The ICJ today called on the Syrian authorities to end their persistent attacks on human rights defenders and persons detained for political reasons and the members of their families.
On 16 March 2011, a group of protesters, led by family members of detainees, were peacefully demonstrating outside the Ministry of the Interior in Damascus, calling for the release of their relatives. Plain-clothed security officers launched a violent crackdown on the demonstrators, physically assaulting and arresting at least 25 of them. Detainees were taken to unknown locations and are reportedly held in incommunicado detention.
“The use of violent force and arbitrary arrest against peaceful protesters exercising their rights to free expression and assembly constitutes a wide spectrum of human rights violations by the Syrian authorities,” said Saïd Benarbia, ICJ Legal Adviser for the Middle East and North Africa programme. “Rather than subjecting the demonstrators to such abuses, the Syrian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release all political activists and human rights defenders who are arbitrarily detained, many for carrying out their legitimate work in promoting the rule of law and human rights in Syria,” Benarbia added.
Families of prisoners and detainees have come under increasing pressure by the Syrian authorities, subjected to intimidation and harassment.
“Not only do the Syrian authorities target human rights defenders, they also subject their families to increasing persecution, including by repeatedly summoning them for interrogation; preventing them from communicating with the media and human rights organizations; and by threatening reprisals against them and their imprisoned relatives,” said Benarbia.
On 8 March 2011, eleven human rights defenders and persons detained for political reasons serving prison terms in Adra prison, Damascus, began a hunger strike in protest against their continuing imprisonment and the intolerable conditions of their detention. Their health conditions have been increasingly deteriorating. One of those on hunger strike is Muhannad Al-Hasani, a Commissioner of the ICJ and 2010 laureate of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, who was convicted on charges arising from his legitimate professional legal work following an unfair trial.
For more information, please contact Saïd Benarbia, Middle East & North Africa Legal Adviser, at +