Lebanese launch 'right to know' campaign over fate of 17,000 missing

Rights group pushes for new efforts to determine the fate of about 17,000 people still missing more than 20 years after the country's civil war.

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BEIRUT // A Lebanese rights group launched a campaign yesterday to push for new efforts to determine the fate of about 17,000 people still missing more than 20 years after the country's civil war.

The "right to know" campaign comes after a car-bomb attack two weeks ago that raised memories of Lebanon's 15-year civil conflict. Several clashes in the capital followed the attack.

"The campaign's goal is to mobilise Lebanese society, especially the youth, so that they in turn put pressure on the authorities and push for a solution," said Justine Di Mayo, the president of ACT for the Disappeared, a Lebanese association that is spearheading the campaign.

The initiative aims to seek justice over a central issue of the civil war's legacy - one that has never been resolved and has often been shrouded in silence. "The media campaign aims to put the issue of the missing and disappeared back in the headlines until a solution is reached," the group said.

Justice for victims, it said, is crucial if Lebanon is to move forward from its violent history.

Ms Di Mayo said a national commission should be established to investigate the disappearances, which took place during the 1975-1990 civil war that saw the country overrun by militias vying for power and left more than 150,000 dead.

The media campaign includes television spots, billboards and actions on social networks, said the organisation. Five television spots will be aired for two weeks on Lebanese channels. The first spots aired yesterday.

One of the spots shows a woman laying the dinner table and pouring water into a glass for her husband, who went missing 20 years ago. The clock ticks uncomfortably, as she dines alone.

"For 20 years, Tawfik's wife has been living on hope," says the voice-over. "Enough waiting."

Another shows a young man cleaning up his missing father's car and old cassettes. The man then looks at a photograph of his father, holding him up as a small child. "Twenty years on, Walid has not lost hope," says the voice-over.