Last updated: 4 March, 2014

“Lebanon must overcome civil war amnesia”

Lebanon’s “state-sponsored amnesia” towards its 15-year civil war has left communities segregated and without justice or reconciliation, a non-governmental organisation reported Tuesday.

The International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) said real peace and reconciliation in multi-sectarian Lebanon requires “meaningful accountability” for violence during the war and “institutional reform.”

“Lebanon has made no serious attempts to comply with its international legal obligations to pursue perpetrators of serious human rights violations” in the nearly 24 years since the war ended, the group said in a report released Tuesday.

The state has also failed to address “the culture of impunity that has pervaded Lebanese society.”

Lebanon’s civil war killed some 150,000 people before it was ended by the power-sharing Taif Agreement, but many warlords and other protagonists of the 1975-1990 conflict are now active, influential politicians.

In recent years the country has been deeply divided over the war in neighbouring Syria, and has seen a wave of bombings and other attacks, including in Beirut.

The group said violations during the civil war included “systematic and mass displacement, wide-scale killing, rape, torture, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearance.”

Foreign powers that played a role in Lebanon’s violence — including Israel and Syria — have also avoided accountability, while continuing to fuel unrest in the small Mediterranean country, it said.

Under the Taif accord, the war’s protagonists were given a general amnesty, and there was “no truth seeking, mismanaged reparations, and incomplete institutional reform, all of which undermined prospects for justice and national reconciliation.”

Up to 17,000 people disappeared during the war, but despite efforts by their families, as well as civil society and some politicians, a truth commission has never been established.

“It is unlikely that current political leaders, some of whom are allegedly responsible for some atrocities, would establish a commission to look into their own acts,” said the ICTJ.

The group nevertheless recommended a “holistic approach to crafting a comprehensive and victim-centred transitional justice process.”

It called for “comprehensive institutional reform,” including a plan to phase out the official sharing of power along sectarian lines, which was seen as a central cause of the civil war.