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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Uruguayan Parliment votes against amnesty law...and Lebanon?

In an impressive turn of events the Uruguayan parliment voted against the amnesty law that has been protecting the military officers who instaured a dictatorship in the country between 1973 and 1982. This vote comes in the context of an investigation concerning the assasination of the communist militant Nibia Sabalsgaray, hence a judge has asked the parliment to say a word about this amnesty law. The parliment voted that the articles concerning the law unconstitutional.
I find this vote important, since most countries after ending a dictatorship issue an amnesty law protecting those who violated human rights during this dark period, and this is often in the name of forgiveness and national unity. Thus this amnesty law dismisses the rights of the victims of the dictatorship, and infringes dangerous damages to the collective memory of the citizens of the country. Hence the victims suffer a double inustice: the first one is inflicted by the practices of the dictatorship (prison, torture, assassination), the second one is inflicted by the post-dictatorship regime which refuses to recognize their rights to see the criminals accounted and on trial, which is must in order for the victims to regain a part of justice and in order to heal the collective memory from the wounds of criminal regimes. Amnesty laws in favor mass murderers and dictators should never pass!
Reading the piece of information about Uruguay made me make the parallel witht the Lebanese context which is more dangerous and twisted. After the end of a 15 year-civil war during which massacres were committed, hundreds disappeared and thousands mutilated, those same warlords voted on an amnesty laws to protect themselves from any punishment. What is twisted about this vote, is that the same people who committed massacres, where also the legislators who passed the amnesty law! Thus denying the thousands of war victims the right to reparation, to see their victimizers on trial, to get recognition for the suffering inflicted upon them. Moreover, the collective memory of the lebanese society suffers amnesia: the war is vaguely mentionned in history textbooks, the same warlords are building peace in the country, the victims are following the criminals. The immediate victims of the civil war are the ones who disappeared, were killed or mutilated, nevertheless they are the only ones who are not benefiting from the peace building if it exists. No peace building could procede without giving justice to those people.
The Lebanese don't seem able or willing to revisit the civil war period, not even for repairing the injustice inflicted upon them by their current political leaders. Hence the internal conflicts of the country seem cyclical, and recurring. How can we avoid another civil war, when we don't recognize that it actually happened (there is a wide belief that it was the war of "others" on the Lebanese soil)? how can we prevent it if the same people who perpetuate it are leading the country to salvation? more importantly how can we avoid the war when it is absent from our collective memory, and when the victims are not recognized as such and are not given any sort of justice?


  1. While I compeletely agree with what you wrote about the absence of the civil war from history textbooks and from the general scholar curriculum, I wonder how will this war be taught, and to get back to your subject, whether, if ever, an anti-amnesty law can be applied here.
    Realistically, the civil war never ended, or it ended without resolving any of the problems, supposedly it was going to resolve.
    A deep blame lies on the Lebanese people's apathy and carelessness in building up a country. Personally, I would be shocked to death if I see anyone of the war murderers not getting re-elected; if that happens, then we are somewhat on the right track, and for me personally, an anti-amnesty law will not be needed.

  2. The point is not whether we re-elect them or not, the point is justice to the victims of the civil war, and for accountability, and collective memory. Trial and reparations are important, but also the recognition of the rights of the victims, and the injustice they suffered from.


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