Don't Deport ex SLA members back to Lebanon
By: Elias Bejjani

National Post - Canada
13/12/04 (Editorials page A15)
(Re: Ottawa's Selective Deportation Policy, No. 22)

Numerous members of the SLA, even those who served in civilian positions, were denied refugee status by the Canadian government and were deported. The Canadian immigration authorities have declined to accept numerous refugee requests and appeals in spite of strong advocacy by prominent Lebanese-Canadian groups and organizations, including the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF).

The alleged crime of these individuals is their affiliation with a local Lebanese militia that was composed of Lebanese citizens in 1976 from all walks of life, religions and denominations.  They organized to defend their southern villages, cities and towns against all terrorists.

Among the terrorists were the PLO in the 1980s and Hizbollah, followed by many other fundamentalists and Arabists, whose main aim was, and continues to be, to wage a guerrilla war from Lebanon against Israel and to destroy Lebanon's democracy and independence status.

The SLA's 3000-men militia was forced to dismantle in 2000 in the aftermath of Israel's sudden withdrawal from South Lebanon in accordance with UN Resolution 425.

Those SLA members who stayed in Lebanon after the Israeli withdrawal were subjected to vigilantism and unfair trials, which resulted in harsh sentences and death penalties against more than 70 individuals. Many of those men are still in Beirut's jails deprived of all their basic human rights, while their families suffer persecution, poverty.

Former militia members who ended up in Canada should not face deportation, but should be given respect, protection and safety in view of the fact that the Canadian government (as well as those of the United States and Australia, Denmark), have listed the organization against which the SLA fought, Hizbollah, as a terrorist organization.

To this day, the Syrian-appointed Beirut regime remains in complete defiance of the the United Nations, including UN Security Council Resolution 1559, passed this year.

Since the Israeli withdrawal, thousands of residents and members of the SLA have been persecuted, charged and sentenced without due process. The mockery of the trials was well documented by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Red Cross and numerous Human Rights organizations.

To escape this persecution, more than 6000 citizens, among them many former members of the South Lebanese Army, took refuge in Israel. Many of them eventually immigrated to Canada, Germany, Australia, France, the United States and other countries. They applied for refugee status for humanitarian reasons. While many countries helped these victims of terrorism, fundamentalism and persecution, it is regrettable that Canada did not provide any assistance. To date, there is no clear Canadian position on this human tragedy.

Deportation will force them to return from Canada to occupied Lebanon, where they are labeled as traitors and likely to suffer unthinkable reprisals. The government of Canada should not be an accomplice to a human rights disaster in the making, especially at this time when Syria and Hizbollah are on the defense against a worldwide campaign to end their violent grip on Lebanon.

Elias Bejjani
*Human Rights activist, journalist & political commentator.
*Spokesman for the Canadian Lebanese Human Rights Federation (CLHRF)
*Media Chairman for the Canadian Lebanese Coordinating Council (LCCC)