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New arrest and prosecutions against pro-reform activists

Publisher World Organisation Against Torture
Publication Date 30 January 2008
Cite as World Organisation Against Torture, New arrest and prosecutions against pro-reform activists, 30 January 2008, available at: [accessed 15 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis 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 30, 2008. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) express their deepest concern about continued crackdown against Syrian activists.

On January 28, 2008, Mr. Riad Seif, former member of the Syrian parliament and ‘Damascus Spring' figurehead, was arrested by the Syrian Security forces. After being questioned by the investigating judge of the Damascus Court, Mr. Riad Seif was charged under articles 285, 286, 307 and 327 of the Syrian Penal code[1] and is currently detained in Adra's prison.

Mr. Riad Seif is the President of the General Secretariat office of the National Council of the Damascus Declaration and his arrest occurred a few hours after he attended on January 28, the first appearance of ten elected members of the National Council of the Damascus Declaration before the investigating judge. Mr. Mohammed Haj Darwish, Mr. Fayez Sarah, Dr. Ahmad Tohme, Mr. Jaber al-Shoufi, Mr. Akram al-Bunni, Dr. Fida al-Hurani, Mr. Ali al-Abdullah, Dr. Walid Bunni, Dr. Yasser Tayser Aleiti, and Mr. Marwan Aloush were arrested within the framework of a wave of arrests that followed the establishment of the National council of the Damascus Declaration on December 1, 2007. They were charged with the same offences and remain in detention[2].

FIDH, OMCT and EMHRN believe that these persons were arrested because they call for reform and consider these prosecutions as a further step in the daily repression led by the authorities against human rights defenders and political activists to shut down their freedom of expression. Moreover, FIDH, OMCT and EMHRN fear that these persons may be subjected to torture or cruel and inhuman treatment during interrogation and detention.

In addition, in view of the number of prosecutions led against Syrian activists and the number of political prisoners in Syria, FIDH, OMCT and EMHRN fear that the arbitrary proceedings launched against the 11 activists may not comply with fair trial requirements.

As a consequence, FIDH, OMCT and EMHRN urge the Syrian authorities to guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of these activists and release them as well as all prisoners of opinion sentenced and detained in Syria. FIDH, OMCT and EMHRN further invite Syrian authorities to re-establish dialogue with Syrian civil society.

For further information, please contact:

FIDH: Karine Appy/ Gael Grilhot, + 33 1 43 55 25 18

OMCT: Delphine Reculeau, + 41 22 809 49 39

EMHRN: Marc Degli Esposti, + 45 32 64 17 16

[1] "weakening nationalist sentiments", with "circulating false or exaggerated news which would weaken the morale of the nation", affiliation to a secret organization that aims to change the economic and social structure of the state, with "inciting sectarian strife" and with belonging to an illegal association or group.

[2] See FIDH, OMCT, EMHRN press release « Crackdown on Syrian activists continue », December 19, 2007 and January 10, 2008, as well as the Observatory for the protection of human rights defenders' (a joint programme OMCT-FIDH) urgent appeals dated December 18, 2007, January 11, 2008 and January 30, 2008.

Copyright notice: OMCT

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