Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies (DCHRS)

Syrian political activist George Sabra has been detained



Syrian political activist George Sabra has been detained
incommunicado at an unknown location since 20 July as part of mass arrests by
the Syrian army and security forces in the town of Qatana, south-west of the
capital, Damascus. He is at serious risk of torture and other ill-treatment.

Tanks and armed men moved into Qatana, south-west of the
capital, on 16July, opening fire on unarmed residents and carrying out raids,
randomly arresting dozens of men between the ages of 18 and 40. Political
activist George Sabra, aged 64, is among those held incommunicado at unknown
locations. Amnesty International is particularly concerned for his safety given
reports of widespread torture across Syria.

George Sabra’s son, Chadi Sabra, who lives in exile in
France, told Amnesty International that a number of armed men in plain clothes
arrested his father at the family’s flat at 1am on 20 July without allowing him
to change out of his pyjamas or take his ID card. Ten minutes later another
group of armed men arrived at the flat and confiscated his personal computer
and mobile phone after introducing themselves as members of the security
forces. They also took some of his clothes and his ID card.

The Syrian authorities have not revealed why he was
arrested. According to Chadi Sabra, however, his father’s arrest is likely to
be related to the senior position he holds within the unauthorized Democratic
People’s Party in Syria and his publicly expressed support for peaceful
protests and refusal to engage in dialogue with the authorities unless the
security forces refrain from further violence against peaceful protesters.

Amnesty International believes that George Sabra is probably
a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for legitimately exercising his
rights to freedom of expression and association.

Please write immediately in Arabic, English, French or your
own language:

Expressing concern that
George Sabra has been held incommunicado at an unknown location since 20 July,
and calling on the authorities to ensure that he is fully protected against
torture or other ill-treatment;

Expressing concern that
George Sabra is held for supporting the protests in Qatana and noting that, if
this is the case, Amnesty International would consider him a prisoner of
conscience detained solely for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of
expression and association and call for his immediate and unconditional

Urging the Syrian
authorities to take immediate steps to name and disclose the whereabouts of all
detainees arrested in connection with ongoing protests, to give them immediate
access to lawyers of their choosing and their families and any medical
treatment they may require, and to safeguard them from torture and other



Bashar al-Assad               

Presidential Palace

al-Rashid Street               

Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic               

Fax: +963 11 332 3410

Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Walid al-Mu’allim            

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

al-Rashid Street

Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic               

Fax: +963 11 214 6251

Salutation: Your Excellency

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Pro-reform protests had been taking place daily in Qatana
from 9 to 15 July, following four months of unrest across Syria. The protesters
clashed with supporters of President Bashar al-Assad on a number of occasions
when both sides threw stones at each other.

According to Qatana residents the situation escalated when
the Syrian army and security forces entered the town with tanks early on 16
July and opened fire on residential areas, injuring a number of people
including some of those who were leaving the Mosque of Mariam Ben ‘Omran after
Saturday morning prayers. A curfew was imposed at around 11am, internet,
electricity and water were cut off in at least some parts of the town and the
army and security forces began carrying out door-to-door raids and arresting

Qatana residents also reported that a seven-month-old child,
Mohammed Ahmed Sabboura, was shot dead and his mother injured while attempting
to flee Qatana.

George Sabra was imprisoned twice before for his peaceful
activities as a senior member of the Democratic People’s Party, previously
called the Syrian Communist Party – Political Bureau, most recently for a
month, between 10 April and 10 May 2011, when he was released on bail, and
previously for eight years between 1987 and 1995, during which time he was
convicted in a grossly unfair trial before the Supreme State Security Court. He
spent the first three years of that period of detention at the State Security
branch in Damascus where he was not allowed visits from his family or lawyer.
He was later transferred to Saydnaya Military Prison, near Damascus, where he
spent the remaining five years and was allowed family visits.

As part of his leading role within the Democratic People’s
Party, George Sabra is the party’s representative in the Damascus Declaration
for Democratic National Change (DDDNC), an unauthorized umbrella body of
opposition groups that calls for democratic reform and greater respect for
human rights in Syria.

Name: George Sabra

Gender m/f: m

UA: 224/11 Index: MDE 24/036/2011 Issue Date: 20 July 2011