Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies (DCHRS)

Escalation of acts of harassment and arbitrary arrests of lawyers

JOINT
PRESS RELEASE

SYRIA:
Escalation of acts of harassment and arbitrary arrests of lawyers

Copenhagen,
Geneva, Paris, August 25, 2011. The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network
(EMHRN) and 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), strongly condemn the continuous
harassment and the multiplication of arbitrary arrests and assaults of lawyers
in Syria, while the country remains the theatre of massive human rights
violations.

 Numerous
gatherings have recently been organised by groups of lawyers across the country
to demand the end of the repression of peaceful demonstrators and the respect
of human rights and democratic principles. In most cases, the security
apparatus and the pro-regime “chabiha” militias have tried to stop
gatherings, attacking participants and conducting arbitrary
arrests.  

 On August
22, a group of lawyers organised a gathering in front of the courthouse in the
Eastern city of Reqaa. Our organisations have been informed that at least 19
lawyers were arrested, namely Messrs. Abdallah Al Khalif, Abdul Razaq Al
Setm, Ashid Al Aly Almoussa, Ali Al Fares, Fahed Al Birm, Farhan Alnoani,
Ghaleb Amin, Mahmoud Aicha, Mahmoud Al Hadi, Mahmoud Al Isa, Mahmoud Al
Tiyaoui, Mahmud Wali, Mohammad Shalash, Oboud Nouheir Al Ourian, Omar Al Aly Al
Khalil, Yasser Ahmad Al Kerbou
, Ms. Rana Ibrahim and Ms. Rim
Shanaa
(who is pregnant), in addition to the lawyer and human rights
activist Abdullah Al Khalil. According to information received at the
time of publication, while Ms. Rana Ibrahim and Ms. Rim Shanaa were released on
August 24, the rest of the lawyers remained detained incommunicado. Our
organisations consider that there is a high risk that these persons be
subjected to ill-treatment or torture.

 On August
23, lawyers in several major cities organised gatherings in front of
courthouses and local offices of the Syrian Bar Association in order to condemn
the arbitrary arrests and abuses committed by members of the security apparatus
against lawyers, and to criticise the lack of independence of the Syrian Bar
Association. Sit-ins were notably held in Damascus, Soueida, Hassakeh and
Aleppo. In Hassakeh, several lawyers, including Moustafa Osso, Chairman
of the Kurdish organisation for human rights “DAD”, were assaulted in the
presence of the President of the Hassakeh Branch of the Syrian Bar Association.
In the evening of the same day, lawyer and human rights activist Mohammed
Issam Zaghloul
was arrested in Damascus. It is believed that his arrest
follows his participation in the sit-in held in front of the Damascus Bar
Association.

 In the last
three months, more than 80 lawyers have been subjected to arbitrary arrests due
to their peaceful exercise of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
Nevertheless, lawyers contacted by our organisations corroboratorily indicate
that the Syrian Bar Association has consistently failed to bring support to its
members though imprisoned or abused by the security apparatus. Our
organisations condemn this repression and fear that it merely aim at
sanctioning their activities in favour of human rights in contradiction with
the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders
(1998). We recall that the “right to hold opinion without interference” and the
“right to peaceful assembly” are guaranteed by the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights (Articles 19 and 21), to which Syria is a state
party. 

 The
Observatory and the EMHRN urge the Syrian authorities to respect in all circumstances
the integrity of lawyers, to grant them unrestricted access to courtrooms and
courthouses, to respect the right of lawyers to freedoms of expression and
peaceful demonstration and to put an end to all forms of harassment or measures
of intimidation, including disciplinary procedures arbitrarily undertaken by
the Bar Association against lawyers. 

 More
generally, our organisations vehemently denounce the serious human rights
violations committed against the demonstrators by the Syrian authorities since
the beginning of the protest movement.

For
further information, please contact:

·        
EMHRN: Mathieu Routier: +33 6 87 02 02 70

·        
FIDH: Arthur Manet: + 33 1 43 55 25 18

·        
OMCT: Andrea Meraz: + 41 22 809 49 39