Syria- Mounting concerns over health of human rights lawyer Khalil Matouk who remains in incommunicado and arbitrary detention
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has received information from reliable sources that human rights lawyer Khalil Matouk remains in incommunicado and arbitrary detention and is being denied access to necessary medical treatment for severe lung disease.
It is reported that the human rights lawyer is being detained at State Security Branch 285 in Kafr Soussa in Damascus, however authorities have denied that this is the case. Khalil Matouk suffers from a serious lung disease, which diminishes his lung capacity by 60%. He is reportedly being denied medication, which he took regularly prior to his detention to help his condition.
Khalil Matouk has been in detention for over 149 days, despite the fact that Syrian law only allows a person to be detained for a maximum of sixty days for the purposes of investigation. When this sixty-day detention period expired a group of lawyers in the country wrote to the Attorney General in Damascus demanding the release of the human rights defender. The Attorney General replied that Khalil Matouk was not being held in detention despite the fact that recently released detainees confirmed that they had seen him in State Security Branch 285 within the past month. This raises concerns that the human rights lawyer has been subjected to an enforced disappearance. Neither family nor lawyers have been permitted to see him to date and the recent statement from the Attorney General that he is not being held by the State raises serious and urgent questions regarding his safety and health.
The GCHR believes that Khalil Matouk is being detained arbitrarily and incommunicado as a direct result of the legitimate exercise of his profession as a lawyer and his peaceful human rights work. In light of the recent denial by authorities that he is in detention despite evidence to the contrary, the GCHR expresses serious concern for his health and security and calls on the authorities to immediately release him.
The GCHR urges the authorities in Syria to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release human rights defender Khalil Matouk;
- Immediately disclose the whereabouts of Khalil Matouk;
- Grant Khalil Matouk immediate and unfettered access to the medical treatment which he requires;
- Grant Khalil Matouk immediate and unfettered access to his families and lawyers;
- Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Khalil Matouk;
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Syria are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 11: “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to the lawful exercise of his or her occupation or profession,” and to Article 12 (2): “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threat, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”