ICTJ: Confronting the Legacy of Political Violence in Lebanon - An Agenda for Change

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Lebanon should take firm steps to provide redress to victims of past conflicts and help prevent future violence, the International Center for Transitional Justice and Lebanese rights groups said today at a roundtable discussion in Beirut. Lebanese authorities have mostly failed in their responsibility to end ongoing violations and ensure justice and truth for victims of the 1975-1990 war and successive conflicts.

Fulfilling these recommendations is an essential first step to creating a Lebanese society that is inclusive, equitable, just, and viable.

Lebanon should take firm steps to provide redress to victims of past conflicts and help prevent future violence, the International Center for Transitional Justice and Lebanese rights groups said today at a roundtable discussion in Beirut. Lebanese authorities have mostly failed in their responsibility to end ongoing violations and ensure justice and truth for victims of the 1975-1990 war and successive conflicts.

The roundtable centered on a new 41-page publication, “Confronting the Legacy of Political Violence in Lebanon: An Agenda for Change”, which outlines a set of political and social reforms to address the well-documented and widespread violations committed against civilians in Lebanon since the beginning of the war in 1975. These include killings, enforced disappearance, displacement, torture, and illegal detention of Lebanese in Lebanon, Syria and Israel.

The recommendations were developed by a consortium of 22 Lebanese civil society organizations and 10 leading Lebanese academics, over a 10-month period of research and analysis.

“The recommendations are aimed at strengthening the ability of state institutions to meet their obligations to provide a measure of accountability and uphold victims’ rights,” said David Tolbert, President of ICTJ, who spoke at the roundtable on institutional reform and the rule of law. “Taken together, they have the overarching goal of addressing the root causes of recurring violence in Lebanon and acknowledging those who have been most affected by it.”

Among the recommended reforms, the consortium calls on Parliament to amend Clause 9, Article 53 of the Constitution to introduce a statement that prohibits the granting of general or individual amnesties related to genocide, war crimes, or crimes against humanity. According to the consortium, “The absence of accountability for gross violations and the selective approach to criminal justice – often prompted by political power-sharing agreements – has left victims bereft of their right to justice.”

The consortium also recommends that the Council of Ministers issue an executive decree outlining reparation mechanisms for the relatives of missing and forcibly disappeared persons. In designing a reparations program, the Council should take into account the particular hardships caused to women who must become the head of household after the disappearance of a husband, father, or brother, or to children after the disappearance of a parent or guardian.

“Fulfilling these recommendations is an essential first step to creating a Lebanese society that is inclusive, equitable, just, and viable,” said Carmen Hassoun Abou Jaoudé, Head of ICTJ’s Office in Lebanon, in opening the roundtable. “Society must be perceived as fair by Lebanon’s citizens.”

The recommendations are supported by three recent reports by ICTJ on political violence in Lebanon.

The study revealed the dominant, yet unsurprising, perception that the “war is not over.” Most participants believed that Lebanon is far from being a stable, rights-respecting society because of ongoing regional instability and a lack of institutional reforms. Findings also included a lack of public trust in the current political leadership and existing government structures to advance reforms that are effective and nonpartisan.

  • A January 2014 ICTJ report, “Failing to Deal with the Past: What Cost to Lebanon?”, examines the persistent culture of impunity in Lebanon and the measures taken by successive Lebanese governments to address serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law through prosecutions, institutional reform, truth seeking, and reparation since 1990 – and why these measures have mostly fallen short of guaranteeing victims’ rights.
  • A September 2013 ICTJ report, “Lebanon’s Legacy of Political Violence: A Mapping of Serious Violations of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in Lebanon,” 1975-2008”, details information on hundreds of incidents of serious human rights violations that occurred in Lebanon from 1975 to 2008. It is the first effort to gather existing reports of political violence, from newspapers, journals, reports and other records, together in one place.

The roundtable and four publications are part of a multi-year project titled “Addressing the Legacy of Conflict in a Divided Society” – which is intended to support and inform debates on the legacy of political violence in Lebanon. It was funded for two years by the European Union and then more recently by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.

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