The Lebanese Center for Human Rights organized, in cooperation with the Euro-Mediterranean Federation against Enforced Disappearance, a roundtable discussion entitled " Guidelines on the Research of Enforced Disappearances " on Saturday, February 15, 2020, in order to discuss guidelines set by the UN Committee against Enforced Disappearances for the purpose of organizing researchers' work on issues of enforced disappearances.
The event comes of great importance following CLDH’s participation in drafting Law (105) on Missing and Forcibly Disappeared Persons in Lebanon in 2018, and its continuous involvement in the topic of enforced disappearances since its establishment.
The discussion aimed on sharing research guidelines and tools with local and International NGOs, in addition to focusing on the importance of the National Human Rights Commission’s role in addressing the issue of enforced disappearance through the tools presented.
The methods of pressuring the Lebanese state were also discussed with the need to ratifying Lebanon's international treaty on enforced disappearance and affiliation with the International Committee for Enforced Disappearance through the establishment of the National Commission for Enforced Disappearance.
The first session included an introduction around enforced disappearances, where Regional Representative of OHCHR for the Middle East and North Africa, Ms. Roueida Al-Hajj, introduced international treaties and emphasized on the need to adopt international frameworks that contribute to reducing such committed crimes.
This was followed by a speech by Head of the Committee of the Families of Kidnapped and the Disappeared in Lebanon, Ms. Wadad Halwani, who displayed the reality of enforced disappearance in Lebanon and reinforced the necessity of implementing Law (105) of Missing and Enforced Disappearance and articles and implementing the law’s mentioned penalties.
The President of the European Union for the Mediterranean on Enforced Disappearances, Ms. Nassera Dutour, spoke afterwards about the importance of the right to know especially for the families of the forcibly disappeared.
The President of the Lebanese Center for Human Rights and Euromed Rights Mr. Wadih Al-Asmar concluded the session by re-assuring the need to focus on the legal aspect and to activate the law as no national committee for enforced disappearance was established and no proper implantation of law (105) has been managed by the Lebanese government.
He also indicated that many authoritative parties are aware of the whereabouts of some of the disappeared persons, yet none of the perpetrators have been held accountable.
During the second session, the research frameworks and guidelines for searching for hidden and disappeared people were discussed as the session was facilitated by the Programs’ Manager at the Lebanese Center for Human Rights, Ms. Josiane Noun.
The Ex-Vice President of the UN Committee against Enforced Disappearances, Mr. Rainer Huhle presented guidelines for the search for forcibly disappeared persons and distributed brochures that include the basic principles of searching for forcibly disappeared.
Some of which were assuming that the hidden person is alive and respecting human dignity during the search, organizing a general policy for searches, observing special needs during searches, respecting the right to participate, and other principles that were explained to attendees.
Huhe also emphasized that these principles are primarily directed to governments to ratify the Lebanon's International treaty on Enforced Disappearance.
After the recommendations, Deputy Protection Coordinator in Charge of Missing in Lebanon at International Committee of Red Cross, Ms. Mike Groen said: “For the ICRC, addressing the question of missing persons is a humanitarian priority. As most participants to this conference will know, the ICRC has an extensive missing persons mandate that is inclusive of but goes beyond the forcibly disappeared. The passage of Law 105 on the Missing and Forcibly Disappeared in November 2018 represents a milestone for the families who have waited for years to have answers. This remains a historical moment to seize upon and brings a collective responsibility to authorities, the civil society and the humanitarian community at large in which ICRC is ready to take its share. The ICRC is committed to exploring concrete opportunities for complementarity, together with a broad range of actors, in order to provide families with the answers they deserve.”
In a legal context, lawyer and former deputy Ghassan Moukhaiber explained the law (105) of enforced disappearance in Lebanon, where he presented the most important principles of the law such as: the right to know, the right to carry out, the right to access information, the right to treatment without discrimination, and the right to material and moral compensation.
Moukeiber then mentioned that the need to create a commission for Enforced Disappearances is mentioned by the law as it includes the formation of a body of ten people in which the families of missing persons and their associations are represented, but such commission has not yet been formed.
According to the law, the commission should include very broad powers such as ensuring the safety of witnesses, exploration of places of burial where the topic, and the development of legal and inspection experts, for example.
The conference was concluded by a general discussion about the possibility of activating the National Commission for Enforced Disappearances and its working methods in Lebanon, and the necessity of completing efforts between the Lebanese authorities and the National Commission for Human Rights to implement the law related to enforced disappearance.
It was also stressed that the official authorities should know the research guidelines presented at the conference, in addition to working on the integrity of the judiciary in order to hold perpetrators of enforced disappearances’ crimes accountable.