Annual Report: Syria 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Syria 2011

View More Research

  • Muhannad al-Hassani, a leading human rights lawyer, was sentenced to a three-year prison term in June after the Damascus Criminal Court convicted him of "weakening nationalist sentiment" and disseminating "false news" by publishing information about unfair trials before the SSSC on the internet. He was held at 'Adra prison near Damascus where, in October, he was assaulted by a criminal inmate who had been moved into his cell.
  • Haytham al-Maleh, aged 79, a human rights lawyer and government critic, was sentenced to three years in prison in July after being convicted of "weakening nationalist sentiment" and disseminating "false news" on account of comments he made in a telephone interview with a foreign satellite TV channel in September 2009. He was held at 'Adra prison, prompting concern for his health; he suffers from diabetes and other ailments.
  • Three senior members of the unauthorized Kurdish Yekiti Party continued to be detained incommunicado at 'Adra prison and on trial before the SSSC. Hassan Saleh, Ma'rouf Mulla Ahmed and Muhammad Ahmed Mustafa were charged with "aiming at separating part of the Syrian lands" and "joining a political or social international organization", and faced long jail terms if convicted. They were arrested shortly after they allegedly called for Kurdish areas of Syria to be granted autonomy at a Yekiti Party conference in December 2009.
  • Raghdah Sa'id Hassan, a writer, was arrested in February, detained incommunicado for three months and then charged with "weakening nationalist sentiment" and spreading "false news". At the end of 2010, she remained held at Douma women's prison and on trial before a military criminal court.
  • Radeef Mustafa, a lawyer and leading figure in the unauthorized Kurdish Committee for Human Rights in Syria (RASED), faced disciplinary proceedings by the Syrian Bar Association for engaging in these activities and criticizing the state of emergency in articles he published on the internet; he was at risk of being banned from working as a lawyer.
  • Suhair Atassi, President of the unauthorized Jamal Atassi Forum, a pro-democracy discussion group, was one of at least seven human rights defenders and political activists who were prevented from travelling abroad.

Counter-terror and security

Suspected Islamists and suspected members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood faced arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention, torture and other ill-treatment, and unfair trials, usually before the SSSC which rarely imposes prison sentences of less than five years. Those convicted of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood were sentenced to death but their sentences were immediately commuted to 12-year prison terms. Hundreds of convicted Islamist prisoners were held at Saydnaya Military Prison, where conditions were harsh.

  • The fate and whereabouts of Nabil Khilioui, a suspected Islamist detained by Military Intelligence officials in August 2008, remained unknown; he was a victim of enforced disappearance.
  • Usra al-Hassani was arrested on 2 January and held incommunicado for several months. She was still held without charge at 'Adra prison at the end of the year. She had previously been detained incommunicado for almost a year prior to July 2009 for contacting an international organization about her husband's detention by US authorities at Guantánamo Bay.
  • Ziad Ramadan, a former work colleague of a suspect in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, remained detained since July 2005 without charge and in harsh conditions at the Palestine Branch of Military Intelligence in Damascus, although the STL had informed the Syrian authorities that it saw no grounds for his detention.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment were used extensively and with impunity in police stations and security agencies' detention centres. According to reports, suspected Islamists and members of the Kurdish minority were subject to particularly harsh abuse. The SSSC and other courts often convicted defendants on the basis of "confessions" alleged to have been extracted under torture or other duress.