The Regional Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the Middle East and North Africa organised a virtual symposium, on Data Collection and Management in Cases of Enforced Disappearance and Approaching the Process in Lebanon.
The symposium was held under the patronage of His Excellency MP Dr. Michel Moussa, Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights, and featured the participation of Caretaker Information Minister Mrs. Manal Abdel Samad, Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon and United Nations Resident, Humanitarian Coordinator, Ms. Najat Rochdi, and the Regional Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Roueida El Hage.
It was attended by a number of international and regional experts, ministers, Lebanese parliamentarians, academics and representatives of security institutions and civil society institutions in Lebanon with expertise in cases of enforced disappearance in Lebanon and the region.
The event aimed at defining the international legal frameworks related to data protection procedures and necessary tools to ensure data security.
It also aimed at presenting best practices for dealing with data security and conducting assessments on how best to design and update security services and sharing lessons learnt and best practices from the region.
“There is a dangerous increase in the number of complaints lodged by minors against electronic sexual blackmail, and the reason is home quarantine due to the Coronavirus pandemic. In 2019, there were 11 complaints. In the year 2020, there were 94 complaints — an increase of 754% and 80% of the complaints were lodged by minors,” said Minister Manal Abdel Samad.
She went on to underline the paramount importance of promoting a national culture of cybersecurity with the joint efforts of public administrations, institutions, companies, universities, academics, and individuals in general.
“The protection of personal data is linked to the protection of the privacy of each individual, especially in light of digital challenges,” Abdel Samad maintained, adding that enforced disappearance must be addressed by the voluntary appearance of every piece of information that helps in tracking any trace of this disappearance.
“Many countries have put in place legal frameworks to protect data and keep it safe, with emphasis on an individual’s right to privacy, which is recognized in various international charters of basic human rights. Laws are necessary for as long as they don’t contradict with privacy and freedom,” she explained.
“We, in our capacity as the Ministry of Information, believe in the importance of the media in raising awareness and disseminating information in a transparent and objective manner. Herein lies the importance of the Ministry’s adoption of the Right to Information Law which aims at promoting a culture of accountability, integrity, and transparency — the most important pillars of good governance and societal development, which begin with individuals themselves,” Abdel Samad said.
“The Ministry of Information is preparing a plan on cybersecurity that is to be integrated with the right to information plan,” the Minister added.
Deputy Special Coordinator for Lebanon and United Nations Resident, Humanitarian Coordinator, Ms. Najat Rochdi reaffirmed the United Nations “willingness to continue supporting all efforts exerted in the file of enforced disappearance in Lebanon and to assist the government in implementing the law effectively with the aim of putting an end to this illegal practise.”
As for the Ms. Roueida El Hage, Regional Representative of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa, commended the efforts of the Lebanese authorities in adopting law 105 in 2018, deeming it a significant step to mark a real commitment by the state to fulfill its obligations in bringing truth and justice to the families of the disappeared.
Interactive discussions throughout the event addressed local laws related to enforced disappearance and access to information, in addition to the engagement of the International Committee of the Red Cross and its cooperation with the Ministry of Interior and the Lebanese Armed Forces in this regard.