Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri will issue a statement before May 6 condemning Iran for “kidnapping” Lebanese Citizen and U.S. Legal Permanent Resident Nizar Zakka, Mr. Zakka’s brother, said in a statement Saturday. The announcement comes a few days after the U.S. Congress voted 410-2 to approve the Iran Human Rights and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act that called for increased international cooperation in resolving several cases of unlawfully detained persons held in Iran, including Nizar Zakka.
If enacted, the law would impose new economic sanctions on Iranian officials for serious human rights abuses including hostage taking. The Iran Human Rights and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act builds upon two Congressional resolutions unanimously approved last year in the House of Representatives (H.Res. 317) and the Senate (S.Res. 245). The legislation is available at this U.S. Congress website.
In addition to the economic sanctions, one of the key components of the Iran Human Rights and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act is that it urges the Trump administration to work with international partners to investigate human rights violations by senior Iranian government officials, regardless of where or when such violations took place.
“Mr. Zakka, his family, friends and supporters are deeeply grateful and thank the U.S. Congress for not forgetting him and other unlawfully detained persons in Iran,” said Jason I. Poblete, Mr. Zakka’s attorney in the United States.
A U.S. Legal Permanent Resident and Lebanese national, Zakka was kidnapped and unlawfully detained after traveling to Iran to attend a state-sponsored conference in Tehran in 2015. At the time of the unlawful detention, Zakka was the secretary-general of IJMA3, an Arab communications organization, and had received an official invitation to visit from an Iranian vice president.
In November 2016, without elaboration, the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told reporters in Lebanon that “what happened with Mr. Zakka is not a problem between Iran and Lebanon, seeing as the problem was the violation of the applicable laws in Iran by a foreigner, and the problem is actually between the United States and Iran.”
In addition to ongoing efforts in the United States, the Daily Star of Lebanon reports that the Zakka family has been lobbying the Lebanese government to raise the subject with Iran and criticized ministers for not doing enough to secure Zakka’s release. You can read the entire Daily Star of Lebanon story by following this link.
The Global Liberty Alliance has worked with Mr. Zakka’s counsel in the United States as well as Mr. Zakka’s lawyer in Lebanon. In the United States, Alliance efforts have included raising awareness of Mr. Zakka’s plight with U.S. policymakers such as then-Congressman, now Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (see video below).
For more information about Nizar Zakka’s case as well as other Global Liberty Alliance efforts in the United States and Europe, please visit this Global Liberty Alliance website.