Hundreds of long-term political detainees, including prisoners of conscience, appeared before the Supreme State Security Court whose procedures fall far short of international fair trial standards. Many of the defendants were convicted and sentenced to up to 15 years' imprisonment. The outcome of most of the trials had not been made public by the end of the year. Few political arrests were reported to have taken place during the year. Several thousand political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, remained in prison: some were serving sentences imposed after unfair trials; most were held without charge or trial under state of emergency legislation. Several political prisoners continued to be held after their sentences had expired. Torture of detainees was widespread. At least two people were executed. Hundreds of suspected government opponents, including prisoners of conscience, appeared before the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) whose procedures fall far short of international fair trial standards. The court, which was established in 1968 to deal solely with political and state security cases, is not bound by the Code of Criminal Procedure and denies defendants many of the rights guaranteed under this code, including the right of appeal. The defendants had been arrested between 1980 and 1993 and held without charge or trial. They were brought before the SSSC on charges of membership of, or activities relating to, various unauthorized political organizations. Many were sentenced to prison terms and dozens were acquitted or had the charges against them dropped. The outcome of most of the cases had not been made public by the end of 1994. When the trials began in July 1992, most of the defendants were represented by lawyers chosen by their relatives, although some reportedly refused legal representation in protest against the SSSC's procedures (see Amnesty International Report 1994). However, by the beginning of 1994, most of these lawyers had withdrawn in protest at the conduct of the trials. They were replaced by other lawyers appointed by the Bar Association at the SSSC's request. All the defendants had been denied access to legal assistance in prolonged pre-trial detention, including during interrogation by the SSSC prosecutor before the court hearings. Defence lawyers rarely had prior access to their clients' files and were unaware of the specific charges against them. In some cases lawyers were denied the right to meet their clients in private or to call defence witnesses. Over 300 prisoners charged in connection with Hizb al-‘Amal al-Shuyu‘i, the Party for Communist Action (PCA), were on trial before the SSSC. Most of them, including many prisoners of conscience, had been held without charge or trial for years, in some cases for over 12 years. They included Silya ‘Abbas, a student of mathematics at Damascus University, who was reportedly held incommunicado. Her father, ‘Abbas ‘Abbas, detained for alleged links with the PCA since January 1982, was also on trial. During the year, many of these defendants were sentenced. Among them was Anwar Badr, a radio and television journalist, who received a 12-year prison term. Dozens of defendants were released; the results of the trials of the remainder were not known. About 30 people charged with membership of or links with al-Hizb al-Shuyu‘i al-Maktab al-Siyassi, the Communist Party Political Bureau (CPPB), appeared before the SSSC. Most of them were sentenced to between eight and 15 years' imprisonment. Among them was Ahmad Faiz al-Fawwaz, a 62-year-old doctor, who received a 15-year prison sentence. Riad al-Turk, a leading member of the CPPB who was arrested in 1980, remained held in incommunicado detention without charge or trial. Throughout his detention he had been allowed only one visit by his wife and daughter, in 1993. At least 18 people were tried for alleged links with two unauthorized Nasserist political movements, Hizb al-Ittihad al-‘Arabi al-Ishtiraki fi-Suriya, the Arab Socialist Union Party in Syria, and al-Tanzim al-Sha‘bi al-Dimuqrati al-Naseri, the Nasserist Democratic Popular Organization. Sixteen were released; no information was available regarding the remaining two defendants. Dozens of political detainees suspected of links with unauthorized Kurdish organizations were tried during the year. Some of them were sentenced to up to two years' imprisonment and were released as they had been detained since 1992. They included Ahmad Hassu, who was arrested in 1992 and sentenced to two years' imprisonment in connection with the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP). He was released in May. It was not known whether the court had reached a verdict in the remaining cases. About 50 political detainees held in connection with Hizb al-Ba‘th al-Dimuqrati al-Ishtiraki al-‘Arabi, the Arab Socialist Democratic Ba‘th Party, remained held. Most were believed to be facing trial before the SSSC, but the outcome of their trial was not known. Few political arrests were reported to have taken place during the year, but no details were made public by the authorities. Several thousand political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, remained held. Some were serving prison sentences imposed after unfair trials; most were held without charge or trial. Scores of prisoners of conscience continued serving lengthy prison sentences imposed by the SSSC in 1992 and 1993 (see Amnesty International Reports 1993 and 1994). Ten had been sentenced in March 1992 to between five and 10 years' imprisonment on charges connected with the Committees for the Defence of Democratic Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria, an unauthorized organization. They included Aktham Nu‘aysa, a lawyer who was reported to be in poor health, and Nizar Nayyuf, a sociologist. The others had been sentenced in 1993 to between three and 15 years in prison for alleged links with the PCA. One of them, Khalil Husain Husain, a chemist, who had been sentenced to eight years' imprisonment in October 1993, was released in May. He had already spent more than eight years in pre-trial detention. The majority of political detainees still held without charge or trial were alleged supporters of al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun, the Muslim Brotherhood (see previous Amnesty International Reports). Most remained in incommunicado detention and their whereabouts were unknown. A few were said to have been tried, but no details were available. Three long-term prisoners of conscience, all former government and Ba‘th Party officials, remained in al-Mezze Military Prison in Damascus, the capital; all had been detained without charge or trial since 1970 and were reportedly in poor health. They were: Muhammad ‘Id ‘Ashawi, aged 64; Fawzi Rida, in his sixties; and ‘Abd al-Hamid Miqdad. Five former leading members of the Ba‘th Party, all prisoners of conscience, were released in February and October. They had all been detained without charge or trial since their arrest between 1969 and 1972. They were: Ahmad Suwaidani, Mustafa Rustum, Hadithe Murad, ‘Adel Na‘issa, and Dafi Jam‘ani, a Jordanian national. At least 130 doctors, lawyers and engineers who had been arrested following a one-day general strike in 1980 remained held without charge or trial. They included Tawfiq Draq al-Siba‘i, a doctor, who was reported to be in al-Mezze Military Prison in 1987. Since then there has been no news of his whereabouts. The government stated that two people arrested following the strike had been tried and sentenced: ‘Abd al-Majid ‘Abd al-Qadir, a veterinary surgeon, was reportedly serving a life sentence; ‘Abd al-Rahman Kittanji, a physician, was reportedly sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment in 1980. Hundreds of Lebanese nationals and Palestinians arrested in previous years in Lebanon or Syria as suspected political activists remained detained (see previous Amnesty International Reports). Most were held incommunicado and their whereabouts were unknown. They included Khadija Yahya Bukhari, a singer, who had been held incommunicado since her arrest at Lebanon International Airport in April 1992. She was reported to have been tried in secret before a military court. Several other political prisoners remained held despite having completed their prison sentences. They included Mustafa Tawfiq Fallah and Jalal al-Din Mirhij, former military staff whose sentences expired in 1985. No additional charges had been brought against them. Eleven men who had been held incommunicado without charge or trial since August 1993 were released on 3 July. They had been detained shortly after attending the funeral of Salah Jadid, a former prisoner of conscience who died in custody in August 1993 after almost 23 years in detention without charge or trial (see Amnesty International Report 1994). Torture of political detainees remained widespread. Commonly cited torture methods included falaqa (beatings on the soles of the feet) and dullab (the "tyre", whereby the victim is suspended from a tyre and beaten with sticks or cables). Many defendants who appeared before the SSSC alleged that they had been tortured and that their "confessions" had been extracted under duress. The court did not order investigations into their allegations. Government ministers told Amnesty International delegates who visited Damascus in October that torture was illegal in Syria and provided them with a list of some 40 officers whom they said had been referred for trial in connection with torture allegations. However, they provided no information about the cases of torture submitted by Amnesty International. There were reports that Dani Mansurati, a Lebanese national, died in custody in April. He was reportedly arrested in May 1992 and held incommunicado at the Air Force Intelligence headquarters in Damascus. No investigation into his death was known to have been carried out. Scores of political prisoners arrested in previous years remained unaccounted for and it was feared they had "disappeared". They included Ghassan Abazid, a lawyer and member of the Syrian Bar Association, who was arrested in 1982 in Damascus. Scores of asylum-seekers of various nationalities were held in contravention of international human rights standards or were at risk of being sent back to countries where they faced human rights violations. They included ‘Abd al-Basit ‘Azuz, a Libyan national. He was reportedly living in hiding in Syria after escaping from custody in October 1993 while he was being taken to the port of Lataqiyya in preparation for his forcible return to Libya. Another Libyan national was forcibly sent back to Libya at the same time: no information was available about his fate or whereabouts following his return. In response to Amnesty International's queries, the Syrian authorities claimed that the two had not informed them of any request for asylum. Other asylum-seekers were detained incommunicado for long periods and some were allegedly tortured or ill-treated. All were said to have been denied access to any asylum procedure or to the judiciary. At least two people were executed. Both were convicted of murder. Amnesty International continued to appeal for the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience and for all other political prisoners to receive fair and prompt trials or be released. It urged the authorities to initiate impartial investigations into all torture allegations and to end the use of the death penalty. The organization also urged the authorities to ensure that all asylum-seekers were given access to fair refugee procedures and the judiciary. In July Amnesty International sent a comprehensive memorandum to the government entitled Amnesty International's Continuing Human Rights Concerns in Syria. A delegation from the organization visited Damascus in October and discussed the memorandum with ministers, senior judges and officials. The authorities gave an undertaking to study the memorandum and respond to the issues and cases raised by the organization, but no response was received by the end of the year. In April Amnesty International submitted information about its concerns in Syria for UN review under a procedure established by Economic and Social Council Resolutions 728F/1503 for confidential consideration of communications about human rights violations.

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