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Saturday, April 23, 2005 

Amnesty: bring Lebanese attackers to justice

US/European human rights body Amnesty International has condemned the recent attacks on Syrian workers in Lebanon. The bodies of 20 murdered Syrians have passed across the border, many of them killed by violent Lebanese right-wingers in response for the killing of Rafiq Al-Hariri, which they blame on Syria.

Amnesty calls for an end to these xenophobic attacks and calls on the Lebanese authorities to bring the attackers to trial in a hearing which meets international standards. They also want more protection for Syrians living in Lebanon.

Many of the poor Syrian workers live in tents. It's believed that many of the killings happened when the tent cities were deliberately set on fire.

Amnesty also reports that:
"in late February in ‘Aramoun, to the south of Beirut, two Syrians were killed when they were taken up to a four-storey building and thrown off the roof."

Amnesty has compiled a list of attacks:
- 31 separate incidents of Syrian workers’ temporary housing being burnt between 27 February and 23 March

- 43 separate physical attacks on Syrian workers – including with stones, sticks, guns and grenades and at times with associated robbery - between 1 March and 6 April

- two Syrian men abducted and one Syrian woman raped

- a number of Syrian workers’ vehicles being burnt or attacked

- 17 cases of threats against individuals to force them to leave the country

Meanwhile the UN is sending a team to verify the Syrian troop and intelligence pullout. The withdrawal is due to be complete next week, and the UN team will report back to Kofi Annan on the facts ont he ground. At the same time, the team will start setting up the international investigation into the murder of Rafiq Al-Hariri.

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The numbers are shocking. What are the Lebanese and Syrian governments doing about this?

i agree - its horrible, come to think of it though, Amnesty haven't said much about the thousands of deaths in Iraq..or have they?

Amnesty have been quite good, they have a page dedicated to Iraq. But they still get nearly all of their funding and workers from the West. That causes a few problems in terms of the values and agendas they hold. I'm quite sceptical of the 'universality' of rights they talk about. They are incredibly centralised, and blinkered over the agenda they pursue, and dissent is a rare thing in Amnesty - ironically!

However, their field work and gathering of reports is second-to-none. They're doing a great job, and they're still in Iraq even though most internationals have pulled out.

Iraqi and Arab based NGOs are doing a fantastic job.

Human Rights Watch is a very dangerous organisation. I'd take what they say with a large pinch of salt.

I think there's a tendency for the Syrian and Lebanese governments to bury their heads in the sand and pretend the relationship is only 'friendly and brotherly'.

They hope (as I expect) that the violence is a short-term reaction. But there's a sign that the Lebanese factions are willing to come back on to the streets, wave their own flags and declare themselves once more. That's not what the organised 'independence 05' campaign wants. They've fought hard to get only the Lebanese flag on to the streets to show a unity which doesn't exist.

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