THE METHODOLOGY OF ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES IN LEBANON
"No one dares to say anything. The Syrians feel free to do what they want here, and no one can interfere."
-Palestinian resident of Tripoli, Lebanon, August 1996.
There is a clear pattern to the method of "disappearances" in Lebanon in the cases that Human Rights Watch has documented and examined. First, individuals are seized by Syrian intelligence operatives, usually dressed in plainclothes, sometimes with the participation of their Lebanese counterparts. No written arrest or detention orders are produced at the time of detention. Second, families experience severe suffering following these state-sanctioned abductions because Lebanese and Syrian authorities do not officially provide information about the detention, fate, or whereabouts of the "disappeared." Third, most victims in cases investigated by Human Rights Watch were tortured while in custody in Syrian detention facilities in Lebanon or while in detention in Syria. In some cases documented by Human Rights Watch, the "disappeared" have been pressured by high-ranking Syrian officers to collaborate with Syrian intelligence in Lebanon.
Apprehension and Irregular Arrest by State Agents
Human Rights Watch has identified two types of enforced disappearances in Lebanon: those that appear to be carried out solely by Syrian agents, and those in which Lebanese security forces have participated in the handover of individuals to the Syrians. One Lebanese citizen, who requested anonymity, "disappeared" in late 1993. He described what happened when two Lebanese and one Syrian, all in civilian clothes, arrived at his home in Beirut just after midnight:
One of the Lebanese asked my name, then put a .38 [caliber revolver] to my head and said that they were security. The other one had an AK-47 [machine gun]. I asked for written orders, but they showed me nothing.
He was blindfolded, his hands cuffed, and was taken away in his pajamas. "They put me in the back seat of a car and told me to keep my head down. We drove for about seven minutes, arrived at a building, and went up five flights of stairs. After this, I was in Syrian hands," he said. His blindfold was removed. He was surrounded by Syrians inplainclothes, who moved him to Syrian intelligence headquarters in Beirut, under the command of Col. Rustom Ghazali, located on Sadat Street in the Ramlet al-Baida section of west Beirut, near the Beau Rivage Hotel (an area also known as Beau Rivage). Col. Rustom Ghazali has long been identified as the head of Syrian intelligence in Beirut. This individual, who described having been interrogated and tortured in Beau Rivage, was held in Syrian custody in Lebanon for eight days, during which time his family and lawyer were unable to ascertain his whereabouts.8
Gabi `Aql Karam: "Disappeared" in January 1997
More recently, two men in plainclothes knocked at the door of the home of the mother of Gabi `Aql Karam in the Sinn al-Fil neighborhood of Beirut, looking for Karam.9 Two armed Lebanese soldiers remained outside. It was the morning of January 6, 1997. Karam was asleep and his mother woke him up. According to a written complaint filed by Muhamed Mugraby, Karam's lawyer, the two men, who identified themselves as members of Military Intelligence, asked Karam to accompany them to their headquarters so that he could be questioned. They added that Karam had committed no offense and would be returned later that day. Karam was taken to Lebanese Ministry of Defense headquarters in Yarzeh. After Karam was not returned that day, or on the two following days, his mother went to Yarzeh to inquire about him. She was reportedly told by a soldier: "You can't see him. Bring his clothes for him." When she returned the next morning with clothing, she was informed that Karam was no longer at the facility and was provided no information about his whereabouts. Karam had "disappeared." It was learned later, after Karam's release, that Lebanese authorities had turned him over to the Syrians on January 7. He was first moved from Yarzeh to Hazmiyeh, on the outskirts of Beirut, where a joint Syrian-Lebanese intelligence force is based and maintains detention facilities. From there, he was transported to the Palestine Branch of Military Intelligence in Damascus, where he was held incommunicado until March 27, 1997.
Karam was turned over to Lebanese authorities upon re-entering Lebanon and, according to his lawyer, was held in Lebanese custody at the Lebanese army garrison in Ablah in the Beqaa' valley for one week and then released on April 3, 1997.10 There was no official acknowledgment of Karam's detention by Lebanese or Syrian authorities, and there was no written reply to the abduction and unlawful detention complaint filed by Karam's lawyer on March 12, 1997 with Lebanon's chief public prosecutor Adnan Addoum.11 Karam reportedly is in poor health, is taking pain-killing medication, and is in need of medical attention.
Karam also suffered through the seven-year "disappearance" of his wife, Hala Haj, who was born in 1957. She was abducted in Beirut on January 12, 1990, near the Barbir Hospital crossing point. It was assumed for many years that she was in Syrian custody, but no one knew for certain. During his incommunicado detention in Syria in 1994, Gabi Karam thought that he heard his wife's voice, lawyer Muhamed Mugraby told Human Rights Watch. HalaHaj was finally released from Syrian custody on December 28, 1996, when she was sent back to Lebanon and transferred to the custody of the Lebanese military. She was released on January 20, 1997 - while her husband Gabi was still "disappeared"- and currently faces charges before the military court for alleged "contacts with agents of the enemy," according to Mugraby. Hala Haj reportedly was tortured repeatedly during her long years in custody in Syria and required five surgical procedures while she was in Syria. These included three surgeries to stop internal bleeding, and two to remove infected tissue from the area around her nose. Her left retina was also damaged, seriously impairing the vision in her left eye. As a result of injuries that Haj sustained, she also suffers from hearing problems and is in need of medical attention, Human Rights Watch learned.
Magi `Aql Karam: "Disappeared" in March 1997
In contrast to the cases described above, Syrian agents in Lebanon have also taken individuals into custody on their own. Gabi Karam's sister Magi `Aql Karam was detained and "disappeared" in March 1997, three months after her brother's "disappearance." Magi Karam, who was born in 1953, lives with her husband and six children in the Beqaa' valley. According to the written complaint filed by her lawyer Muhamed Mugraby, Magi Karam reported to Syrian security forces in Chtoura, in the Beqaa', on March 1, 1997, after she was summoned there for questioning about an unspecified matter. Karam, who had previously been arrested and tortured, reportedly was terrified.12 Mugraby filed a written complaint of unlawful detention with public prosecutor Adnan Addoum on March 15, 1997.13 He received no written reply to this complaint, and there is no evidence that Lebanese authorities began an investigation of this "disappearance." Magi Karam was released from Syrian custody on March 27, 1997. After her release, it was learned that she had been held incommunicado in the Palestine Branch of Military Intelligence in Damascus.
Bashir al-Khatib: "Disappeared" in July 1996
In another case, Bashir al-Khatib, who was born in 1957 and is the father of four children, was apprehended in the northern city of Tripoli by a high-ranking officer in the Syrian security forces on or about July 8, 1996, according to information obtained by Human Rights Watch in Lebanon from reliable sources.14 Al-Khatib had been visited the day before by Syrian security forces, who asked him questions and took notes. "He didn't run away, because he thought that it was nothing," one source reported. After his "disappearance," Syrian security forces in Tripoli admitted informally that al-Khatib was in their custody in the city, would be questioned for a few days, and then would be released. Several days later, the Syrians said that he had been moved from Tripoli to `Anjar (the Syrian detention facility near the Lebanese-Syrian border), and "probably was in Damascus."15 Human Rights Watch subsequently confirmed that al-Khatib was in Syria, and was being held in Damascus, in the Palestine Branchdetention center of Military Intelligence,16 one of Syria's internal security forces. There was no official acknowledgment of his whereabouts, however. Letters sent by Human Rights Watch to Lebanese and Syrian authorities in March 1997, asking for confirmation that al-Khatib was in Syrian custody, went unanswered.
In 1995 and 1996, Syrian intelligences forces also detained Palestinian residents of Lebanon who subsequently "disappeared." Palestinians who live in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in Tripoli told Human Rights Watch in August 1996 that Palestinians from the camp had recently been detained and "disappeared," although sources were reluctant to consent to the publication of names and other identifying details. According to one resident:
Syrian mukhabarat (intelligence agents) picked people up near the Corniche. It started one month ago. They also took a man two months ago from his uncle's house [in the camp]. No one know why. No one dares to say anything. The Syrians feel free to do what they want here, and no one can interfere.
Another resident, in a separate interview, said this: "Last week, not far from here, Syrian mukhabarat stopped a car on the Corniche and took [a man in his fifties with kidney problems]. They put him in the trunk. He was a member of the pro-Iraqi Ba'th party but had not been active for a long time. He was in bad health."
A rumor was spread that one of the Palestinians who "disappeared" in 1996 was suspected of collaborating with Israel, specifically with the Mossad in Greece. "This is ridiculous," a source in the camp said. "He never left this camp. He does not even have a travel document. This kind of an [allegation] makes people especially afraid to get involved [in the case]."
Another resident of the camp recounted the "disappearance" in October 1995 of a Palestinian man in his forties known as Abu Maher. Syrian security forces in plainclothes "came to his house. They said that they wanted to talk to him outside for five minutes. They took him, and no one knows where he is," he said.17
Once individuals are in Syrian custody, there is no official acknowledgment of the detention or official confirmation of their whereabouts. Families are not notified officially about the arrest and whereabouts of their relatives, and Syrian authorities maintain a wall of official silence about non-Syrian nationals in their custody. There was, for example, no reply by Syrian President Hafez al-Asad to a letter that Human Rights Watch sent to him in November 1996, requesting the names of all non-Syrians in Syrian custody. The consequences of this silence for families in Lebanon, and elsewhere in the Arab world, are devastating, as the following four cases indicate.
Abdallah Diab Hussein al-Razayneh: "Disappeared" in 1984
Abdallah Diab Hussein al-Razayneh, a forty-seven-year-old Palestinian from Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, was reportedly taken into custody by Syrian security forces in 1984 on the Lebanese-Syrian border. Al-Razayneh's wife Fatimeh, who lives with their six children in Jabaliya camp, had no contact with or news about her husband's whereabouts since 1984 and believed that he was dead. But information from a prisoner who was released in 1996 gave the family hope that he is still alive.
According to the prisoner, al-Razayneh was held in Mezze military prison in Damascus from 1984 until 1992, first in Section 248 and then in Section 235 of that facility. Prisoners at Mezze heard that in October 1992 al-Razayneh was transferred from Mezze to Sednaya prison.18 Human Rights Watch wrote to President Asad on November 6, 1996, requesting that Syrian authorities provide information about al-Razayneh's whereabouts. We asked the Syrian government to respond to reports that he had been held in Mezze prison for eight years, and we inquired about his current whereabouts and the reasons for his continuing detention. The letter was not answered.
Rushdi Rashed Hamdan Shehab: "Disappeared" in 1987
Rushdi Rashed Hamdan Shehab, a Palestinian, "disappeared" in Sidon, Lebanon, in October 1987. "At ten in the morning, he left his car with a mechanic at a gas station, saying that he would return in the evening to pick it up," his brother told Human Rights Watch.19 Shehab, the father of three who was forty-two years old at the time, never returned that evening for his car. And he was never seen again in Lebanon. "I went to Jordan in the summer of 1988. We heard stories about his disappearance, and someone told us that he was in Syria. I went to Damascus with his wife, but there was no real news," his brother said. There were rumors that Shehab, who was a member of Yasir Arafat's Fateh, had been abducted, variously, by rival Palestinian factions led by Abu Nidal or Abu Musa, but the family received no concrete information. According to his brother, Shehab had left Lebanon in 1982, at the time that PLO fighters were evacuated in the wake of the Israeli invasion, and relocated to Syria. He was based in Syria until 1987, traveling freely between there and Lebanon numerous times without any problems from Syrian authorities.
After being "disappeared" for almost ten years, the family had given up hope that Shehab was still alive. But in early April 1997, news reached a cousin in Jordan that Shehab had been seen alive and was being held in Syria's infamous Tadmor prison.20 The information came from a Palestinian prisoner who had been released in August 1995, after spending over nineteen years in incommunicado detention in Syria.
Boutros Khawand: "Disappeared" in 1992
Boutros Khawand, a prominent member of the political bureau of the Phalange party, "disappeared" on September 15, 1992, about a half-mile from his home in Sinn al-Fil in East Beirut, an area under the control of the Syrian army. Khawand's car was intercepted by a group of about two dozen men, dressed in civilian clothes but wearing army-issue boots, who arrived in a red van and two BMW automobiles. Khawand's son Fadi, who was in the house at the time of the abduction, made the following written statement:
On that day, Tuesday, September 15, 1992, my father left the house at 9:00 o'clock in the morning as usual. He got in his car, a red Opel, and drove toward the main street. Minutes later, I heard gun shots, I ran out of the house to investigate. I found my father's car parked in the middle of the road with the driver's side door wide open, and my father nowhere to be found.
One witness informed me that she observed two cars and a van surrounding my father's car. She further stated that the kidnappers ran toward my father, held him at gunpoint, lifted him from thedriver's seat, and threw him in the rear door of the van. Other neighbors who witnessed this kidnapping shouted: "Kidnapping, kidnapping."21
Following the abduction, the Phalange party organized a public protest in Beirut:
Demonstrators carrying red-and-white Lebanese flags marched to the ministry of justice in the Christian Ashrafiyeh suburb led by [Phalange] chief George Sa'adeh, party officials and several deputies, amid tight security by army and police. Sa'adeh handed Justice Minister Nasri Ma'alouf a letter protesting the kidnapping.22
The party also used iconography to suggest, indirectly, that Syria was holding Lebanon "hostage" and was responsible for Khawand's abduction:
A new poster covers the walls of the Maronite Christian Phalange party headquarters near Beirut port. "Freedom kidnaped - Lebanon hostage," it says. Dollops of red ink fall from the arrow-pierced heart of a dove of peace. Prison bars are superimposed over a map of Lebanon and upon a photograph of Mr. Khawand, a party official kidnapped on September 15.23
Although the "disappearance" received international press attention at the time,24 it has now been all but forgotten. Khawand is assumed to be held incommunicado in Syria. It is believed that he first was held in Mezze military prison in Damascus but, based on information provided by released Lebanese prisoners, it is feared that Khawand currently may be in Tadmor prison.
By several accounts, Khawand was extremely influential in the Phalange party, particularly at the grass-roots level. While one faction of the party was cooperating with the Syrians, Khawand "was pushing for independence," according to one source interviewed by Human Rights Watch. By seizing Khawand, the Syrians hoped to "paralyze the party's cadres" that opposed the Syrian presence in Lebanon, he said.25
Derar al-Karmi: "Disappeared" in January 1997
In 1997, Jordanian authorities were unable to obtain information from the Lebanese government about Derar al-Karmi, a Jordanian citizen who was seized and "disappeared" by three unidentified men in Beirut on the evening of January 3, 1997. Al-Karmi, a financial manager at the Marriott Hotel in Beirut, was seen leaving the hotel with "three people dressed in civilian clothes who drove away in a gray Range Rover with a Lebanese license plate."26 Sam Ibrahim, the general manager of the Marriott Hotel, told the Reuter news agency on January 18: "All I know is he left the hotel on January 3 at about 5:15 pm with unknown persons. We don't know where he is now."27
A Lebanese lawyer informed Human Rights Watch that Lebanon's chief public prosecutor, Adnan Addoum, denied on a television talk show on January 19, 1997, that he had any knowledge of al-Karmi's whereabouts.28 Prosecutor Addoum was also quoted as saying the following one day earlier: "I cannot confirm or deny his arrest because I know nothing about the matter and I was not given any orders to arrest anyone."29
Although the Jordanian government sent its first demarche about the abduction to Lebanese authorities on January 4, 1997, Jordanian Minister of Information Marwan al-Mu'ashshir reported three weeks later that no reply had been received: "[W]e are currently holding contacts with competent Lebanese authorities....we have not yet received any reply."30 As of January 23, 1997, the Jordanian government still had not received a reply from Lebanese authorities about the case. Jordanian ambassador to Lebanon Fakhri Abu Taleb said this to Radio Monte Carlo in an interview that day:
So far, I have not received a response to the letter I sent on 4th January [about al-Karmi's abduction]. Yesterday I also sent another message; but so far, I have not received any responses. If there is any question about this subject or this person, I cannot answer it. You can ask the competent authorities.31
Al-Karmi was released on January 25, 1997, but neither al-Karmi nor the Marriott Hotel in Beirut would discuss the case:
An official of the Beirut Marriott Hotel told Reuters on [January 26] that its financial controller Derar al-Karmi returned home at 9:30 pm on [January 25] but did not want to talk about his experience. "He's not saying anything....the Marriott doesn't want to say anything either," the official said. "He doesn't want to meet the press."32
According to a report by AFP, al-Karmi's abduction "may have been linked to a dispute with Syrian soldiers stationed near the Beirut hotel." The AFP report continued:
Three weeks ago, hotel officials complained that the badly maintained army post next door was harming the luxury hotel's image, drawing the ire of Syrian soldiers. One official who had complained that the soldiers hung their clothes on windows facing client rooms and left garbage in front of the building was even beaten, sources close to the Amman Marriott said. The soldiers also allegedly tried to extort money from the hotel, a common practice suffered by many institutions in Lebanon located near Syrian posts.33
After al-Karmi's release, the Jordanian government stated again that it had received no information about his abduction. "We welcome his release but we reject any aggression against Jordanian nationals. We don't have anyinformation about who was holding him," an unnamed Jordanian government official quoted by Reuter said on January 26.34 It was clear from public remarks of Jordan's ambassador to Lebanon that Jordanian authorities believed that al-Karmi had been in Syrian custody, although the ambassador made the allegation in an oblique manner, without mentioning Syria by name. He said this in a telephone interview with Reuter:
Through my personal contacts and the contacts with the hotel's general manager...we found out that Derar is not in the hands of Lebanese security forces. According to unofficial information, he is with security forces concerned with security in Lebanon.35
Torture in Syrian Custody
Human Rights Watch interviewed Lebanese who have been tortured in Syrian detention facilities inside Lebanon, including the intelligence headquarters under the command of Col. Rustom Ghazali, on Sadat Street near the Beau Rivage Hotel in the Ramlet al-Baida section of west Beirut (an area also known as Beau Rivage), and the detention facility at `Anjar, east of the Beirut-Damascus highway near the Lebanese-Syrian border. It has long been common knowledge that Col. Ghazali is in charge of Syrian intelligence in Beirut. Testimony suggests that Col. Ghazali, a senior officer, is at the very least aware that torture was taking place in his headquarters.
One Lebanese citizen described how he was tortured in Beau Rivage in 1993, and then interrogated the next day by Col. Ghazali. He said that he was placed in a chair and beaten on the knees with a four-by-five-inch piece of wood from a door frame. "We will do this until you speak," his interrogators allegedly told him. "If you do not tell us the truth, we will bring your wife and daughters and humiliate you."36 Another Lebanese, who was also held in Syrian custody in Beau Rivage in 1993, told Human Rights Watch that he was present in an interrogation room when a Lebanese who had been tortured was brought before Col. Ghazali. The victim was "blindfolded, with his hands cuffed behind his back. His legs were swollen from having been beaten. Col. Ghazali told him to talk, and said that he would not be beaten."37 A stateless Palestinian who lives in Beirut told Human Rights Watch that he was held in Beau Rivage for three days, then transferred to Syria and imprisoned there without charge for four years. The man said that in Beau Rivage he had been beaten repeatedly and given electric shocks on the neck.38
Detainees held at `Anjar have also been tortured. A Palestinian resident of Lebanon who was detained there for five days said that he was suspended for hours from the ceiling, "like a sheep." A Lebanese citizen, who spent over three days at Anjar in late 1993, told Human Rights Watch this: "They punched me [on all parts of my body] and beat the soles of my feet. I could not wear shoes for one month." Conditions of confinement at Anjar reportedly are appalling. A Lebanese who was held there in a cell with twelve other men, ten of them Lebanese, said that the cell was located in what appeared to be a horse stable. It had one high window and an electric light that was kept on twenty-four hours a day. He said that he and his cellmates were allowed to use a toilet only once a day; otherwise, they were forced to accommodate their needs in a single bucket inside their cell.39
Human Rights Watch has also collected testimony from individuals who "disappeared" in the 1970s and 1980s, and were tortured while held incommunicado in Syria. For example, a Palestinian who was held incommunicado in Syria for over nineteen years - from January 1976 to August 1995 - said that he was tortured for the first two weeks of his detention at the Palestine Branch of Military Intelligence in Damascus. Another Palestinian from the West Bank told Human Rights Watch that he was imprisoned by the Syrians in February 1977, and was interrogated and tortured at the Palestine Branch, before being transferred to Tadmor prison, where he was held incommunicado from September 1977 to March 1993.40 There is reason to believe that this practice continues.
Based on information that Human Rights Watch received in February 1997, Bashir al-Khatib, who was transferred to Syria after he was abducted in Lebanon in July 1996 (see above), may have been subjected to torture at the Palestine Branch of Military Intelligence in Damascus, where he was last seen. Al-Khatib reportedly was walking with great difficulty, shaking constantly, and had signs of torture on his hands. His face was pale and his skin discolored. The report about al-Khatib's condition, which came from a credible source, is a cause for deep concern. Human Rights Watch has also documented cases of Syrian prisoners who have been interrogated and tortured while held incommunicado at the Palestine Branch. The victims have been blindfolded and handcuffed, then beaten, given electric shocks, and placed in special torture devices such as the "German chair" and the "tire." During a visit to Damascus in 1995, Human Rights Watch representatives saw the injuries that some of these victims - current and former prisoners alike - had sustained from torture, such as broken bones, broken teeth, disfigured extremities, and lateral marks on the skin from the impact of hard objects.41
Human Rights Watch wrote to Syrian President Hafez al-Asad on March 20, 1997, requesting information about al-Khatib's legal status in Syria, including the basis for his detention and the charges against him, if any. We recommended that his incommunicado detention be ended, that he be afforded regular access to family members and lawyers, and that forensic medical doctors - including independent Lebanese physicians seconded for this purpose to the Lebanese embassy in Damascus - carry out a physical examination in order to determine if there was merit to reports that he had been tortured in Syrian custody. We further recommended that, if it was determined that al-Khatib's arrest and detention by Syrian security forces was arbitrary, he should be promptly released. This letter went unanswered.
Coercion to Collaborate with Syrian Intelligence in Lebanon
Senior Syrian intelligence officers have exploited the extreme vulnerability of persons whom Syrian forces hold in secret detention, "disappeared." According to information obtained by Human Rights Watch, "disappearances" have provided high-ranking Syrian intelligence officials with opportunities both to extract information under torture and to pressure Lebanese Christians and Muslims to collaborate with Syrian intelligence in Lebanon. Persons who have been "disappeared" have been pressured to collaborate both while they have been held in Syrian custody and after their release.
This practice dates back at least to the 1980s, according to information obtained by Human Rights Watch. One Lebanese, who was taken into Syrian custody in 1986, said that he was first held in an intelligence facility in Damascus for two years, in a cell that measured 1.8 meters by 80 centimeters, where he was unable to sleep laying down. From there, he was moved to two other facilities and held for another two years. According to his testimony,during this entire time the Syrians "asked me to work with their intelligence in Lebanon," which he repeatedly refused to do.42
A Lebanese who was handed over to Syrian security forces in Lebanon by Lebanese authorities in 1993 told Human Rights Watch that he was first held in Syrian custody in the Beau Rivage section of Beirut, where he was interrogated by Col. Rustom Ghazali. From there, he was moved to `Anjar. He was held at `Anjar for eleven days, and then was returned to Beirut, accompanied by Gen. Ghazi Kanaan, long known to be the head of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon. "He tried to recruit me to work with Syria. I told him that I do not work with intelligence," he told Human Rights Watch. Back in Beirut, he was also summoned by Col. Ghazali, who sought his cooperation with Syrian intelligence. The man refused, and he continued to be targeted by the Syrians. "I tried to start a business, and the Syrians went to my partner and told him not to work with me," he said.
His ordeal was not over. He was arrested in 1995 by Lebanese security forces and tortured at the Ministry of Defense headquarters in Yarzeh:
They started beating me. I was in my underwear, blindfolded, with my hands behind my back, for twenty-four hours. They wrapped my hands and dangled me from the ceiling. They brought electric wires and electrocuted my private parts and all over [my body] and I passed out.
He was provided with medical treatment for the injuries that he sustained, and then the interrogation and torture continued:
They started beating me all over my body. I stayed outdoors for five days, standing up and not allowed to sleep. My legs were swollen. They threatened to beat and rape my wife in front of me.
After he was released in 1996, he was again summoned by Col. Ghazali: "He wanted me to join them [the Syrians], and I said no." This man believes that his repeated refusals to collaborate will cost him his life; he told Human Rights Watch that he fears that he will be killed by the Syrians.43
A Lebanese who was "disappeared" in Lebanon in the early 1990s44 told Human Rights Watch that senior Syrian officers attempted to persuade him to cooperate and provide them with information. "They asked about my organization. I answered honestly. Then they asked questions about terrorist actions [in Lebanon] against them. They would beat me, then ask questions. All the time, they were smoking and drinking in front of me. Finally, they accused me of being an Israeli spy," he said. When the questioning was completed, he was forced to thumbprint over forty pages of handwritten papers from the "investigation," which he was unable to read.
After three and-a-half days, he was moved from `Anjar to another nearby location where he met with another senior Syrian intelligence officer in Lebanon: "He started talking to me with contempt....He said that he knew that my organization had no foreign links. It was a long, long prepared speech, as if from a text." The officer gave the man his business card and telephone numbers, and said that he should call him to continue the discussion. The man made it clear that he had no interest in cooperating. He told Human Rights Watch that for the first month after his release, his home was under conspicuous surveillance by men in plainclothes.458 Interview, Beirut, August 1996. 9 Karam, who was born in 1958 and is the father of three children, was last detained on December 25, 1993 by Lebanese Army intelligence and was transferred to Syria on January 4, 1994, where he was held incommunicado at the Palestine Branch of Military Intelligence, one of Syria's internal security forces. He was returned to Lebanon on February 14, 1994, and was indicted by the military court in Beirut the next day, along with sixteen other defendants, in the "George Haddad" case, in which all the defendants were accused of making contact with enemy agents. The indictment noted Karam's date of arrest as February 14, 1994, omitting the time that he had been in Syrian custody. Karam was sentenced on July 9, 1994, to three years imprisonment with hard labor for "contacting enemy [Israeli] agents and instigating contacts with such agents," according to his lawyer. On appeal, his sentence was reduced on December 1, 1994, to eighteen months, which he served. He was tortured in Syria and Lebanon, his lawyer told Human Rights Watch. 10 Interviews, New York, April 1997. 11 See Appendix B of this report for a copy of the complaint in its original Arabic, and in English translation. 12 Magi Karam was last arrested in Lebanon on January 28, 1994 by Lebanese Army intelligence. She was reportedly tortured and mistreated at Ministry of Defense headquarters in Yarzeh, and held there for some time in a bathroom that was in active use. She was one of the defendants, along with her brother and fifteen others, in the George Haddad case (see footnote above), and was sentenced to one year in prison for "contacts with agents of the enemy [Israel]," which was reduced on appeal to nine months, according to her lawyer. During her detention, she became ill. She still suffers from numerous medical ailments and is under medical attention, according to her lawyer. 13 See Appendix C for a copy of the complaint in its Arabic original and in English translation. 14 Al-Khatib had only recently regained his freedom prior to this abduction. According to information obtained by Human Rights Watch, he was imprisoned inside Israel in January 1992, after he was apprehended in south Lebanon near the border with the Israeli-occupied zone. He was released by the Israelis and returned to Lebanon in early 1996. 15 Interviews, Beirut, August 1996. See "Torture in Syrian Custody," below, for additional information about `Anjar. 16 The name Palestine Branch is misleading, because over the last two decades many Lebanese and Syrians, as well as Palestinians, have been held there incommunicado and tortured. 17 Interviews, Tripoli, August 1996. 18 Telephone interviews, Gaza Strip, October 1996. 19 Telephone interview, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 1997. 20 Abuses at Tadmor prison documented by Human Rights Watch include prolonged incommunicado detention, torture, and executions following unfair, summary trials in military field courts. Some of the victims of execution and others who died in custody at Tadmor are buried in mass graves. For additional information about Tadmor prison, see Human Rights Watch/Middle East, "Syria's Tadmor Prison: Dissent Still Hostage to a Legacy of Terror," A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 8, no.2, April 1996. 21 A copy of this statement, written in 1993, was obtained by Human Rights Watch. 22 Reuter, "Lebanese Christians protest official's kidnaping," Beirut, September 24, 1992. 23 Lara Marlowe, Reuter, "Iraqis in attack on Kuwaiti post," October 8, 1992. 24 See, for example, The New York Times, "Official of Christian Party Is Kidnaped in East Beirut," September 16, 1992. 25 Interview, Beirut, August 1995. 26 Al-Dustur (Amman), January 21, 1997, as reported in FBIS-NES-97-013, January 21, 1997. 27 Reuter, "Jordanian Said Arrested for Anti-Syrian Attacks," Beirut, January 18, 1997. 28 Written report to Human Rights Watch received on January 20, 1997. 29 Al-Dustur (Amman), January 21, 1997, op.cit. 30 Al-Dustur (Amman), January 21, 1997, op. cit. 31 Radio Monte Carlo - Middle East (Paris), "Ambassador Says "No Tension" in Ties with Lebanon, January 23, 1997. 32 Reuter, "Beirut Hotel Executive Returns After Disappearance," Beirut, January 26, 1997. 33 Agence France-Presse, "Jordanian hotel executive released in Beirut," Beirut, January 26, 1997. See "The Price of Fear," below, for additional information about extortion by Syrian security forces. 34 Reuter, "Jordan Says Citizen Released in Lebanon," Amman, January 26, 1997. 35 Reuter, "Envoy Indicates Syrians Hold Disappeared Jordanian," Beirut, January 20, 1997. 36 Interview, Beirut, August 1996. 37 Interview, Beirut, November 1996. 38 Interview, Beirut, August 1995. 39 Interviews, Beirut, August 1995 and August 1996. 40 Human Rights Watch met with these individuals soon after their release; they requested that their names be withheld. Interviews, Mar Elias, Lebanon, August 1995. 41 Human Rights Watch interviewed current prisoners in the Supreme State Security Court in Damascus, where they were on trial for nonviolent political offenses. For additional information, see Human Rights Watch/Middle East, "Syria: The Price of Dissent," A Human Rights Watch Short Report, vol. 7, no. 4, July 1995. 42 Interview, Beirut, date withheld by Human Rights Watch. 43 Interview, Beirut, November 1996. 44 He asked that Human Rights Watch not reveal the year he was "disappeared." 45 Interview, Beirut, August 1996.