Montreal, Canada - December 31, 2004

December 2004 - Vol. 16

RCPL December 2004 Newsletter includes the following items:

1.
Red Cross declares it has no access to Syrian prisons
2.
Lebanon should adopt a law that respects the rights of citizens to be truly represented
3. Syrian troops pull out from three positions in Lebanon


1. Red Cross declares it has no access to Syrian prisons

On November 24, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) - Quebec division declared in a letter that it has no access to Syrian prisons. ICRC's declaration came in response to two detainees’ friends who demanded from the ICRC to convey a letter to the two detainees in their detention center (
please click here to read the CICR letter). 
The detainees are Karam and Ziad Morkos, two Lebanese musicians held in Syrian prisons since 1984. For more information about their case,
please click here.

RCPL has always expressed its concern about the fate of hundreds of Lebanese still detained in Syrian prisons for political reasons. The ICRC statement does not but confirms these concerns. The whereabouts of hundreds of Lebanese detainees in Syrian prisons is still unknown and they have always been denied access to fair legal counseling and contact from their families and NGOS. This constitutes a serious violation of the international commitments of Syria as per the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, more specifically articles 9 and 10. So far, several Lebanese have died under torture in Syrian prisons.

Given the seriousness of the situation, RCPL urges once again the Canadian government to use all diplomatic ways to pressure the Syrian government in order to:
1. Allow the ICRC and other NGOS the right to visit the Lebanese detainees in their prisons.
2. Release all the Lebanese detained in Syrian prisons.


2. Lebanon should adopt a law that respects the rights of citizens to be truly represented

Few months prior to the parliamentary elections in spring 2005, several shortcomings appear to hamper the electoral process and to threaten the basic principles of a healthy democratic system. This mainly stems from the delay in releasing the electoral law that determines the geographical and demographical basis of the elections. This delay constitutes a serious violation of the democratic process, based on the right of potential candidates to have enough time to prepare their electoral campaigns, whether by defining their political alliances or their potential voters. The increasing trend for the Lebanese government to change the electoral law shortly before every election raises many questions about the transparency and neutrality of the government in running these elections. Furthermore, the large number of the cabinet members that are running for the elections does not add in favor of the neutrality of the government in preparing for these elections. Finally, at least one allegation of falsified voter lists has already been reported in the Metn region. These lists appear to contain names of dead people as potential voters.

For all these reasons, RCPL urgently calls the Lebanese government to respect the democratic process and to release a fair representative electoral law as soon as possible. RCPL reminds the Lebanese government that it is of extreme importance that this law will be modeled in a way to respect the right of citizens to be truly represented in the parliament.


3. Syrian troops pull out from three positions in Lebanon

On December 18, Syria pulled out its security forces from three key positions in Beirut and north Lebanon and redeployed them in eastern Lebanon. Syria still has around 14,000 soldiers in Lebanon. 

RCPL welcomes this step and calls on the Syrian government to proceed to further positive initiatives by respecting the UNSCR 520 and 1559 as well as the Taef Accord signed on 1989 that calls for the full withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon within two years from the date of the agreement.

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