Lebanese family members and state authorities learn from BiH experience

Article posted on June 9, 2010
Lebanese delegation during a round table with ICMP representatives, held in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A delegation consisting of 15 participants representing victims’ groups, parliamentarians, ministry representatives, judges and human rights activists and lawyers from Lebanon completed a week-long visit to the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) and to Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The purpose of this visit was to learn about ICMP’s work and the rule of law institutions in BiH involved in addressing missing persons’ rights, such as the Missing Persons Institute of BiH and the BiH Prosecutor and Court.

It is estimated that some 17,000 persons went missing during the 15-year war in Lebanon, which lasted from 1975 until 1990. An Amnesty Law that was passed immediately following the end of the conflicts prevented any serious investigation of these disappearances and the Lebanese authorities have yet to address the issue of the disappeared in a serious and effective manner. Unlike in BiH where the Law on Missing Persons was passed in 2004 to regulate the issues of exhumations, identifications and family members’ civil affairs, and BiH’s success in creating the Missing Persons Institute as a state-level institution that searches for all missing persons regardless of their various backgrounds, Lebanon has yet to start resolving this important human rights issue in a comprehensive manner.

The visit was a rare opportunity for the Lebanese delegation, consisting of state authority members and NGO representatives, to discuss and develop guidelines and recommendations for drafting Lebanese legislation that would address the families’ right to truth and respond to their needs.

During their stay in BiH, the delegation toured ICMP DNA labs and forensic facilities in Tuzla and Sarajevo where they learned about ICMP’s identification efforts and met with BiH MPI officials, the BiH Chief Prosecutor Mr. Milorad Barašin and toured the Potočari Memorial Center in Srebrenica.

“I have learned that the damage inflicted by the war on your country and on your people was much like what we have suffered in Lebanon, particularly when it comes to the horrible fate of missing persons and the anguish of their families. However, the difference is that BiH has made true and scientific efforts to solve this issue, whereas in my country, it appears that there is no political will to do anything. Our delegation wishes to apply your experiences in Lebanon so we can finally resolve the problem of the missing persons in Lebanon”, Wadad Halwani, a missing person’s wife and the president of the Committee of Families of Disappeared and Abducted Persons in Lebanon, said following the visit.

The visit was jointly organized by the ICMP, the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and the German foundation Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) with support from the European Union.

ICTJ works to redress and prevent the most severe violations of human rights by confronting legacies of mass abuse, and to achieve these ends, ICTJ links its experiences from its many field programs with its research in transitional justice. Since 2005, ICTJ has been working in Lebanon with victims’ groups, civil society organizations and officials to assist them in their efforts to deal with the legacy of the war.

FES is committed to the values of social democracy and focuses on promoting international dialogue and supports the process of democratization in developing countries.

Established at the G-7 Summit in Lyon in 1996, ICMP is based in Sarajevo and endeavors to secure the co-operation of governments and other authorities in locating and identifying persons missing as a result of armed conflicts, other hostilities or violations of human rights and to assist them in doing so. ICMP’s worldwide operations include the provision of assistance to the governments of the Western Balkans, Iraq, the Philippines, Chile and Colombia, as well as assistance to Kuwait, Norway, Thailand and South Africa.

For further information, or for photographs, please contact:

At ICMP:
Jasmina Mameledžija
Phone: +387 33 280 800 or +387 61 225 239
Email: press@ic-mp.org
Website: www.ic-mp.org

At ICTJ:
Lynn Maalouf
Phone +961 3 447 039
Email: lmaalouf@ictj.org
Website: www.ictj.org

At FES:
Badia Baydoun
Phone: +961 1 320080
Email: Badia.baydoun@feslb.org
Website: www.feslb.org