Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2005 - Syria

Ongoing harassment of CDF members33

Judicial proceedings against and acquittal of Mr. Aktham Naisse34

Mr. Aktham Naisse, a Syrian lawyer and president of the Committees for the Defence of Human Rights and Democratic Freedoms in Syria (CDF), had been arrested on 13 April 2004 in Latakia, after the CDF had published their annual report on human rights violations in Syria and issued several statements denouncing violence against Kurdish communities in the north of the country. Mr. Naisse, who had been accused of "opposing the objectives of the revolution" and "disseminating false information aiming at weakening the State", was granted bail by the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) on 17 April 2004, in the presence of an Observatory's delegate.

On 12 January 2005, Mr. Naisse won the 2005 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA).35

On 16 January 2005, whereas the SSSC was to hold another hearing, a trial observation mission mandated by the Observatory was prevented from attending the hearing by Syrian authorities as its delegate was denied a visa. That same day, the hearing was postponed until 24 April 2005, then 26 June 2005.

On 26 June 2005, the SSSC decided to drop all charges against Mr. Naisse and announced that Mr. Naisse was found not responsible for "the activities" with which he was charged, in the presence of a delegate mandated by the Observatory and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ). Although the Court ought to refund Mr. Naisse the amount paid for his bail (10,000 Syrian Pounds – 146 euros) in August 2004, by the end of 2005 he had not received any refunding.

Since he was released, Mr. Naisse encountered recurrent difficulties as a lawyer. Indeed, following the massive defamation campaigns orchestrated by the authorities in pro-governmental media, his clients were reluctant to consult him. Moreover, Mr. Naisse remained subjected to increasing pressures, notably since CDF and OMCT presented an alternative report before the United Nations Human Rights Committee in July 2005.

Lastly, Mr. Naisse's telephone line was still bugged and his electronic mail remained under constant surveillance.

Arbitrary arrest of Mr. Kamal Labwani

Mr. Kamal Labwani, a CDF board member who had been arbitrarily detained in a wave of arrests targeting ten opponents and human rights activists and released at the end of 2004, was arrested again on 8 November 2005.

In October 2005, Mr. Labwani made a statement while on a stay in the United States. In this statement, which was broadcast by the Al-Hourra American TV channel, he notably warned that the adoption of international sanctions against Syria should not affect the population. Mr. Labwani was arrested upon arrival at Damascus airport and appeared on 11 November 2005 before the Ordinary Court, which indicted him with "damaging the nation's image" – a charge liable to up to three years imprisonment.

By the end of 2005, Mr. Labwani remained detained at the Adra prison, whereas no further hearing had been scheduled.

Continued obstacles to freedom of assembly and intimidation of CDF members

In 2005, the CDF members continued to be subjected to constant harassment by the security forces. Their phone lines, in particular, were bugged and they were recurrently summoned by the police.

In November 2005 for instance, Mr. Khoder Abdel Karine, a CDF member, was forcibly taken home from his workplace by agents of the political police, who searched his house without a warrant and seized numerous documents about the CDF activities. Mr. Abdel Karine was further summoned on four different occasions by the same police department.

Moreover, the CDF general assembly, held on 24 September 2004 in Khan Al-Sheikh, was disrupted by agents of the security services who occupied the premises for an hour. Police officers seized numbers of documents, took photographs of all CDF members present and threatened them before leaving. Earlier that day, the police had already come to Mr. Aktham Naisse's home assuming the assembly would take place there.

Arbitrary arrest and detention of Mr. Mohamed Ra'doun36

On 22 May 2005, the Syrian security forces attacked the Latakia office of Mr. Mohamed Ra'doun, a lawyer and chairman of the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in Syria (AOHRS). Mr. Ra'doun was arrested and taken first to the security forces' office, then to Damascus to appear before the SSSC Prosecutor without access to legal counsel. He was accused of "circulating false information" and "involvement in an international, illegal organisation". Mr. Ra'doun's arrest and detention were believed to be a retaliation measure following the AOHRS press releases and statements denouncing the human rights situation in Syria.

Mr. Ra'doun, who was placed in confinement detention at the Adra prison, close to Damascus, was granted presidential pardon and was subsequently released on 2 November 2005. All charges against him were then dropped.

Ongoing detention of Messrs. Aref Dalilah and Habib Hissa37

By the end of 2005, Mr. Aref Dalilah, a professor of economics and a human rights defender, and Habib Hissa, a lawyer and a founding member of the Human Rights Association in Syria (HRAS), were still detained in spite of their poor health conditions.

Messrs. Dalilah and Hissa had been arrested in September 2001 and sentenced respectively to ten and five years in prison in August 2002. They had also been deprived of their civil and political rights.

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website (www.fidh.org) was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

33. Idem.

34. See Annual Report 2004 and Press Releases, 22 and 27 April 2005, 23 and 28 June 2005.

35. See Press Releases, 12, 14 and 17 January 2005. The Martin Ennals Award (MEA) for Human Rights Defenders, created in 1993, brings together the eleven most important international human rights organisations to offer protection to human rights defenders. The Jury is composed of: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, FIDH, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), OMCT, Diakonie Germany, the International Service for Human Rights, International Alert, Huridocs and Defence for Children International (DCI).

36. See Urgent Appeal SYR 001/0505/OBS 035.

37. See Annual Report 2004.


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.