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Testimony at the UN

UN WATCH ORAL STATEMENT TO UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
GENEVA, 24 MARCH 2004

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ITEM 8:  QUESTION OF THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES, INCLUDING PALESTINE

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SYRIAN HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN OCCUPIED LEBANON

Hillel Neuer, Executive Director, UN Watch



Mr. Chairman,

On behalf of United Nations Watch, I call upon the Commission of Human Rights to act immediately to end the systematic and severe violation of international human rights and international humanitarian law by 20,000 Syrian forces occupying Lebanon for decades.  Syria’s denial of the Lebanese nation’s inherent right to self-determination, its suppression of their fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and of political association, is symptomatic of the Syrian regime’s overall disregard and disdain for human dignity and human rights.  This approach was underscored in recent weeks by Syrian police crackdowns against peaceful human rights protesters in Damascus, and the killing of Kurds in Qamishli.

Mr. Chairman,

 According to the last annual report by Freedom House entitled “The World’s Most Repressive Regimes,” the Syrian occupation force since 1990 has “consolidated its control over Lebanese state institutions, particularly the presidency, the judiciary, and the security forces.  […] Syrian-controlled security agencies monitor the telephones of both cabinet ministers and political dissidents.” 

Syria’s domination of Lebanon translates into a daily assault on freedom and democracy.  For example, in September 2002, security forces closed Murr Television, an independent station that had covered government crackdowns and given voice to political dissidents.  In that same year, two prominent public figures, including a student opposition activist, were assassinated, reportedly after quarrelling with pro-Syrian politicians.  This kind of Syrian repression and intimidation of the Lebanese people occurs every day.

Mr. Chairman,

Only moments ago, the distinguished ambassador of the Syrian Arab Republic stated that his government welcomes and cooperates with missions to his country that investigate actions of Israel.  I invite the ambassador now to welcome a Commission decision to immediately send an independent Rapporteur into Syrian-occupied Lebanon to investigate Syria’s grave violation of international human rights and international humanitarian law.

The distinguished ambassador also asked the following question:  “If Syria defied a UN resolution, what would the consequences be?”

Mr. Chairman,

Syria’s occupation of Lebanon is in open violation of Security Council Resolution 425 and Resolution 520, which demand the restoration of Lebanese sovereignty.  What are the consequences of this Syrian defiance?  So far, nothing.  The Commission must act now to change that.  Thank you.

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SYRIAN AND LEBANESE AMBASSADORS REPLY TO UN WATCH

(As summarized by official UN Protocols)

                 

Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe, Permanent Representative of the
Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations


MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syrian Arab Republic), speaking in a right of reply with regard to the statement by United Nations Watch, said that the views expressed had been listened to carefully. The Representative of that organization had not been addressing the agenda item, and Syria wished to ask how a reference could be made to Syria when it was not the topic of the agenda item. It was hoped that the Commission would not be used as a platform for jokes. The Syrian forces in Lebanon were there as part of fraternal relations between the two nations, and at the request of the fraternal people of Lebanon to help them and protect their security and peace. Syria did not intend to stay permanently, but would remain as long as Lebanon needed this help for its security. With regard to the Kurdish issue, Syria was one of the best countries in the world for peace, and the NGO was welcome to visit to assure himself that all peoples, regardless of ethnicity, lived there in peaceful coexistence.

GEBRAN SOUFAN (Lebanon), speaking in a right of reply in reference to the statement by United Nations Watch, said Lebanon did not ask anyone to speak on its behalf on the matter of occupation, and it did not engage any person as a spokesperson. The only occupation of concern to Lebanon was that carried out by Israeli forces. Lebanon thanked the NGO for its concern.
 

________________________________________________

UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE: 
UN WATCH JUSTIFIED IN DISCUSSING SYRIA

(As summarized by official UN Protocols)

JEFFREY DE LAURENTIS (United States) said in a right of reply that it was abundantly clear that this agenda item was unfair and biased. In the view of the title of the item, it did not do a disservice to the Commission to let the representative of United Nations Watch speak.





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