Article  •  Publié sur Souria Houria le 29 juillet 2011

IBAHRI releases damning analysis of the

restrictions on the people of Syria

 A damning report, released today by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), documents the repression of freedoms of the people in Syria and of those trying to assert them; examples of political interference in the courts; and an overall lack of judicial independence in the country.

The 140-page IBAHRI Report, entitled Human Rights Lawyers and Defenders in Syria: A Watershed for the Rule of Law, highlights the clampdown on the human rights of Syria’s citizens and the work of human rights activists. They are subject to intense scrutiny and harassment by security officials, are prevented from holding meetings, and banned from travelling abroad. The Syrian authorities are using broad provisions of the Penal Code such as ‘weakening the national sentiment’, to prosecute those who speak out against the state. Further, under Law 93 on Private Association, the Syrian authorities make it a practical impossibility to register human rights organisations, denying people access to the professional support of non-governmental organisations, and exposing individuals operating as part of an unregistered organisation to criminal charges.

Although the Syrian Government has lifted the state of emergency and abolished the State Supreme Security Court, Dr Mark Ellis, Executive Director of the International Bar Association (IBA), observes, ‘The violent repression against protesters that has led to the deaths of more than 1,000 people and the arrest and detention of numerous human rights lawyers show a failure by the Syrian regime to engage in a genuine process of reform to improve the rights of the Syrian people.’ He added, ‘It is imperative that the authorities acknowledge these failings and embark on change. Syria has obligations under international instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Arab Charter on Human Rights. I call on the Syrian Government to comply with these obligations without delay.’

 The IBAHRI Report shows the courts, the judiciary and the Syrian Bar Association as being subject to political interference. The Government retains the power to appoint and dismiss judges through its dominance of the Supreme Judicial Council. Obstacles are imposed by the State and the leadership of the Syrian Bar Association on lawyers handling cases dealing with political dissent, and lawyers may face disciplinary proceedings when they speak out on human rights issues or fail to seek permission from the Bar Association to join or take office in a lawyers’ union or association.

The IBAHRI Report makes specific recommendations to the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Syrian Bar Association, including:

  • The Ministry of Justice is urged to contribute positively to the reform of the Syrian legal system by seeking to enhance judicial independence, to recognise the legitimate role of lawyers and limit the risks of arbitrary action by the state’s security and prison service.
  • The Ministry of Social Affairs should guarantee freedoms of belief, association and expression, liberalise the operation of NGOs and show unequivocally that the government is not engaged in a mere window- dressing operation.
  • The Syrian Bar Association is encouraged to promote the rule of law and propose reforms; affirm through deeds that it values its current status in the international legal community; clarify what might and might not amount to disciplinary action; and explicitly acknowledge that it is no offence to criticize a government, promote human rights, participate in an association, or represent someone who has done any of these things.

The IBAHRI fact-finding mission to Damascus and Aleppo, was undertaken between 19 and 26 March 2011, in the week that popular uprisings started to spread across the country. The IBAHRI fact-finding mission to Damascus and Aleppo, was undertaken between 19 and 26 March 2011, in the week that popular uprisings started to spread across the country. A filmed roundtable, with members of the IBAHRI delegation discussing the main findings and conclusions of the IBAHRI Report, will be available within days on the IBA website at

 Click here to download the report, Human Rights Lawyers and Defenders in Syria: A Watershed for the Rule of Law


 Or follow the link:


 For further information please contact:

 Romana St. Matthew – Daniel

International Bar Association

Press Office

10th Floor

1 Stephen Street

London W1T 1AT

United Kingdom

Direct Line: +44 (0)20 7691 6837

Main Office: +44 (0)20 7691 6868

Mobile: +44 (0)7940 731915

Fax: +44 (0)20 7691 6544



Notes for the Editor

Members of the fact-finding delegation

Dr Abdel Salam SidahmedAssociate Professor of Political Science, University of Windsor; Dr Mohammed AyatSenior Legal Adviser at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda;

Michael LynnIrish barrister;

Sadakat KadriUK barrister and author;

Dr Phillip TahmindjisIBAHRI Co-Director; and

Shirley PougetIBAHRI Programme Lawyer, who ran the mission.

About the International Bar Association

the global voice of the legal profession

The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Its membership includes over 40,000 lawyers and almost 200 bar associations and law societies spanning every continent. The IBA influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

The IBA’s administrative office is in London; regional offices are located in São Paulo, Brazil and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Grouped into two divisions – the Legal Practice Division and the Public and Professional Interest Division – the IBA offers its members access to leading experts and up-to-date information across all areas of legal practice and professional interest. Through a network of specialised committees, the IBA enables an exchange of information and opinions regarding laws, practices and professional responsibilities pertaining to the practice of law globally. High-quality publications and world-class conferences further provide unrivalled professional development and networking opportunities for legal practitioners and professional associates.

The IBA’s Bar Issues Commission provides a forum for IBA member bar associations and law societies to discuss any matter relating to law at an international level.

The IBA’s Human Rights Institute works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just Rule of Law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

In partnership with the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, the IBA created the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, based in Johannesburg, South Africa, to promote human rights and the Rule of Law in Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

 The IBA was instrumental in establishing the International Legal Assistance Consortium in Stockholm, Sweden. This global consortium of non-governmental organisations provides technical legal assistance to post-conflict countries.

Through a grant-funded project, the IBA also maintains an office in The Hague which manages the IBA’s International Criminal Court (ICC) Programme. This office follows the work and proceedings of the ICC, focusing primarily on the fair trial rights of the accused and the manner in which the Rome Statute and other legal documents of the Court are implemented and encourages the legal community to engage with the work of the Court. The programme also produces a dynamic news magazine about the ICC called Equality of Arms Review or EQ which is available on the IBA website.

Contact information:

International Bar Association

10th Floor

1 Stephen Street

London W1T 1AT

United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7691 6868

Fax: +44 (0)20 7691 6544