OPEN LETTER TO MR. HASSAN AKIF SABEH, Minister of Interior and Municipalities

Press release

Paris-Geneva, August 22, 2007

Re: Lack of legal status for the Lebanese Center for Human Rights (Centre Libanais des Droits de l’Homme - CLDH)

Dear Mr. Minister,

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), welcomes the recent decision of your Ministry to officially register Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile (SOLIDE), as required by the Lebanese legislation on associations.

However, the Observatory wishes to express its concern with the lack of response of your Ministry to the official registration request which was submitted to you more than ten months ago by the Lebanese Centre for Human Rights (CLDH).

The Observatory indeed recalls that the CLDH applied for registration to the Ministry of the Interior on October 9, 2006. Accordingly, the CLDH received a preliminary registration number (2006/ODB/23220), followed by a second one (5823/2) on April 11, 2007, after its executive members requested that the authorities provide further information about the registration process and the examination of the CLDH file.

As of today, the CLDH is still waiting for its definitive registration number in order to be officially registered. The Observatory deplores that this lack of response by the authorities has seriously undermined the ability of CLDH to carry out several of its actions, denying it - inter alia - the ability to open a bank account.

Such a procedure contradicts the legislation on associations, which provides that a registration application must be considered and decided by the competent authorities within a deadline of 60 days from the time of submission of the application, after which the application is considered accepted. The Observatory therefore points out that under the national legislation, the process of registration of independent associations should only consist in the submission of a complete file to inform the Ministry of Interior, and not in a request for authorisation.

The Observatory notes that the irregularities in the treatment of the CLDH application for registration also contradict international human rights instruments that guarantee freedom of association, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Lebanon is a party, as well as article 5(a) of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which states that “for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to form, join and participate un non-governmental organisations, associations or groups”.

A prompt clarification of the status of the CLDH through official registration is essential to its missions of promotion and protection of human rights in Lebanon.

Convinced of the importance that freedom of association plays in the reinforcement of human rights domestically and abroad, the Observatory strongly urges you to act positively with regard to the registration of the CLDH, in accordance with Lebanese legislation.

In the hope you will take these considerations and requests into account,

We remain,

Souhayr Belhassen
FIDH President

OMCT Director

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