Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies (DCHRS)

Two men released, fate of others unknown

22 March 2012

Muhammad Yassin Al Hamwi and Shaker al-Masri have been released . They had been detained incommunicado since their arrest on 23 September 2011. Muhammad Muhammad Al Hamwi and Ahmad Kuraitem , also arrested the same day , and Abd al-Akram al-Sakka, held since 15 July, remain subjected to enforced disappearance.

According to a relative based abroad, Muhammad Yassin Al Hamwi was released in the early hours of 25 February 2012. He was not charged or taken before a judge, so the reason for his arrest and release remain unclear. It seems he was first held at the Air Force Intelligence branch in Daraya, a suburb of the capital, Damascus, then moved to the Air Force Intelligence-run wing of ‘Adra prison, near Damascus, and then returned to the Air Force Intelligence branch. According to his relative, he was tortured and otherwise ill-treated during his detention and interrogation. S haker al-Masri was released in unclear circumstances at the start of January 2012.

Muhammad Yassin Al Hamwi said he met his son, Muhammad Muhammad Al Hamwi while both were held in ‘Adra prison approximately from October 2011 until early January 2012. He appeared to have been beaten, but otherwise seemed fine. It is unclear whether Muhammad Muhammad Al Hamwi is still held at ‘Adra prison as, despite repeated requests by the families, the authorities have released no information about his fate or current whereabouts,which is also the case for Ah m a d Kuraitem , who was arrested at the same time.

Amnesty International has since learned that another acquaintance of the group of detainees, 68-year-old Abd al-Akram al-Sakka, an Imam, was arrested by Air Force Intelligence on 15 July 2011. Despite inquiries by his family, the authorities have not provided any information about his fate or whereabouts since his detention and it is not clear why he was arrested.

Please write immediately in Arabic, English or your own language:
Expressing concern that Muhammad Muhammad Al Hamwi, Ahmad Kuraitem and Abd al-Akram al-Sakka have been subjected to enforced disappearance, and urging the authorities to reveal their fate and whereabouts immediately;

Calling on them to protect the men from torture and other ill-treatment, allow them contact with their families and lawyers of their choice, and ensure they receive any necessary medical treatment;

Expressing concern that if any of the three men are held solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, Amnesty International would consider them prisoners of conscience and call for their immediate and unconditional release. Otherwise they should be released unless charged with a recognizably criminal offence and tried in accordance with international fair trial standards.

Bashar al-Assad
Presidential Palace, al-Rashid Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: +963 11 332 3410 (keep trying)
Salutation: Your Excellency
Minister of Interior
His Excellency Major General Mohamad Ibrahim al-Shaar, Ministry of Interior, ‘Abd al-Rahman Shahbandar Street
Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic
Fax: +963 11 211 9578 (keep trying)
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 6253 (keep trying)
Salutation: Your Excellency

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Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the first update of UA 292/11. Further information:

TWO men RELEASED, Fate of others unknown

Additional Information
His relative told Amnesty International that Muhammad Yassin Al Hamwi was held in harsh conditions, particularly during the final months of his detention, when he was forced to stay in an overcrowded room where all detainees could only sleep on their sides as there was not enough space to sleep on their backs. Reportedly, the food also became increasingly inadequate towards the final period of his detention.

Pro-reform demonstrations began in Syria in February 2011 and evolved into mass protests in mid-March. The Syrian authorities have responded in the most brutal manner in their efforts to suppress them. Amnesty International has obtained the names of more than 7200 people reported to have died or been killed during, or in connection with, the protests and unrest. Many are believed to have been shot by security forces using live ammunition while taking part in peaceful protests or attending funerals of people killed in protests. More recently, hundreds have been killed during the shelling of civilian areas by Syrian armed forces, particularly in the city of Homs. Members of the security forces have also been killed, some by defecting soldiers and others who have taken up arms against the government.

The Syrian state has a number of security and intelligence agencies, and also some even more opaque groups, often armed but not necessarily uniformed, who also carry out abductions, killings and other abuses in apparent coordination with, or at least approval of, state officials. Amnesty International has also received reports of armed individuals threatening, abusing and, in some cases, killing people perceived to be linked to or supportive of the state.

Thousands of suspected opponents of the Syrian government have been arrested in the past 12 months and many, if not most, are believed to have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. Amnesty International has the names of more than 280 people reported to have died in custody in this period and has documented many cases of torture or other ill-treatment of former detainees. For further information about torture and other ill-treatment of detainees in Syria, see “I wanted to die”: Syria’s torture survivors speak out, Index MDE 24/016/2012, March 2012, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE24/016/2012/en

Since April 2011, Amnesty International has documented systematic and widespread human rights violations which amount to crimes against humanity, and has called for the situation in Syria to be referred to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, as well as for imposition of a comprehensive arms embargo and an assets freeze on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and those close to him.

Name: Muhammad Muhammad Al Hamwi, Ahmad Kuraitem, Abd al-Akram al-Sakka

Gender m/f: all male