By Simona Sikimic
Friday, December 24, 2010
BEIRUT: Lebanon must urgently ratify the UN convention on forced disappearance, a collection of activists said Thursday as the global treaty went into effect.
Some 21 countries have now fully adopted the accord but 87 states, including Lebanon, have only signed and not ratified the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
“Lebanon is directly affected by the enforced disappearances, as 17,000 Lebanese persons are still missing to date,” Rassemblement Wahdatouna Khalasouna (Our Unity is Our Salvation), an umbrella organization for 26 Lebanese NGOs, said in a statement.
“Relatives of the disappeared persons have been waiting for too long for their state to take serious actions instead of making promises.
“We question the reasons which prevent this ratification and we find it hard to believe that this is the result of mere negligence,” the statement added.
The legally binding instrument outlaws forced disappearances and grants additional rights to victims.
The instrument also gives relatives of the disappeared more authority with which to investigate kidnappings and subjects the state to regular, potentially punitive, international inspections that evaluate implementation.
Almost four years after the UN treaty was signed, ratification remains an important objective of the current government but with the decision-making apparatus gridlocked over the issue of “false witnesses,” treaty accession looks unlikely in the near future.
When pressed on the issue of forced disappearances at November’s UN Universal Periodic Review, addressing the human-rights situation in Lebanon, government representatives failed to give a definitive commitment and promised to review the situation in March 2011.
“Lebanon has to overcome the legacy of its past,” Human Rights Watch Lebanon director Nadim Khoury told The Daily Star. “We all know what needs to be done. A sufficiently independent commission needs to be set up to investigate DNA evidence and the like.”
Encouraging legal proceeding about the exploration at Beirut’s Mar Mitr and Horj Beirut mass graves must be continued, and investigation of cases under the jurisdiction of Sidon’s Criminal Court stepped up, the collection of NGOs said.
“For the thousands of relatives of the disappeared persons waiting to know the truth, this convention is a message of hope,” said Rassemblement Wahdatouna Khalasouna. “Ratification will send a powerful message … and enhance the transferability of the Lebanese state not only vis-a-vis its citizens … and the international community.”
The US, UK, China and Russia have all failed to sign the convention which opened up for membership in 2007. Iraq will partially implement the treaty after ratifying it on December 23.