Lebanese Rights Group Calls for International Probe Into Mass Graves
A Lebanese non-governmental organization called Friday for an international probe into the "very possible existence" of mass graves following a 1990 Syrian-led military offensive in the country.
A letter to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson from the US-based World Lebanese Organization (WL0) has drawn her attention to "the very strong possibility of the existence of mass graves in the areas of Beirut and (its eastern suburbs of) Baabda."
The group said "hundreds of Lebanese soldiers who have surrendered to the Syrians as well as civilians and religious figures were captured, tortured and executed by those forces" in 1990.
It said the areas mentioned "can now be accessed by international investigators as a result of the partial Syrian military re-deployment" in Lebanon since June 14.
"If such mass graves exist, and contain the remains of up to 400 bodies of Lebanese nationals, this matter should engage the responsibility of the international community and the United Nations," said the WLO letter, a copy of which was obtained by AFP in Beirut.
Syrian troops, with Lebanese army forces, launched a military offensive in 1990 that defeated rebel army troops loyal to General Michel Aoun, who had declared a "war of liberation" against the Syrians.
"Since 1990 it was impossible to local families and human rights groups to search for the bodies. Reports provided by Lebanese human rights organizations as well as from the families of the victims confirm that mass graves exist in the suburbs of Beirut and the Baabda district in the vicinity of the areas evacuated by the Syrian troops."
Solide, another Lebanese NGO for the support of detained and exiled Lebanese, said on June 21 that two Christian priests, Albert Sherfan and Soleiman Abu Khalil, had been buried in 1990 in a mass grave in Lowaizeh, near Baabda.
Solide said there might be another mass grave in Beit Meri, a village in the Metn mountains east of Beirut, containing the bodies of soldiers and civilians killed in the 1990 offensive that sent Aoun to exile in France.
The WLO web site says the organization stands for the "freedom, independence and sovereignty of Lebanon" and for the "self determination of its Christian people, as well as to human rights and democracy for all people in the Middle East." -- BEIRUT (AFP)