Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies (DCHRS)

Lawyers defending human rights confront the regime and Bar Association’s repressive measures

Copenhagen, Paris, October 27, 2011. The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) expresses its deepest concern regarding the continuous repression against peaceful demonstrators and civilians in Syria and regarding the increase of repressive measures and harassment aimed specifically at lawyers.

Following the outbreak of the peaceful protest movement in March 2011, a large number of lawyers took a public stand denouncing the systematic campaigns led by the Syrian authorities against civilians, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and the massive systematic torture of detainees.

Many lawyers’ rallies were organized in front of the Courts and the headquarters of Bar Associations in different regions of Syria to express their support to victims of repression, demand the release of all persons arbitrarily detained and require the Syrian Bar Association to provide support and protection to its members facing illegal measures and cease to obstruct their struggle to provide support to victims of repression.

In most cases, the security services have responded to these gatherings with violent repression, using bladed weapons against demonstrators and conducting numerous arrests, sometimes with the active support of groups of pro-regime lawyers.

According to information received by the EMHRN, more than a hundred lawyers have been detained since the beginning of the protest movement. The EMHRN is highly concerned by the large number of lawyers victims of arbitrary detention that may constitute cases of enforced disappearances. Corroborating testimonies of torture and ill-treatment during detention raise concerns for the lives of some of the lawyers in detention. Arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment during detention seem to be intended to intimidate the entire community of lawyers in Syria.

"We express our full solidarity with the lawyers who are struggling today in Syria to respect the principles of the Rule of law," said Kamel Jendoubi, President of the EMHRN, "these lawyers are dedicated to their profession by risking their lives while supporting victims of international crimes committed by the Syrian authorities. "

Furthermore, the EMHRN had received information indicating that the Syrian Bar Association hasn’t only failed to support lawyers arbitrary detained, but continues to actively support the security services. According to information obtained by the EMHRN, the president of the Syrian Bar Association, Mr. Nizar Al Skeif provided security services of the Baath Party, end of September, with detailed reports on lawyers involved in the protest movement and their support for arbitrarily detained peaceful demonstrators. Moreover, the Bar Association triggered a series of disciplinary proceedings against lawyers who publicly condemned the violations committed by the security services and the pro-regime militias by communicating with foreign media or participating in rallies in support of democracy and the independence of the judiciary. Among these lawyers are especially Human Rights defenders: Mr. Mustafa Osso, president of the Organization for the defense of Human Rights “DAD”, Mr. Faisal Badr, spokesman for the group of lawyers "Syrian lawyers for Freedom", and Mr. Fadel Salim, board member of the Human Rights Organization “MAF”.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network “EMHRN” reiterates its firm condemnation of the repression led by the Syrian authorities against peaceful demonstrators, expresses its full solidarity with the Syrian lawyers who courageously defend principles of the Rule of law and demands:
·         The Syrian authorities: to immediately provide information on places of detention of lawyers mentioned above and allow their families to visit them, to ensure the physical and psychological integrity of all detainees and Human rights defenders in Syria, to comply at all times with the United Nations Declaration on Human rights defenders (1998).
·         To the Syrian Bar Association: to comply with its mission through an immediate end to abusive disciplinary procedures triggered against its members by providing support to arbitrarily detained lawyers in accordance with fundamental principles of the United Nations on the Role of the Bar Association (Havana, 1990).
The EMHRN finally calls civil society organizations, Bar Associations and International Organizations of lawyers to publicly express their support for the Syrian lawyers engaged with peaceful demonstrators.