(Beirut) - Human Rights Watch launched its Beirut Committee on December 1, 2010, in a move to intensify its advocacy on key human rights issues both in Lebanon and around the world, Human Rights Watch said today.

"The Beirut committee of Human Rights Watch brings together committed and influential Lebanese to raise awareness of human rights issues, and to apply pressure at the highest levels to achieve change," said Hassan Elmasry, a member of Human Rights Watch's international board who attended the dinner. "They share one vision - a Lebanon and a world with greater justice and security, where the rights of all people are respected."

The Beirut committee, Human Rights Watch's first in the Middle East, joins 18 other committees around the world that seek to increase awareness of local and global human rights issues and to enlist the public and government to support basic freedoms for all.

The founding members of the new Beirut committee, who come from backgrounds in law, business, philanthropy, and academia, are Chadia El Meouchi, Ali Ghandour, Mohamed Alem, Farouk Jaber, and Paul Salem.

The announcement was made at a Human Rights Watch dinner at the Linda Sursock villa in Beirut. It was the group's first Voices for Justice dinner in the Middle East. Members of the Human Rights Watch international board as well as members from London, Zurich, New York, Riyadh, Hamburg, Geneva, Chicago, and Munich attended the dinner on December 1, which hosted a large group of Lebanese supporters. Marcel Ghanem, a journalist, opened the event with an impassioned speech for the protection of human rights in Lebanon.

Human Rights Watch has worked on Lebanon since the 1990s and has had staff based in Beirut since 2006. It played a leading role in documenting attacks on civilians during the July 2006 war and successfully lobbied for the adoption of an international treaty banning the use of cluster munitions. Since 2008, it has conducted an intensive advocacy campaign in Lebanon to broaden public awareness of the human rights abuses faced by migrant domestic workers and to press for labor rights reform. The group has also highlighted the plight of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees in Lebanon and the need to investigate continuing allegations of ill-treatment and torture in detention facilities.

"The new Beirut committee will not only strengthen our local capacity to project our message. It will also contribute to our global defense of human rights by enlisting the help of important voices from the Middle East," said Nadim Houry, Beirut director at Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch monitors and reports on international human rights, refugee, and humanitarian law issues in some 90 countries around the world. Recent investigations have documented ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan, irregularities in Egypt's recent parliamentary elections; repression in Tibet; violations of workers' rights in the United States by European multinational corporations; and the use of degrading "finger" tests on rape survivors in India. Human Rights Watch regularly meets with government officials to urge changes in policy and practice, at the United Nations, the European Union, and in capitals around the world.

Human Rights Watch is supported by contributions from private individuals and foundations worldwide. It accepts no government funds, directly or indirectly.