Members of the al-Meqdad extended family in Lebanon claimed responsibility for some of the kidnappings on national TV, calling them a retaliation for the kidnapping of one of their relatives, Hassan al-Meqdad, a Lebanese national, in Syria on August 13 by a group that claimed to be part of the opposition Free Syrian Army.
Lebanese authorities have made no arrests concerning the recent kidnappings or other retaliatory attacks by private citizens against Syrian citizens in Lebanon during the last several months, according to HRW.
“A crime can never justify another crime, as much as we can understand the anguish of Lebanese families whose loved ones have been kidnapped,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Lebanese authorities need to enforce the law and end impunity for kidnappings and other violent acts carried out against Syrian citizens in the name of reprisal.”
This is not the first instance of apparent retaliation against Syrians in Lebanon for crimes committed against Lebanese in Syria since the beginning of anti-government protests in that country in 2011. Following the reported kidnapping by an armed opposition group in Azaz, Aleppo of 11 Lebanese Shiites on a pilgrimage bus in Aleppo province in Syria on May 22, a number of Syrians were assaulted in various parts of Lebanon.
Media reports indicate that, as a result of this violence, a large number of Syrians fled Lebanon. In a video posted on YouTube on August 13, a group that said it was part of the Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of al-Meqdad in Damascus, Syria. However, Fahd al-Masri, a press officer for the group, denied to the news media that it was responsible for the kidnapping. In an interview with Human Rights Watch on August 17, al-Masri said that the Free Syrian Army “denies any involvement in the kidnapping of Hassan al-Meqad. We refuse any sort of kidnapping because it is outside of the law.”
The group responsible for the kidnapping of al-Meqdad should immediately release him, Human Rights Watch said. Saying they were acting in retaliation for al-Meqdad’s kidnapping, members of the extended al-Meqdad family, identifying themselves as the “armed wing” of the clan, claimed responsibility for kidnapping Syrian nationals as well a Turkish man, Aydin Tufan, on August 15.
Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said on August 16 that the cabinet had agreed on the need to pursue arrests against those responsible for the kidnappings in Lebanon, the National News Agency reported. But the Lebanese authorities have not announced any concrete measures against the kidnappers, HRW said.