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LEBANON: Disappearances

June 2011

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LEBANON: Disappearances

“I want my son back. We all want our sons back – even if it is in a coffin.”

Amineh ‘Abd al-Husri, 78, continues to campaign vigorously for the truth about what happened to her son Ahmed who disappeared in Beyrouth in 1986.

The bitter civil war that wracked Lebanon from 1975 to 1990 was a series of interconnected conflicts involving many parties. It pitted the country’s different faith communities against one another and led to direct armed intervention by Israel and Syria, often in alliance with different Lebanese factions.

Thousands of people who disappeared during the civil war and its aftermath are still missing. Some were detained by different parties to the conflict, and were sometimes transferred out of the country. Others may have been killed in the fighting or caught up in the massacres that punctuated the war and dumped in mass graves. Others simply vanished.

Besides the endless pain and anguish, the disappearance without trace, in many cases of the family’s breadwinner, has left families destitute. A woman whose husband is missing is neither a married woman nor single, divorced or a widow, and she has to face serious problems and obstacles linked to the low status of women in Lebanese society.

The Lebanese authorities must take steps to establish an independent commission to fully investigate the fates of those thousands of missing people. Through DNA testing, science provides a means today of finding the identities of people who went missing in the civil war in a way that was just not possible then.

The Lebanese authorities have done little to establish the fate and whereabouts of the missing people and nothing to bring perpetrators to justice, despite the scale and gravity of the issue and the tenacious lobbying of families. The Israeli and Syrian authorities have also failed to investigate satisfactorily any abductions or killings for which their forces were allegedly responsible. Similarly, with the significant exception of the case of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri in 2005 and related attacks, the international community has shown no interest in opening inquiries at an international level.

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