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Friday, December 2, 2016

OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT MICHEL AOUN ON THE STATUS OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN LEBANON

Beirut, December 1st, 2016 - The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) calls on the Lebanese President, General Michel Aoun, to take decisive actions and fulfill his responsibilities in all matters of human rights, as they are inherent to his mandate as the new President of the Republic.

His Excellency General Michel Aoun, President of the Republic of Lebanon,

The Lebanese Center for Human Rights congratulates you on your election and hopes that you take all possible measures to effectively promote the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Lebanon, endorsed by The Lebanese Constitution and the country’s international commitments.

CLDH has been established in Lebanon since 2006 and represents the extension of SOLIDA association (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily), which has been active since 1996 on issues of enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture and impunity. Over time, CLDH has broadened its mandate to the fight against discrimination, racism and ensure the protection of refugees’ rights.

Unfortunately, Lebanon's picture today is very bleak, and every day, individuals –  often among the most vulnerable – become victims of an out-of-control system that violates fundamental human rights. There is no justification for torturing persons presumed innocent; having detainees languish in prison without access to a fair trial; arbitrarily holding in custody refugees by police and General Security officers for the sole reason of being a “refugee” because the State does not recognize such status; arresting children and separating them from their parents because they are undocumented; neglecting the families of the disappeared and not giving them any answer to their cases – but instead, using their cause as a showcase by politicians who do nothing to help them; not holding accountable human rights abusers, slavers, including  criminals nor bringing them before justice. 

Using the argument of the fight against terrorism, the promotion of national security or the existence of various emergencies to justify this situation, is a shameful demagogic and electoral response making Lebanon a State that fails to uphold the Rule of Law, as evidenced by the current situation in the country.

As the President of the Republic, you enjoy the power to act decisively on the following immediate steps, and we have no doubt you shall take into consideration the following:

-    To grant a presidential pardon for any person arrested before 2005 from the time of the Syrian army occupation insofar as Justice at that time enjoyed no independence;

-    To have a case-by-case review of the records of any person who has suffered an unfair trial after 2005 in order to grant presidential pardons for all doubtful cases when it is not possible to reconsider the case by an independent court;

-    To immediately establish the National Commission on Enforced Disappearances in the form of a decree as presented to the Government by Minister Chakib Qortbaoui;

-    To take firm public positions on refugees by condemning all arrests related solely to the legal status of persons. Only persons formally accused by the Justice (and not on the basis of an officer's statement) of a crime or offense shall be arrested;

-    To order the immediate protection by the Lebanese State services of any foreigner having fled his/her country and present within Lebanon’s territory - and safeguarding their basic human rights;

-    To take firm public positions on the fact that migrant workers, including domestic workers, should enjoy the same rights as Lebanese nationals and that the so-called "kafala" system is a legitimation of slavery

-    To have a peaceful, anti-racist and non-discriminatory discussion in all circumstances aiming at effectively alleviating social cleavages between Lebanese people on the one hand, and between refugees and local communities on the other hand.

The global trend towards human rights violations can be thwarted and we want Lebanon, for once, to become an example of compliance with its international commitments. At this time, most of those measures remain solely in your hands.

In anticipation of your positions and actions, please accept, Mr. President, our highest consideration.

The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH)

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