Arabic Site by MikeJenny


									           Syrian Human Rights Information Link (SHRIL)
                                     October 2008

Prisoners of DDDNC

      Syria: Harsh Sentences for Democratic Opposition
      Syria: Twelve Opposition Voices Jailed for Advocating Political Reform
       and Greater Freedom of Expression
      Outrage over 36-month prison sentences passed on three journalists

   Arrests & Releases

       Tow Kurdish leaders arrested
      Citizen arrested
      Kurdish arrest
      Arrest of Engineer Fuad Hussein
      Two Kurdish arrested
      Kurdish soldier arrested
      6 Palestinians disappear in Syria
      A call to disclose the fates of detainees from Deir Al-Zour
      Kurdish activist released

 Trial before ordinary court

      New trial of Habib Shaleh

 Trials before military courts

      Trial of 24 Kurds
      Trail of activist Mustafa Dalati


      Ahwazi family deported to Iran
      Further pressure on prisoner Tammo
      Activists prevented from leaving
      A movie director prevented from travelling
      Banned in Syria, pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat is latest media to fall victim to
       tension between Arab regimes
      Syria: Investigation into killing of Sami Ma’touq and Joni Suleiman
       opened, but hindered by tampered evidence
      Sami Ma’touq killed by Syrian Intelligence elements
       Decree Protects Security, Police Forces
       Finance Magazine Confiscated

Black list - some articles of the Syrian penal law by which Syrian political
prisoners are charged


Prisoners of DDDNC

       Syria: Harsh Sentences for Democratic Opposition

Damascus Declaration Trial a Transparent Bid to Silence Critics

 (Damascus, October 30, 2008) – Syria’s sentencing of a dozen leading democracy
advocates to more than two years in prison is the latest evidence of Syria’s repression
of opposition groups, Human Rights Watch said today. The democracy activists,
including doctors, lawyers, writers, and an artist, were sentenced on October 29, 2008
to 30 months in prison on politically motivated charges.

Human Rights Watch attended the sentencing session and called for President Bashar
al-Assad to immediately quash the convictions and order the prisoners’ release.

In a sentencing session that barely lasted 20 minutes, the First Damascus Criminal
Court, presided over by Muhieldeen Hallaq, convicted the 12 activists on vaguely
defined charges of “weakening national sentiment” and “spreading false or
exaggerated news which would affect the morale of the country.” The authorities had
detained the democracy activists, including former member of parliament Riad Seif,
after they participated in a meeting last December of the National Council of the
Damascus Declaration for Democratic Change, an umbrella group of opposition and
pro-democracy groups.

Founded in 2005, the Damascus Declaration is a coalition of political parties and
independent activists whose stated goal is to build internal support for peaceful
democratic change in Syria.

 “In a transparent bid to silence its critics, the government is jailing democracy
activists for simply attending a meeting,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East
director at Human Rights Watch. “The trial was a mere cover to legitimize the
government’s repression of opposition groups and peaceful critics.”

Human Rights Watch said that the detention and trial of the activists was marred from
the beginning. Syrian security forces held the activists initially for up to 40 days in
incommunicado detention. Eight of the 12 detainees told the investigative judge that
State Security officials beat them during their interrogation and forced them to sign
false statements “confessing” that they planned to take money from foreign countries
in order to divide the country by giving the Kurds a separate state. One of the
detainees, `Ali al-Abdullah, suffered injury to his ear as a result of the beating he

endured. The court did not order any independent investigation regarding the
allegations of ill-treatment.

During the trial, the activists confirmed their involvement in the Damascus
Declaration, but pleaded not guilty and denied the charges against them. In their
defense session on September 24, the defendants expressed doubts about the trial
since it was their “freedom of expression that was on trial.” Another detainee, Walid
al-Bunni, a physician, told the court during his defense that “getting into the details of
my defense is useless, but I will ask: what is the basis of the accusations?”

One of the defense lawyers told Human Rights Watch that the defense team will
likely appeal the sentence within the required 30 days. He summarized the judgment
by saying “membership in the Damascus Declaration is now criminalized.” The wife
of one of the sentenced detainees who had been jailed in the past for his activism
expressed her disgust at the trial. “We don’t know what to feel anymore. I don’t care
if the sentence is for 2.5 years or 10 years. My husband should not be in jail in the
first place.”

Syria has a long record of prosecuting political activists who peacefully express their
opinions. On May 13, 2007, the Second Damascus Criminal Court sentenced four
prominent activists, including prominent writer Michel Kilo and political activist
Mahmud `Issa, to periods varying from three to 10 years in prison for “weakening
national sentiment” after they signed a declaration calling for improved Lebanese-
Syrian relations.

Syrian security services have a significant influence in the trials of political activists,
whether before the criminal courts or exceptional courts. While they often exercise
such influence behind closed doors, in some instances evidence has emerged in
public, as in the 2007 trial of Dr. Kamal al-Labwani, founder of the Democratic
Liberal Gathering. In that trial, the head of National Security sent a letter to the
Minister of Justice asking him to charge Labwani with “communicating with a foreign
country and inciting it to initiate aggression against Syria” even though the prosecutor
had not initially included such a charge. The court ended up sentencing Labwani to 12
years in jail under a charge that was added at the request of National Security.

Background on the ‘Damascus Declaration’ and Syria’s crackdown on critics

The Damascus Declaration for Democratic National Change (“Damascus
Declaration”) is a coalition of political parties and independent Syrian activists
created in October 2005. It consists of individuals and groups from different political
backgrounds (Arab Nationalists, Kurds, liberals, leftists, Islamists) who issued a
statement of principles, including the establishment of democracy in Syria, lifting of
the state of emergency, protection of minority rights, release of all political prisoners,
abolition of Law No. 49 (which makes membership in the Muslim Brotherhood
punishable by death), and upholding of international human rights standards.

The National Council was established as a follow-up body for the Damascus
Declaration. On December 1, 2007, more than 163 activists from the Damascus
Declaration held a meeting to elect the leadership of the National Council. They
elected as president Dr. Feda’ al-Hurani, a physician and daughter of Akram al-

Hurani, a prominent Syrian politician who was highly influential in Syrian politics
from the beginning of the 1940s until his exile in 1963.

Starting on December 9, 2007, Syrian security services began a crackdown on
individuals who attended the meeting, arresting more than 40. While they released
most without charge within a few days, they kept 12 members in detention and
referred them to trial. These 12 are:

1. Walid al-Bunni, 44, physician;

2. Yasser al-`Eiti, 40, physician and poet;

3. Feda’ al-Hurani, 51, physician;

4. Akram al-Bunni, 51, writer;

5. Ahmad To`meh, 51, dentist;

6. Jabr al-Shufi, 60, Arabic-literature teacher;

7. `Ali al-`Abdullah, 58, writer;

8. Fayez Sarah, 58, writer and journalist;

9. Muhammad Hajji Darwish, 48, businessman;

10. Marwan al-`Ush, 52, engineer;

11. Riad Seif, 61, former member of parliament; and,

12. Talal Abu Dan, 55, artist and sculptor

Article 38 of Syria’s Constitution guarantees the right of every citizen to “freely and
openly express his views in words, in writing, and through all other means of
expression.” As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,
Syria has an international obligation to uphold the rights to freedom of expression,
association and assembly as well as the right to a fair trial.

Quotes from the defendants during their September 24 defense session

 “I am not optimistic for the judgment … as I think that we are not being tried by this
court, but from a power that relies on the state of emergency and the security

– Riad Seif, 61, former member of parliament

 “To end the state of emergency and the martial courts and to improve public
freedoms – especially freedom of expression – are necessary conditions to improve
the living situation of the Syrian citizen.”

– Dr. Feda’ al-Hurani, 51, physician

 “I was tried for political reasons before. But this trial is different, because it is a trial
of individuals who wanted to exercise their right to express their mind.”

– Akram al-Bunni, 51, writer

 “Our arrest and trial is the best indication of the authorities’ refusal of any peaceful
and gradual reforms required to resolve Syria’s problems.”

– `Ali al-`Abdullah, 58, writer

 “The right to freedom of expression is a sacred right, and to give it up is to give up
one’s humanity, and I defend my right and the right of any Syrian citizen in his
freedom of expression.”

– Yasser al-`Eiti, 40, physician and poet

 “The heart of this case is whether the authorities will accept the culture of dialogue
and recognize different opinions.”

– Jabr al-Shufi, 60, Arabic-literature teacher

 “It is difficult today to judge someone for his thoughts after democracy has become
the way to determine people’s opinions and ideas.”

– Ahmad To`meh, 51, dentist

 “Getting into the details of my defense is useless, but I will ask: what is the basis of
the accusations?”

– Walid al-Bunni, 44, physician

 “This is a trial of thoughts and concepts more than a trial of individuals. I don’t see
that this court is trying me – rather it is trying every free mind in this country.”

– Talal Abu Dan, 55, artist and sculptor

 “Even though I know that the court is not neutral, I say: any judgment is akin to a
medal on my chest that I gift to my sons. Therefore I do not ask for clemency but for

– Muhammad Hajji Darwish, 48, businessman


       Syria: Twelve Opposition Voices Jailed for Advocating Political Reform and
        Greater Freedom of Expression

ARTICLE 19 strongly condemns the imprisonment of the twelve Syrian
signatories of the Damascus Declaration on 29 October 2008 for up to two-and-
aalf years, and urges the Syrian authorities to immediately halt its crackdown on
dissenting voices.

“The Damascus Declaration is a legitimate form of expression, protected under
international law. ARTICLE 19 strongly urges the Syrian government to reddress its
policy of silencing opposition voices through imprisonment,” commented Dr. Agnès
Callamard, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19.

Signatories of the Damascus Declaration, issued in 2005, pledged “to work to end the
stage of despotism, and to do all that is necessary to enable the process of
democratic change to take off, and to build a modern Syria, a free homeland for all of
its citizens, safeguard the freedom of its people, and protect national independence.”

All twelve imprisoned were arrested in the months that followed a meeting of over
100 members of the Damascus Declaration National Council in December 2007. The
twelve are charged with “publishing false information with the aim of harming the
state, membership of a secret organisation designed to destabilise the state and
inciting ethnic and racial tension”. Khalil Maatouk, a member of their legal defence
team, condemned what he termed their “political trial” in a Damascus court compliant
to the Syrian government.

Prominent dissident Riad Seif, a former MP was among those jailed for "harming the
state”. Others include the group's leader and only woman Fidaa Al-Horani, a
prominent doctor, and journalists Ali Abdullah, Akram Al-Bunni and Fayez Sara.
Sara, 58, a contributor to Arabic publications such as Al-Hayat and Al-Arab Al-Yom
was arrested on 3 January 2008 for criticising the arrests of fellow participants of the
Damascus Declaration National Council meeting on satellite television.

Syria currently imprisons four journalists and five cyber-dissidents, and is ranked
159th out of 173 countries, according to the World Press Freedom Index issued by
Reporters Without Borders on 22 October 2008.

ARTICLE 19 calls upon the Syrian authorities to halt its attacks on opposition voices
and to release all Damascus Declaration detainees incarcerated for their commitment
to political reform by Syria has an obligation, under Article 19 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights, to which it is a State Party, and to protect rather than undermine
the right to freedom of expression.


       Outrage over 36-month prison sentences passed on three journalists

Reporters Without Borders is deeply outraged by the sentences of two and a half years
in prison which a Damascus court passed today on three Syrian journalists and nine
other pro-democracy activists – all members of the Damascus Declaration National

The press freedom organisation calls on the international community, including the
European Union, whose presidency is currently held by France, to take a greater
interest in the fate of prisoners of conscience in Syria.

“These disgraceful sentences were to be expected, given Syria’s appalling human
rights record, but they are nonetheless shocking,”Reporters Without Borders said.
“The international community cannot continue treating this regime with kid gloves if
it persecutes its journalists and civil society in such a brutal manner. These dissidents,
who have been gagged by a subservient judicial system, need the support of all those
who are committed to freedom of opinion and expression.”

The twelve Damascus Declaration members sentenced today were Fida’a Al-Horani
(a doctor), Ali Abdallah (a journalist), Akram Al-Bunni (a journalist), Riyad Seif
(an industrialist and former parliamentarian), Fayez Sara (a journalist), Ahmad
Taama (a doctor), Jabr Al-Shufi (a civil servant), Walid Al-Bunni (a doctor), Yasser
Al-Iti (a doctor), Mohammed Hajji Darwish (a civil servant), Marwan Al-Aach (an
engineer) and Tala Abu-Dan (a painter and sculptor).

After the president of the Damascus court of assizes announced the sentences, the 12
defendants joined hands and shouted pro-democracy slogans. Their lawyers have 30
days to file appeals. Khalil Maatouk, a member of their legal defence team,
condemned what he called a “political trial.”

Signed in October 2005 by opposition representatives and leading members of civil
society, the Damascus Declaration is a call for change based on political freedom,
respect for ethnic and religious minorities, separation of powers and free expression.

More than 160 members of the Damascus Declaration National Council met in the
Syrian capital on 1 December 2007 to elect a secretariat and to reaffirm their
commitment to democratic reform at the end of a “peaceful and progressive process.”

Around 40 of its members were arrested in the course of the following five or six
months, and 12 of them – the 12 sentenced today – were eventually charged with
publishing false information with the aim of harming the state, membership of a secret
organisation designed to destabilise the state and inciting ethnic and racial tension.

Syria is now the Middle East’s second largest prison for the media, after Iran, with a
total four journalists and five cyber-dissidents currently detained. It was ranked 159th
out of 173 countries in the world press freedom index which Reporters Without
Borders issued on 22 October.

To assist news media who are interested, Reporters Without Borders has prepared a
short report on the Damascus Declaration detainees with a caricature by Algerian
cartoonist Ali Dilem (


    Arrests & Releases

       Tow Kurdish leaders arrested

According to the Kurdish Committee for Human Rights in Syria, on October26,
Sa'adon Shekho (Hasaka1966) and Muhammad Saed al-Omar (Derek1955),
members of the Kurdish Azadi party, were arrested by the military security service.


       Citizen arrested

According to the Syrian Organization for Human Rights, on October 21st, Dr.
Musalam al-Zaibaq, Aleppo 1959, who is a pediatrician and is married with two
children, was arrested.

He has previously worked as an editor for newspapers such as al-Khalij and al-Bayan,
and al-Rafiden magazine. He is a member of the writers’ union, Emirate, where he
used to live for a few years and of the general union of Arabic writers.

No reason was given for his arrest.


       Kurdish arrest

According to MAF, on October 10th, Kef Khosh Adnan Yasen, 20years old, was
arrested by the political security service.

His arrest is suspected of being as a result of wearing a chain around his neck which
carried the Kurdish flag colors.

       Arrest of Engineer Fuad Hussein

Closely related sources reported to the Syrian Human Rights Committee (SHRC) that
the Palestinian engineer Fuad Hussein (70 years) was arrested from the Syrian-
Jordanian borders on Thursday 9/10/2008 whilst heading to Damascus with his wife
to visit her relatives.

The engineer Fuad Hussein is a British national who left Britain three years ago to
live in Jordan. He suffers from many chronic diseases such as blood pressure, diabetes
and so on.

SHRC considers the detainment of the engineer Fuad Hussein as an act of human
piracy and an attack on the dignity of the elderly and a violation of the freedom of the
human. SHRC calls for his immediate release, and stresses to all humanitarian
organisations to take note of Mr. Hussein’s diseases and the negative impact this may

have on his health, particularly in the terrible conditions of the Syrian prisons.
Furthermore, since he is not a Syrian citizen, it would have been more proper for the
Syrian Authorities to disallow him from entering the country if he was not welcome.

SHRC expresses its concerns of the engineer Fuad Hussein being exposed to torture
and ill treatment in his current weak state, and calls upon the humanitarian community
to immediately get involved in working for his release and to put an end to his

Syrian Human Rights Committee



       Two Kurdish arrested

According to DAD, on September25, Yasen Shekmos and Sharef Sulaiman were
arrested by the political security services in Qamishli.

Their arrest is probably related to a party which was organized by the PYD in

       Kurdish soldier arrested

According to DAD, in April 2008, the Kurdish citizen Jihad Hanifi, 21years old,
from Qobani, was arrested from his army residence in Derelzor where he was carrying
out his military service.

His arrest is suspected of being as a result of wearing a chain around his neck which
carried the Kurdish flag colors.

       6 Palestinians disappear in Syria

According to al-Quds al-arabi newspaper, six men from al-Khalil city in the west
bank have disappeared in Syria whilst touring during the last Eid.

The families of the young men have demanded that the Syrian authorities reveal the
fate of their sons.

They are, Basem al-Qadi (23years old), Rami Abdulwahab (23years old), Mutaz
Farah (23years old), Wisam Farah (29years old), Musab Farah (22years old), Musab
Bayod (29years old).


       A call to disclose the fates of detainees from Deir Al-Zour

A source close to the detainees mentioned below has reported that they were arrested
10 weeks ago in the first half of the month of August 2008. No explanation was
provided for their arrest except that they are religious men of a moderate outlook. The
source also reported that they cannot even be described as individuals who oppose the
current regime. The men were arrested from their homes and work places, and they

         Muhammad Ameen al-Shawa ( Secondary School Maths Teacher, Deir Al-

          Burhan Juneid (Shop owner)

          Nabeel Khleewi (Employee in Petrol establishment, 49 years, arrested

          Abdul Hadi al-Salameh (Arabic Literature University Student)

          Bilal Sufyan

          Sufyan Dumaim

          Ahmed Dumaim (brother of Sufyan)

          Iyad Hussein

          Hassan Muhammad

          Muhammad Taha

          Thabit al-Hassan

          Abdul Razzaq al-Kubaisi

Different sources have related that they were taken to the ill-reputed Palestine Branch
for Military Interrogation which is connected with the military intelligence, however
nothing is known of their fates or the places in which they are currently being held, or
of the reasons for their arrests and the accusations charged against them.

The source also related that the families of the detainees are extremely concerned and
worried about their loved ones who disappeared upon their arrests by the intelligence,
and are desperate to know where they are being held in order to visit them.

The Syrian Human Rights Committee (SHRC) calls upon the Syrian Authorities to
reveal the places in which the above-mentioned citizens are being held and to
immediately release them. If the citizens have committed any crimes then they should
be trialled in a civil court in which they enjoy their full freedoms with the right to
defend themselves.

SHRC also calls upon the Syrian Authorities to put an end to all arbitrary and
oppressive arrests, the sudden disappearances of citizens and their torture as well as to

stop forbidding them of their rights which have been guaranteed to them by the Syrian

Syrian Human Rights Committee


        Kurdish activist released

According to DAD, on October 5th, Muhammad Musa Muhammad, secretary of the
Kurdish Leftist Party in Syria was released by the individual military judge in

The decision was issued on September 27th, but he wasn’t released then because other
accusations were made against him. So he was removed to Aleppo to be held by the
political security service which removed him to the general prosecution in Aleppo on
October 2nd, which referred him to the tenth investigative judge in Aleppo, accusing
him of circulating banned Kurdish cultural books.

Muhammad was detained by the military security service on July 19th. Following
from this he was referred to the military judiciary in Aleppo and subsequently to the
individual military judge in Qamishli. There he was charged according to articles 288,
307 of the Syrian penal law, before being released while his trial would continue.


         Trial before ordinary court

        New trial of Habib Shaleh

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, on October 14th, the referral
judge in Damascus issued a charge against the prisoner Habib Saleh, accusing him of
breaching articles 285,298,374,377 of the Syrian penal law.

His lawyers will appeal the decision before the Supreme Court.

Saleh, who is 61years old, was arrested for the first time in 2001, among the
Damascus Spring prisoners, and was released in September 2004.

On the second occasion of his arrest in August 2006 he was released in
September2007, before being arrested for the third time in May 2008 for writing a
critical article.


         Trials before military court

        Trial of 24 Kurds

According to the Kurdish Committee for Human Rights, on October 9th, the first
hearing of the trial of 24 Kurds was held before the fifth military individual judge in

15 of them are held in al-Hasaka prison, they are supporters of the PYD party.

They are:

Muhelden Shekmos
Abdulrahman Sulaiman Ramo
Shekmos Abdi Husain
Feras Fares Yousef
Musalam Salim Hadi
Mazen Fandiar Hamo
Abdi Kamal Murad
Musa Sabri Akbal
Shalan Musen Ibrahim
Jamil Ibrahim Omar
Walid Husain Hasan
Muhammad Abdulhalim Ibrahim
Isa Ibrahim Haso
Abdulkarim Husain Ahmad
Abas Khalil Ibrahim

The others are being tried though not incarcerated.

They are:

Fuad Rashad Alliko, secretary of Yekiti Party
Hasan Ibrahim Saleh, member of the political committee of Yekiti party
Fares Khalil Anz
Ghassan Muhammad Saleh Othman
Baderkhan Ibrahim Ahmad
Marwan Hamid Othman
Mahmoud Shekmos Shekho
Shayar Ali Khalil
Bilal Husain Hasan

They are tried on basis of the claim that they participated in a peaceful demonstration
on November 2nd, 2007, against the Turkish military threatening against Kurdistan

The security ended the demonstration by force, using sticks, tear gas and live fire
which lead to the death of Isa Khalil Malla Husain and the injury of Bilal Husain
Hasan and Shayar Ali Khalil.

They are accused according to articles 336, 371, 307,388 of the Syrian penal law.

The prisoners were not brought to court, so the hearing was postponed until
November 23rd.

        Trail of activist Mustafa Dalati

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, on October29 the fifth
military individual judge in Damascus hold the first hearing of the trial of activist
Mustafa Dalati, accusing him with "sympathy" with Damascus Declaration. He is
tried according to article 288 of Syrian penal law.

Al-Dalati was detained on June9-2008, by the military security service.

The trial was postponed to November11 for defense.



        Ahwazi family deported to Iran

According to The Ahwazi Centre for Human Rights, the Syrian authorities have
extradited to the Iranian authorities Mrs. Ma'asooma Al-Ka'abi, the wife of a leader of
one of the Ahwazi political movements. It is believed she has been held in an Iranian
prison for a long period despite receiving refugee status from the United Nations High
Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Syria.

Mrs. Al-Ka'abi was on her way to Damascus International Airport with her five
children to fly to Denmark on 27/9/2009 when she was arrested and they were handed
over to the Iranian security forces.

Mrs. Al-Ka'abi and her children had arrived in Syria in May 2008 to apply for refugee
status to the UNHCR in Damascus.

        Further pressure on prisoner Tammo

According to the Kurdish Future Trend, the Kurdish political leader Mechal Tammo,
the spokesman of the Trend, is being subjected to severe trauma in Adra prison where
he is held.

The prison administration placed with him a psychologically disturbed criminal
prisoner in order to, it is believed, humiliate and distress Mr. Tammo.

Also, Mr.Tammo family wasn’t allowed to bring him personal things or books, except
that which are published in Syria; and until now, he is prevented from going to the
library and has no bed to sleep on.

        Activists prevented from leaving

According to C.D.F, on October 8th, Alaelden Bayasi, member of CDF, was prevented
from leaving Syria from Damascus airport. He was intending to depart for Morocco to
participate in a human rights workshop.

Also, lawyer and activist Aktham Nuaisa, was prevented from leaving the country to
Dubai to participate in the future forum. He was held in Damascus airport for two and
half hours before being released.

The activist Mazen Darwish director of Syrian Center for Press and Freedom of
Expression, was also prevented from traveling to attend the same conference.


        A movie director prevented from travelling

According to the Syrian Center for Press and Freedom of Expression, On October26,
the prominent Syrian Movie director Muhammad Malas was prevented from leaving
the country, while he was travelling to UAI, to work on a new movie related to
children rights.


      Banned in Syria, pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat is latest media to fall victim to
       tension between Arab regimes
8 October 2008

Reporters Without Borders condemns Syria’s ban on distribution of the pan-Arab
daily Al-Hayat since 29 September. The ban on the newspaper, which is Saudi-owned,
comes amid a freeze in relations between Syria and Saudi Arabia that began after a
bombing in Damascus last month.

“The Arab media often depend on good diplomatic relations between the countries
that finance them and the countries where they operate,” Reporters Without Borders
said. “The pan-Arab TV station Al Jazeera, which is funded by the Qatari
government, has problems whenever there is tension between Qatar and another Arab
country. This is the case in Saudi Arabia, for example, where Al Jazeera has long
been banned. Similarly, recent friction between Iran and Egypt resulted in the Iranian
TV station Al Alam being forced to close its Cairo bureau.”

Al-Hayat’s Beirut bureau was notified by the Syrian information ministry’s
censorship office on 29 September that distribution of the newspaper was being
suspended “until further notice.” Al-Hayat, which has its editorial headquarters in
London, is printed in several Arab capitals including Beirut. Copies were transported
by land across the border for distribution in Syria.

Several members of the newspaper’s staff in London and Beirut told Reporters
Without Borders that issues have often been banned by the Syrian authorities without
warning and without explanation. As many as 10 issues a month have been blocked in

this manner, they said. Al-Hayat’s Damascus correspondent, Ibrahim Hamidi, has
often been summoned by officials for questioning about his reports or the
newspaper’s editorials.

The Syrian authorities gave no official explanation for the ban that took effect on 29
September, which the newspaper’s staff attribute to a deterioration in relations
between Syria and Saudi Arabia. Riyad was widely condemned in the Syrian press for
failing to publicly condemn the bombing that took place in Damascus on 27

Another Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily, Al Sharq Al Awsat, has been banned in Syria
since the summer of 2006 as a result of its coverage of the war in Lebanon. Both
newspapers have repeatedly demonstrated their editorial independence as regards
Arab governments. The Saudi journalist Mashari Al-Dhaidi recently wrote an article
for Al Sharq Al Awsat about the Damascus bombing in which he claimed that the
Syrian security services were probably involved.

The foreign media that are distributed within Syria are carefully monitored by the
information ministry while journalists working for foreign media, especially Arabic-
language ones, are kept under very close surveillance and their freedom to operate is
limited. Many Arab media have been refused permission to open a bureau in Syria.
Beirut has in practice become the base from which many media cover Syria.

Syrian President Bashar el-Assad is on the Reporters Without Borders list of the
world’s 38 “Press Freedom Predators.”

        Syria: Investigation into killing of Sami Ma’touq and Joni Suleiman
         opened, but hindered by tampered evidence

21 October 2008

Amnesty International welcomes the opening of an investigation into the killing of
Sami Ma’touq and Joni Suleiman by Syrian security forces in the village of al-
Mishrefeh, near the city of Homs, on 14 October 2008, but is seriously concerned by
reports that the scene of the incident was tampered with yesterday.

In a letter sent yesterday to Syria’s Minister of Defence, General Hassan Ali
Turkmani, the organization welcomed the announcement that the Military Prosecutor
had opened an investigation into the killing of Sami Ma’touq and Joni Suleiman, but
expressed concerns that the scene of the killing appears not to have been inspected
promptly after the shooting and has subsequently been tampered with, in an apparent
attempt to destroy evidence.

Amnesty International urged the Minister to ensure that any remaining physical
evidence at the scene of the killing is collected as a matter or urgency. It called for the
investigation to be carried out in line with international human rights standards, such
as the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal,
Arbitrary and Summary Executions. In particular, it should be thorough, independent
and impartial; its results should be made public; witnesses to the events must be

protected from intimidation; and those allegedly responsible should be brought to
justice in trial proceedings that meet international standards of fairness and do not
carry the possible imposition of the death penalty.

Sami Ma’touq and Joni Suleiman were killed around 9pm on 14 October 2008 during
an operation by law enforcement officials who approached a group of individuals
socializing in front of their homes. According to reports received by Amnesty
International, the individuals were mainly sitting down and none of them was carrying
a weapon nor posing a threat to the life or safety of the officials or anyone else. The
officials opened fire, apparently targeting Joni Suleiman at close range. Some reports
have indicated that he was shot at a distance of several metres and was hit by dozens
of bullets. Sami Ma’touq appears to have been hit by bullets fired at Joni Suleiman
and died as a result. Reports received by Amnesty International indicate that the
officials may have belonged to Military Security.

On the morning of 20 October a group of individuals of unknown identity are reported
to have set fire to objects at the scene of the killing, thereby apparently obscuring
marks on the ground where the two men were shot, and used hammers to widen and
deepen holes made in the walls of adjacent buildings by the bullets fired on the day of
the shooting, thereby rendering them unidentifiable.

Amnesty International is seriously concerned that these killings were unlawful and an
arbitrary deprivation of the right to life, and that in particular the killing of Joni
Suleiman may have been deliberate - that is, an extrajudicial execution.

As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Syrian
authorities are obliged to ensure that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.”
When law enforcement officials resort to the use of force, this must be only such as is
necessary and proportionate in the circumstances. According to the UN Code of
Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, they “may use force only when strictly
necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.” Furthermore,
according to the 1990 UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law
Enforcement Officials, “Law enforcement officials shall not use firearms against
persons except in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of
death or serious injury, to prevent the perpetration of a particularly serious crime
involving grave threat to life, to arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting
their authority, or to prevent his or her escape, and only when less extreme means are
insufficient to achieve these objectives.” In any event, intentional lethal use of
firearms may only be made “when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life”.

        Sami Ma’touq killed by Syrian Intelligence elements

The Syrian Human Rights Committee (SHRC) has condemned the killing of the
Human Rights activist Sami Ma’touq and his friend by the Syrian intelligence
elements on Tuesday 14/10/2008 whilst they were in front of his home in al-
Mushrifah Village on the Syrian-Lebanese borders.

An SHRC spokesman commented, “We offer our condolences to the family of our
colleague Sami Ma’touq and the Syrian people upon the occasion of his murder, for

which there is no justification at all. We also note that the intelligence elements and
the Syrian security opens fire arbitrarily at every opportunity, degrading the souls of
citizens and humans, even when there is no reason to do so. They are not held
accountable for this, and in fact, the emergency laws encourage them to open fire on
citizens and use violence and torture against them. The recently issued presidential
decree No. 69 issued lately on (September 2008) is a proof of this.”

Whilst the spokesman confirmed that, “The practices of the apparatuses of the Syrian
Regime which are so degrading to the human life are continuous and haven’t changed
towards the better for tens of years”, he requested for “more control and limitation
with the use of guns, which should be used only as a last resort” as well as to
“immediately start an investigation into the killing of Sami Ma’touq and his friend by
the Syrian security, and punish those responsible of this crime before a neutral civil

The media spokesman also directed his comments towards the Human Rights
community, both local and international, asking them to condemn this crime and
request the Syrian Authorities to investigate and send the perpetrators to court, as well
as to change the practices of the Syrian Authorities in respecting the constitution and
ensuring the right to life for all its citizens in Syria, and elsewhere in which they are
exposed to great danger.

Syrian Human Rights Committee



        Decree Protects Security, Police Forces

A new official decree provides greater scope for the police and security forces to
operated without accountability, the opposition website Levant News reported on
October 10.

Decree number 69, which has not been publicised in domestic state media, limits the
right of individuals to file cases against the security forces for violations of their
rights. The army, air force, state security service and police are all granted greater
protection from legal action.

A source in the human rights community told the London-based Levant News that the
decree would grant unprecedented immunity to the security forces, which already use
torture without being held accountable. All lawsuits brought against them will be
transferred from civil courts to military tribunals.

The pro-government website Syrian Days offered a different point of view. In an
October 10 report, the site said the decree would protect customs and police officers,
especially when they engaged in armed confrontations with smugglers and wanted
individuals. It said the security forces often hesitate to use weapons for fear of legal

The All4Syria site, which is pro-government but advocates for reform, suggested that
the first victim of the decree might have been 31-year-old human rights activist Sami
Matow, killed by customs officers in his home village of Musherfah, east of Homs, on
October 14. Villagers pressed the authorities to prosecute those responsible for his
(IWPR- Syria Media Report, 17-Oct-08)


        Finance Magazine Confiscated

The minister of information has ordered the confiscation of copies of the weekly pro-
government magazine Stock Markets and Markets, All4Syria reported on October 15.

The minister ordered the magazine removed from the market it published an article
calling on trade unions to oppose policies damaging to the interests of workers.
All4Syria reported that the ministry found fault with the story, which called on
Syrians to “raise our voices loudly in front of the government”.

All4Syria questioned whether the ministry wanted Syrians to “bury their heads in the

The website noted that it is usually the culture ministry’s censorship director – not the
minister himself – who take the decision to pull publications off the shelves.

Several issues of the magazine have been pulled this year, including one on
September 28, according to All4Syria.

(IWPR- Syria Media Report, 17-Oct-08)


     -   Black list - some articles of the Syrian penal law by which Syrian political
         prisoners are charged

 - Article 263 stipulates:
1- The death penalty on any Syrian citizen who bears arms against Syria on
behalf of the enemy.
2- Lifetime detention for any Syrian who performs acts of aggression against
Syria in time of war even if he does not belong to an enemy army.
3- Temporary detention for any Syrian citizen who belongs in any way to an
enemy army and didn’t separate from it before any aggressive actions against
Syria, even if he has a foreign nationality.

- Article 264 states that:

1- Any Syrian citizen who is involved in intrigue with a foreign country or
contacts it to encourage direct aggression against Syria, or provides it with the
means to do that, will be punished with hard labor for life.

2- and if what he did leads to a result he will be punished by the death penalty.

- Article 278 stipulates temporary detention for:
1- any persons who breaks the providences taken by the state to keep its
neutrality in war.
2- any persons who engaged in actions, writings and speeches which are
unauthorized by the government and exposed Syria to hostile actions, or
disturbed the state's relationship with foreign countries, or exposed Syrians to
vengeful actions that may threaten citizens or their properties;

- Article 285 :

whoever in Syria in time of war or time of expecting war, does anything aiming
at weakening national sentiments or wakening racist or sectarian feelings, will
be punished with temporary detention.

 - Article 286 stipulates temporary detention on:
1- any person who transferred at the same situation of article 285 news that he
knew to be false and would weaken national sentiment.
2-if the perpetrator thought that the news was correct his punishment will be 3
months at least.

-Article 287 states that:
Every Syrian who spreads false or exaggerated information abroad, and which
undermines the prestige of the state or its financial state, will be punished by a
minimum of six months detainment.

- Article 288 prescribes imprisonment or house arrest of three months to three
years for:
- any person who engaged--without permission from the government--in a
political or social association with an international character .

- Article 298 stipulates detention for life for:
 any one who aims to make civil war or sectarian fighting by arming Syrians or
encouraging them to carry weapons against each other or to exhort them to
killing and raping. If the aggression was done he will be punished to death.

- Article 306 states that:
   1- every association established with the aim of changing the social or
        economic state system or the essential social situations through one of the
        methods which were mentioned in article 304, should be dissolved, and
        those who belong to it will be sentenced with temporary hard labor.
   2- The founders and managers punishment is 7 years at least.

- Article 307 states that:

     1- every action or writing or speech which aims for or results sectarian or
        racist incitement, or encourages conflict between sects and the nation’s
        different elements, will be punished with prison between 6 months and 2

- Article 376 states that:
 punishment of imprisonment of one to three years for slander if it was directed
to the Head of State, and the imprisonment of one year at most if the slander
was directed to the courts or army or public administrations or to the officer
exercising public authority. And the imprisonment of 3 months at most if the
slander was direct to any other officer because of his function.

     If you need any further information about the cases mentioned above please
                                don’t hesitate to call us



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