In a letter to Barak, Human Rights Watch called on Israel to permit the return of expelled families under safe conditions, free of any form of coercion or intimidation by occupation security authorities.
On October 25, Mounif Hammoud and Zaki Hassan Awada were expelled immediately upon their release from Khiam prison, according to reports from the Lebanese press and international news agencies. Mr. Awada is reportedly sixty-six years old. On July 1, 1999, two other elderly Lebanese were expelled from south Lebanon: Hassan Mohammed Said, seventy-two, and Khalil Deeb Saab, sixty-five.
On October 26, a family of four from the village of Debbin was expelled at the Kfar Tebnit crossing point. Lebanese newspapers and international news agencies identified them as Jamil Wansa, his wife, Majida, forty-two, and their children, Mansur, sixteen, and Bushra, nine. The press, citing Lebanese security sources, said that the family was expelled because they refused to permit their son to join the SLA. The reported circumstances surrounding this family's expulsion is consistent with other cases that Human Rights Watch documented in Lebanon earlier this year.
Earlier this year we obtained testimonial evidence about the practice of forced conscription into the SLA and expulsions of families from their homes and villages because male relatives, including children, either deserted the militia or fled the occupied zone in advance of conscription. In a report published in July 1999, we noted that the practice of forcing male residents of the zone to serve in the SLA is a violation of international humanitarian law. Article 51 of the Fourth Geneva Convention states in pertinent part: "The Occupying Power may not compel protected persons to serve in its armed or auxiliary forces. No pressure or progaganda which aims at securing voluntary enlistment is permitted." We called on Israel to investigate the forced conscription of Lebanese adults and children by the SLA, and to bring the practice to an immediate halt.
Human Rights Watch also made recommendations in this report aimed at bringing Israeli and SLA practices in occupied Lebanon into full compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law. We called on the government of Israel to issue clear directives to all Israeli military and intelligence forces operating in south Lebanon -- as well as to the SLA auxiliary militia -- to refrain immediately from taking any action that directly or indirectly effected, authorized, or facilitated the expulsions of civilian residents from the occupied zone. We also recommended that the government announce publicly that the practice of expulsions would cease, and that expelled families and individuals could return and recover their property under safe conditions, free of any form of corercion or intimidation from occupation security authorities. Given the legal gravity of expulsions as a matter of international humanitarian law, Human Rights Watch again appeals to your government to act on these recommendations with dispatch.
Human Rights Watch was disappointed that Israeli government representatives were not available to meet with our representatives who visited Israel in July to release the expulsions report, and that the ministry of defense did not reply to a letter sent in June to obtain information in advance of the report's publication. We repeat again our willingness to meet with you and other responsible defense ministry officials to discuss the expulsions of civilians from south Lebanon and the recommendations that we have made to your government and the international community.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter, and I look forward to a reply at your earliest convenience.
Middle East and North Africa Division
Human Rights Watch
Yossi Beilin, Minister of Justice
Dr. Ephraim Sneh, Deputy Minister of Defense
Uri Lubrani, Coordinator of Activities in Lebanon, Ministry of Defense