Article  •  Publié sur Souria Houria le 5 octobre 2011
Many Syrians abroad have been vocally expressing their solidarity with the mass pro-reform
protests which have rocked Syria since March and to which the Syrian authorities have
responded in a manner that Amnesty International has characterized as amounting to crimes
against humanity.1 In so doing, they have found themselves systematically monitored and
harassed by embassy officials and others believed to be acting on behalf of the Syrian regime
and learnt that relatives in Syria have been exposed to intimidation and worse, apparently as
a result. The long reach of the feared Syrian mukhabaraat, or intelligence services, seems to
be in evidence.2
In this briefing, Amnesty International is documenting the cases of more than 30 Syrian
activists living in eight countries in Europe and North and South America - Canada, Chile,
France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the USA – who say they have faced
intimidation from embassy officials and others apparently because of their activities in
solidarity with the pro-reform movement in Syria. Many have been filmed and orally
intimidated while taking part in protests outside Syrian embassies, while some have been
threatened, including with death threats, or physically attacked by individuals believed to be
connected to the Syrian regime. Some of the activists have told Amnesty International that
relatives living in Syria have been visited and questioned by the security forces about their
activities abroad and, in several cases, have been detained and even tortured as an apparent
In conducting its research, Amnesty International has interviewed 20 individuals who say that
they and/or their families in Syria have been targeted because of their pro-reform activism
outside Syria, as well as other members of Syrian communities abroad, authorities in the
countries concerned and others. It has also studied media reports about instances of
harassment and intimidation. The briefing reflects statements from authorities in the
countries concerned where Amnesty International has been able to obtain them, including
any comments that Syrian officials had given them about the allegations. The Syrian
authorities have not responded to any previous correspondence this year from Amnesty
International raising human rights concerns or requesting access to the country, but the
organization will reflect any comments they make on the cases and issues detailed in this
briefing in future publications.
Amnesty International recognizes that the cases and countries reflected in this briefing may
reflect only part of a much wider pattern of harassment and intimidation against Syrians
living abroad and will be seeking further information in this regard and documenting it
wherever possible.3
The overwhelming responsibility for the reported harassment and intimidation lies of course
with those alleged to be responsible and the Syrian authorities must put an immediate end to
such practices. However, the governments of all countries in which abuses and misconduct
have occurred also have a responsibility to ensure that individuals under their jurisdiction are
not being threatened or assaulted for exercising their rights to freedom of expression,
association and assembly. The law enforcement authorities in these countries should take
steps to protect these rights, and should take action when people within their jurisdiction
who are seeking to exercise these rights are subjected to criminal acts including assault and
threats of violence. The authorities should act on any credible allegations of such abuses,
without necessarily requiring the making of a formal complaint to the police by the people
concerned, who may fear that harm may befall them or their families in Syria if they do so.
Allegations of such acts should be investigated and, where there is sufficient evidence, the
individuals responsible should be prosecuted or, if their diplomatic immunity precludes
prosecution, other appropriate measures should be taken against them, which could include
declaring them personae non gratae or not acceptable in the receiving country. The
authorities in host countries should also take action where there are credible reports that, as
a result of the participation of Syrians abroad in pro-reform protests, their family members in
Syria have been subjected to human rights violations. Such action could include official
complaints made to the Syrian ambassador in the host country or representations made to
the Syrian government by the host country’s diplomatic representative in Syria.
It is Amnesty International’s intention, by publishing this briefing, to draw attention to the
widespread and disturbing nature of the campaign of monitoring and harassment of Syrian
activists abroad and thereby to encourage further action by governments around the world to
bring such practices to an end.
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