The ICJ today deplored the failure of the Syrian authorities to protect the physical integrity ICJ Commissioner Muhannad Al-Hasani, an internationally renowned lawyer and human rights defender currently in jail.
Muhannad Al-Hasani was physically assaulted in prison on 28 October, only two weeks after he had been awarded the prestigious Martin Ennals award for human rights defenders at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland.
Muhannad Al-Hasani was severely beaten by a prisoner who accused him of working against the interests of the Syrian nation. The prisoner is believed to have been acting at the behest of the Syrian security services. Mr. Al-Hasani is suffering from hematoma and bleeding from his eye and forehead as a result of the assault.
“The attack on Muhannad Al-Hasani is an attack on human rights defenders everywhere who strive to protect rights under the rule of law. The Syrian authorities have brazenly rebuffed the international community by allowing this assault in the immediate aftermath of his receiving the Martin Ennals award,” said Wilder Tayler, ICJ Secretary General. “It is the responsibility of the Syrian authorities to protect Mr. Al-Hasani from any form of ill-treatment and they must be held accountable for these attacks.”
In accepting the Martin Ennals award in absentia on 15 October, Muhannad Al-Hasani emphasized the risks that human rights defenders face in Syria, including attacks on their rights to security and to life.
This assault intensifies a campaign of harassment and intimidation against Mr. Al-Hasani, because of his work as a lawyer and as a human rights defender. His present prison sentence comes after his conviction by the second criminal court of Damascus for “weakening national sentiments” following an unfair trial. Prior to this he was permanently disbarred from practicing law by the nonindependent Syrian Bar Association.
“The Syrian authorities must release Muhannad Al-Hasani immediately and unconditionally,” Tayler added. “As long as he remains in prison, the authorities must fully respect his rights to access to his lawyers, family members and independent medical personnel.”