Annual Report: Syria 2010

Report
May 28, 2010

Annual Report: Syria 2010

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  • Nabil Khilioui and eight other alleged Islamists, mostly from Deir al-Zour, continued to be detained incommunicado at an unknown location following their arrest in August 2008.
  • Two women Bayan Saleh Ali and Usra al-Hussein were released in April and July respectively after being held incommunicado for months apparently for contacting an international organization about the detention since 2002 of Usra al-Hussein's husband by the US authorities at Guantánamo Bay.
  • Ziad Ramadan, a former work colleague of a suspect in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, continued to be detained without trial although the Special Tribunal for Lebanon informed the Syrian authorities that it saw no grounds for his detention. He has been held since July 2005.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment were reported to be common in police stations, security agencies' detention centres, and prisons. These abuses were committed with impunity. The SSSC and other courts continued to convict defendants on the basis of "confessions" that the defendants alleged were extracted under torture while they were held incommunicado in pre-trial detention.

Seven suspicious deaths in custody were reported but the authorities apparently took no action to investigate them or the allegations of torture made by detainees.

  • Jakarkhon 'Ali, a member of the Kurdish minority, was reported to have been tortured by beatings, electric shocks and being forced to stand for up to 20 hours each day while he was held incommunicado by Military Security officials following his arrest on 20 June. He was released without charge on 3 October.  Yusuf Jabouli and Mohammed Amin al-Shawa died in Military Security custody in January, the former after several days' detention and the latter after he had been detained for more than four months. Their families were not permitted to examine the bodies and Military Security officials attended the funerals. Unofficial sources alleged that both men had died as a result of torture. The authorities disclosed no information and were not known to have investigated the deaths.

Impunity

The authorities failed to clarify the circumstances in which at least 17 prisoners and five other people were, according to reports, killed at Sednaya Military Prison in July 2008. No investigation was known to have been carried out. In July, the authorities allowed some family visits to the prison for the first time since the July 2008 events, but at least 43 families were not permitted to visit or have any contact with imprisoned relatives, increasing concern that they may have been among those killed in July 2008.

  • In February, the Defence Minister closed an investigation into the killings of Sami Ma'touq and Joni Suleiman on 14 October 2008, apparently by Military Security officials, but it was unclear whether any action was taken against the officials alleged to be responsible for the deaths. Two witnesses to the killings, Hussam Mussa Elias and Qaher Deeb, and a lawyer, Khalil Ma'touq, were reported to have been harassed and intimidated when they persisted in demanding accountability.

Women's rights

Women continued to be denied equality with men under the law, notably the Personal Status Law covering rights to marriage and inheritance rights, and the Penal Code, which prescribes lower penalties for murder and other violent crimes committed against women in which defence of family "honour" is considered a mitigating factor. On 1 July, President Bashar al-Assad issued Legislative Decree 37. This replaced Article 548 of the Penal Code, which had exempted perpetrators of "honour crimes" from any penalty, and instituted a penalty of at least two years' imprisonment for men convicted of killing or injuring women relatives on grounds of "honour". However, no amendment was made to other Penal Code articles prescribing reduced sentences for crimes deemed to have been committed in the name of "honour".

At least 13 women and one man were reported to have been victims of "honour killings".