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The Civil War in Lebanon / The Kidnapped and Disappeared

Keeping the disappeared in public sight

by Meris Lutz for The Daily Star on Feb. 16, 2013
BEIRUT: A faded photograph of a missing father, mother, son or daughter. Bones wrapped in nylon. Official denials. The story of more than 17,000 people who disappeared in Lebanon, mostly during the Civil War, remains unfinished, shrouded in mystery.
Despite one law, three official commissions and the alleged discovery of multiple mass graves, their memory is in danger of fading before meaningful legislation can be passed to help discover their fate.

In 2008, a young artist recognized some of their faces, featured on a poster for a photo exhibit, and was haunted by the thought that they would eventually be ripped down or plastered over. Five years later, he has excavated them from beneath layers of fliers, announcements and teaser campaigns, adding the names and dates of disappearances where he could, and even filling in the faces from memory.
“I knew many of these faces and I was especially angry about what will become of them, that they will be deformed,” he says, recalling the first time he saw the posters back in 2008. “I knew that one day I would be restoring the faces.”
“We will find them – it’s impossible for someone to disappear. They’re always somewhere.”
The artist behind the project declined to be identified at the risk of distracting attention from what he considers the more important issue of what is being done to find the missing. The altered posters can be seen in the Beirut neighborhoods of Qantari and Gemmayzeh.
The Committee for the Families of the Kidnapped and Disappeared in Lebanon was formed in 1982 to offer mutual support and pressure the government to investigate the fates of citizens who disappeared. The government has launched several initiatives to this effect, but some of the families claim these overtures are intended to appease the families rather than actually investigate the cases.
In 1995, the government passed a law enabling families to declare dead anyone missing for more than four years, allowing inheritance and property rights to be settled. In 2000, it established a committee that issued a short report stating that all missing were presumed dead.
A year later, it formed a new commission to investigate the cases of Lebanese held in Syrian jails, and in 2005, the government backed a joint Syrian-Lebanese commission to look into prisoners in both countries.
source Daily Star | continue at the Press Kit

Committee of the families of the Kidnapped and Disappeared in Lebanon
Le Comité des Parents des Personnes Enlevées ou Disparues au Liban est une organisation non gouvernementale, qui s'est constituée le 17 novembre 1982, et a obtenu son statut légal 29/Ad en date du 7/3/2000.
L'association est formée des mères, pères, épouses, enfants, frères et sœurs des personnes enlevées ou disparues durant la guerre qui a débuté le 13 avril 1975 au Liban.
Les personnes enlevées et disparues sont nos partenaires dans la citoyenneté. Ils appartiennent à toutes les communautés, à toutes les régions, à toutes les affiliations intellectuelles et culturelles et à toutes les classes sociales.

Ils ont été enlevés sur les barrages de la guerre à cause de leur identité ou appartenance.
Aucun crime ne leur était reproché.
A l'arrêt des hostilités guerrières, leur nombre était estimé à 17 000.
L'association est totalement indépendante de toute affiliation politique, religieuse ou régionale.

Les objectifs de l'association
1)    Connaître le sort des personnes enlevées et disparues depuis le 13 avril 1975 et jusqu'au 26 avril 2005.
2)    Participer à l'éducation à la citoyenneté et à répandre la culture de la paix et du respect des droits humains.
3)    Œuvrer pour l'épuration de la mémoire afin de tirer les leçons du passé, et d'empêcher une répétition de la guerre.

Les revendications
1)    Faire la lumière sur le sort des personnes enlevées et disparues depuis le 13 avril 1975.
Assurer l'immédiate libération des vivants parmi elles et agir pour rendre les dépouilles mortelles des défunts à leurs familles.
2)    Etablir un système d'indemnisation équitable tant moralement que matériellement de leurs familles.
3)    Déclarer la date du 13 avril " journée nationale pour la mémoire" et faire ériger un monument pour commémorer le souvenir de toutes les victimes de la guerre au Liban.
4)    Adopter les lois intérieures nécessaires et adhérer aux conventions internationales qui empêcheraient les horreurs commises dans le passé de se reproduire.
Mettre fin à l'impunité et adhérer à la convention de Rome établissant le tribunal pénal international.

Lay the Dead to Rest, Put the Minds of their Families at Rest
by Wedad Halwani for Peace Building in Lebanon on 18th April 2018, page 7

«Even if they bring me the remains of my son, I would recognize them. Even if my son turned to bones, I would recognize my son. They can’t give me the bones of a dog. There are marks I know. I know if the remains are his or not.» This is an excerpt of Moussa Jadaa’s comments in 1997 denouncing the law issued with the title «The rules to be followed to prove the death of missing persons»*.

It seemed that Mr. Jadaa, who died less than a year after those words, had foreseen or, perhaps warned of the State possibly resorting to manipulations regarding the fate of those who were abducted by the war and the feelings of their families. He died before discovering the fate of his son and brother, and before the serial show of mass graves story began to unfold.

In January 2000, succumbing to pressure from the Our Right  to  Know  campaign launched  by  the  Committee of the Families of the Disappeared and Missing and its supporters, an «official committee» was established to investigate victims and determine their fate. Six months later, this committee published a report with the results of its work.  The  report  stated  that  it  had  not  found any  living  and  that  it had  found  mass  graves,  naming several ones. According to the report, it was impossible to identify the buried remains, as they had been buried for a long time, and Lebanon lacked the laboratory and techniques required for such tests. It was also impossible to carry out these tests abroad because of the high costs that the State treasury would incur.
What is most painful about the matter is that the Lebanese authorities have not taken any steps since then regarding these graves in accordance with the rules and procedures stipulated in international laws and treaties, particularly the First, Second and Fourth Geneva   Conventions. The State assumed that this collective obituary, not based on any concrete evidence, would put an end to the dossier of the missing by declaring them dead. Its evidence is the existence of mass graves across Lebanon.
Following the withdrawal of the Israeli occupation army from Lebanon, the domino effect set off the discovery of mass graves in several areas, especially in Southern Lebanon and the Bekaa. The same happened following Syria’s withdrawal. Perhaps shedding light on this matter would contribute to raising public awareness about this inhumane phenomenon, set right the official handling of it to show respect for the missing and their families, and pave the way to closing this dossier. For its closure would be the closure of the last of war dossiers in Lebanon.
Anyone keeping track of the official course of action would note the absence of professionalism and competence, and the disregard for international rules and standards for dealing with graves. Moreover this uncovers the flagrant politicizing of the matter in both shedding light on graves in certain areas, covering them up in others whether to the timing of discoveries or exhumations.
The discovery of the Anjar gravesite in the Bekaa and another discovery in the vicinity of the Ministry of Defense in Baabda in 2005 sparked a war of public statements between the rival parties of the war, most of whose leaders are now in power. This war began with shirking responsibility and finger pointing at each other, then alternately pointing the finger at Israel and Syria, followed by appealing to international courts, to finally turn into hurling the remains of the missing, contemptuous of the dignity of the dead and the feelings of families.
In addition, the subject was raised in Parliament during a Q&A session**. Unfortunately, no answers have been provided to date, while the questions are ever growing.
Read the full article here (page 7)