The Observatory expresses its deepest concern regarding the trial held against Mr. Anwar Al-Bunni after having sent a mission of judicial observation at his last hearing
|Publisher||World Organisation Against Torture|
|Publication Date||10 January 2008|
|Cite as||World Organisation Against Torture, The Observatory expresses its deepest concern regarding the trial held against Mr. Anwar Al-Bunni after having sent a mission of judicial observation at his last hearing, 10 January 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47a87ed62.html [accessed 12 March 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Paris-Geneva, January 10, 2008. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), expresses its serious concern about the trial which was held on December 13, 2007 before the 3rd Military Court of Damascus against Mr. Anwar Al-Bunni, a lawyer, founding member of the Human Rights Association in Syria (HRAS) and President of the Committee for the Defence of Political Prisoners, for defamation against the Minister of Social Affairs. A mission of judicial observation was sent by the Observatory at the occasion of this hearing.
Mr. Anwar Al-Bunni, who is executing a five years prison sentence pronounced on April 24, 2007 by the Damascus Criminal Court for "release of fake news", as a consequence of an unfair trial, as he did not get the right to talk to his lawyer without restriction, was denounced by a co-detainee for sending letters outside the prison. During a body inspection, a draft of the letter that he had produced during his first trial was found on him. In this letter, he criticized the Minister of Social Affairs who originated his arrest and condemnation, as well as the association of support to the prisoners. This letter was considered a defamation offence by the Public Prosecutor, who sued him in front of the Military Court, in application of the Law 376 from the Penal Code. Mr. Al-Bunni incurs a maximum sentence of three months' imprisonment.
At the hearing of December 13, 2007, during which the Observatory sent a mission of judicial observation, the defence lawyers insisted on the fact that this letter could not constitute the evidence of an offence, because it had already been presented as a mean of defence in front of the Criminal Court in April 2007. Besides, the General Law on Amnesty, adopted on January 28, 2006, should prevent such a proceeding from being opened. Mr. Al-Bunni's lawyers consequently asked for his acquittal. The verdict has been postponed until January 24, 2008.
Besides, Mr. Al-Bunni is still victim of pressure and privations in detention: in particular, he is not allowed to receive food, clothes or books, and he is refused access to the prison library.
The Observatory fears that the only aim of this trial is to further intimidate Mr. Al-Bunni and, more generally, all human rights defenders in Syria, and to dissuade them from carrying out their human rights activities, in particular those that come within the scope of the Damascus Declaration, and from having contacts with foreign organisations.
The Observatory therefore urges the Syrian judicial authorities to issue a decision in conformity with international human rights standards.
Furthermore, the Observatory urges the Syrian authorities to put an end to any act of harassment against all human rights defenders in the country, as well as to conform with Article 1 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which states that "everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels", as well as Article 12.2, which states that "the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration".
For further information, please contact:
FIDH : Gael Grilhot, + 00 33 1 43 55 25 18
OMCT : Delphine Reculeau, + 00 41 22 809 49 39
 The Observatory recalls that Mr. Anwar Al-Bunni was arrested on May 17, 2006, after initiating, along with several Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals and human rights defenders, a petition calling for the normalization of Syrian-Lebanese relations. This petition, bearing about 500 signatures, was circulated on May 12, 2006 (See Observatory Annual Report 2006).
 The "Damascus Declaration for Democratic and National Change" was issued on October 16, 2005 by a wide coalition of political reform activists and members of civil society, and calls for establishing a democratic system that respects citizens' rights, ensures freedom of speech and association, and ends discrimination based on religious or political beliefs.