Montreal, Canada - April 07, 2004

Excessive violence against human rights defenders in Lebanon

On April 7, 2004, a delegation of the families of Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons accompanied by a delegation from SOLIDE (Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile), and student representatives from several movements and parties were trying to submit a petition of 10,000 signatures demanding the release of their relatives detained in Syrian prisons to Mr. RAWDHA, the Human rights officer in ESCWA (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia)- Beirut.

Right before the delegation could enter the ESCWA building, the Internal Security and the Lebanese Army forces suddenly intervened with an excessive and unjustified violence to prevent the delegation from reaching the office of Mr. RAWDHA. As a result, at least 25 persons were beaten, injured, and/or arrested including human rights defenders, mothers of detainees, and university students. Among those was the president of SOLIDE, Mr. Ghazi Aad whose wheelchair was broken, Sami Gemayel, Eddy Chamoun, Amin Aswad, Janeot Chlala, Elie Sarkis, Elie Hayek, Toni Orion, Jean-Paul Dib, Roy Rahhal, Jamal Jammal, Joy Aswad, Elie Badran, Toni Safi, and Rony Chediak.

RCPL is gravely concerned and outraged by the fierce attack the Lebanese government is lately leading against human rights defenders in Lebanon. 

Human rights work is protected under articles 19 and 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)*, that guarantee the freedom of expression and association, and under articles 5 and 6 of the UN Declaration on the Right of human rights defenders on March 1999**.

Such incidents can not but tarnish the image of Lebanon worldwide as a country that protects and respects human rights. They also constitute a grave violation of Lebanon’s international commitments as per the Universal Declaration of Human rights and ICCPR.

RCPL urges the Lebanese Government to stop harassing human rights defenders, to respect the freedom of expression, and to take concrete measures to release Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons instead of beating their families who have been suffering for decades from the disappearance of their relatives.

RCPL also urges the Canadian government to publicly condemn the attack against human rights defenders by the Lebanese government and to start immediate discussions with the Lebanese authorities to stop human rights violations and to release all Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons.

Please sign our petition to release Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons.

* International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Article 19 
1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. 
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. 
3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: 
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; 
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals. 

Article 21
The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

** Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms: A/RES/53/144 

Article 5
For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels:
(a) To meet or assemble peacefully;
(b) To form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups;
(c) To communicate with non-governmental or intergovernmental organizations.

Article 6
Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others:
(a) To know, seek, obtain, receive and hold information about all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including having access to information as to how those rights and freedoms are given effect in domestic legislative,
judicial or administrative systems;
(b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms;
(c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters.

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