2003 Report by the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Theo van Boven

Syrian Arab Republic

Urgent appeals

1736. On 18 January 2002, the Special Rapporteur sent a joint urgent appeal with the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression on behalf of Riad Sairafi, Ahmad Sairafi and Jamal al-Masri who are three relatives of Mamun al-Humsi, a member of Parliament. They were believed to have been arrested by members of the military intelligence accusing them of provoking "public disorder" on 26 December 2001, after they applauded Mamun al- Humsi at the latest hearing of the latter’s trial, at the Damascus Criminal Court. They are now reportedly held in ‘Adra Prison, where Mamun al-Humsi had been held incommunicado since his arrest on 9 August 2001. He was put on trial before the Criminal Court in Damascus on 30 October, charged with offences including "attempting to change the constitution by illegal means". It was also believed that other relatives of Mamun al-Humsi are being harassed and intimidated by the authorities.

1737. By letter dated 11 April 2002, the Government confirmed that they had been arrested upon an order issued by a judge. They were subsequently released.

1738. On 11 April 2002, the Special Rapporteur sent a joint urgent appeal with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and the Chairman- Rapporteur of the Working Group on arbitrary detention on behalf of Riad Seif, an independent member of the Syrian People's Assembly who was sentenced to five years imprisonment on 4 April 2002 by the Criminal Court in Damascus. He was reportedly found guilty of a number of offences, including attempting to change the Constitution by illegal means and inciting ethnic strife. It is reported that Riad Seif was arrested without a warrant, before his parliamentary immunity had been removed. Furthermore, several other prisoners, including Habib ‘Isa, Fawaz Tello, Habib Saleh and Kamal al-Labwani who were also held at ‘Adra Prison, on the outskirts of Damascus, began a hunger strike on 19 March. They are reportedly protesting against their continued detention without trial, the denial of access to their lawyers and the denial of appropriate medical care.

1739. On 22 April 2002, the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and Special Representative on human rights defenders on behalf Aref Dalilah, a former dean of the faculty of economics of Allepo University, who had been arrested in Damascus in September 2001 along with four other persons, on behalf of whom the Special Rapporteurs, in conjuction with the Special Representative on human rights defenders, had intervened on 14 September 2001. He was said to be an active member of the preparatory committee of the Civil Society Forum, which campaigns for human rights, political participation and freedom of expression in Syria. He was reportedly charged by the Supreme State Security Court, with inter alia attempting to change the Constitution by illegal means. He was reportedly taken from his cell in Sednaya Prison the first week of April 2002 to a hospital in the capital Damascus. He was allegedly suffering from deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which has potentially serious consequences such as a fatal pulmonary embolism or blood clot in the lung. It was feared that he had been returned to prison before receiving any medical treatment.

1740. On 10 May 2002, the Special Rapporteur sent a joint urgent appeal with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on behalf of Riad al- Turk, who had reportedly been arrested on 1 September 2001 at a medical office whilst receiving treatment for a heart condition. He also suffers from diabetes and hypertension. It was believed that he was being denied access to adequate medical treatment and to his lawyer. He was brought before the Supreme State Military Court in Damascus on 28 April 2002 for the first hearing in his trial, allegedly without having been informed of the commencement of his trial nor had documents relating to the case been made available to him. 1741. On 24 June 2002, the Special Rapporteur sent a joint urgent appeal with the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression on behalf of Musallam Shaykh Hasan, a leading member of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Unity Party, who had reportedly been arrested on 7 May 2002 by members of the political security forces. He was detained in Ayn al-Arab on charges of distributing Kurdish political literature. He was reportedly taken to the Aleppo Political Security Department and later transferred to a detention centre in Damascus, where he was reportedly being held in incommunicado detention.

1742. On 10 December 2002, the Special Rapporteur sent an urgent appeal on behalf of Muhammad Sa’id al-Sakhri, Maysun Lababidi, his wife, as well as their children, Ragda al-Sakhri, Muhammad al-Sakhri, Marwa al-Sakhri and Rudina al-Sakhri. They were believed to be currently held incommunicado after having been forcibly returned by the Italian authorities on 28 November 2002. It was feared that they may be held at one of the Syrian intelligence interrogation centres in Damascus. Muhammad Sa’id al-Sakhri and his family had arrived in Milano airport in Italy on 23 November having travelled from Baghdad in Iraq via Amman in Jordan. The family had lived in exile in Baghdad for more than 11 years. Upon arrival in Italy the family was reportedly denied an asylum interview by the Italian authorities. The family was then deported to Syria on 28 November. Muhammad Sa’id al-Sakhri had reportedly been charged in 1982 by the Syrian authorities with membership of the unauthorized Muslim Brotherhood Organization.

Follow-up to previously transmitted communications

1743. By letter dated 14 March 2002, the Government responded to an urgent appeal sent by the Special Rapporteur jointly with the Special Representative on human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression on behalf of Mamun al-Humsi on 13 August 2001 (E/CN.4/2002/76/Add.1, para. 1566). The Government informed that he was permitted to engage ten lawyers and to be visited by them and his family and friends while in detention. He was also provided with medical care, medication and treatment free of charge. His trial was held in open court and attended by representatives of several embassies and representatives of international news agencies. The Government further indicated that the alleged victim appealed to the Court of Cassation, which was reviewing his case at the time this response was transmitted.


1744. The Special Rapporteur considers it appropriate to draw attention to the concerns expressed by the Human Rights Committee in its consideration of the second periodic report of the Syrian Arab Republic in April 2001 under the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in which the Committee expressed its deep concern about “constant and duly substantiated allegations of violations of article 7 of the Covenant, to which the delegation did not respond, which are attributed to law enforcement personnel. It notes with concern the many allegations that torture is practised in Syrian prisons, particularly Tadmur military prison. (…) The Committee takes note of the information provided by the delegation on the conditions of detention in Syrian prisons. It nonetheless remains concerned about the many allegations of inhumane prison conditions and inadequate medical care in a number of prisons, particularly military prisons, including Tadmur prison.” (CCPR/CO/71/SYR, paras 12 and 13)

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small logo   This report has been published by Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights on August 2, 2005.