in France, has been charged with infringement on state authority, exposing Lebanon to hostile military action, disturbing Lebanon's ties with a neighbouring country, endangering Lebanon's national cohesion and fanning the flames of sectarian dissension. These charges are being pressed immediately following an appearance by Aoun before the US Congress. RCPL has reasons to believe that these charges are politically motivated because of Aoun's criticism to Syria's presence in Lebanon, and subsequently entail an infringement on Aoun's rights of freedom of expression.

3. Lebanese army patrol southern town after militia clashes

RCPL has been expressing the need to disarm all non-governmental groups in Lebanon. On September 5, violent clashes between 2 prominent militias and political parties, Hizbullah and Amal, lead to the death of two people and caused the injury of several others. RCPL was impressed to have the Lebanese military and police arrive at the scene to defuse the fights and patrol the area. The Canadian authorities should clearly state in their foreign policy the need to disarm all non-governmental groups in Lebanon.

4. Elections: appear impartial, but participation low

The by-election of Baabda-Alley seat appeared to take place with impartiality, representing a fair and objective election. However, The low rate of participation might signify a lack of interest by voters, or their perceived inability to influence the outcome, as it happened in the last Metn by elections. RCPL encourages the Canadian authorities to fund human rights and democracy workshops in Lebanon, so as to increase the appreciation of these rights and institutions in Lebanon. 

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