NGO urges Arab states to sign UN anti-torture protocol

Group highlights plight of Lebanese detainees in Israel, Syria during international gathering in Geneva


BEIRUT: The Aman Network for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture in the Middle East and North Africa urged Arab states on Tuesday to sign the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture. The group also called for the creation of national committees tin every Arab country to organize "pressure campaigns" against torture, according to a statement issued by the organization during its participation in the seventh session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
In a news conference Tuesday at the headquarters of the Follow-up Committee for the Support of Lebanese Detainees in Israeli Prisons, Aman said its group was represented at the Geneva session by 15 activists from non-governmental organizations in seven countries of the Middle East and North Africa. The session runs from March 3 till March 28 at the UN headquarters.
"Aman called for allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross to enter Arab prisons and uncover the fate of the missing," the statement added.
The network also called for closing the file of political detention in Arab countries and liberating the "prisoners of opinion and conscience" in all Arab jails.
"The whole world should break its silence and insist on releasing all Arab and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and lifting the siege of the Gaza Strip," the statement added.
Aman chief Mohammad Safa said the session constituted a "historic opportunity for the organizations working in the field of rehabilitating victims of torture to activate cooperation with international organizations."
Safa explained that during the session, a report from the Khiam Rehabilitation center highlighted the conditions of human rights in Lebanon in 2007-08.
"The report tackled the issues of Lebanese detainees, cluster bombs, political assassinations, discrimination against women and the political and sectarian crises, as well as divisions among political parties," he said.
Safa said his group highlighted the suffering of the families of over 17,000 missing Lebanese, while the joint Lebanese-Syrian committee created in June 2005 to uncover the fate of 640 Lebanese detainees in Syria "has given no results so far, nor has it given any indications for easing the suffering of dozens of families."
Bassam Kantar, brother of Samir Kantar, the longest-held Lebanese prisoner in Israel, said the issue of the detainees was "strongly" present in this year's session "like every year."
"The detainees' case will remain present every day and every moment and their voice will always be heard by the UN and international forums," he said.
According to Kantar, this case has drawn the attention of UN officials "not because it deserves justice but because the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine is holding Israeli soldiers."
"Efforts are being deployed by the UN to organize a prisoners' swap," he added.

Von:, 26.03.2008

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