The Syrian Organization for Human Rights (SWASIAH) – Statement
The Syrian Organization for Human Rights (SWASIAH)
· Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
(Article /3/ of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
· Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
(Article /19/of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
· No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile
(Article /9/of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
The Syrian Human Rights Organization (Sawasiah) issued a statement on December 1, 2011 concerning the arrest, torture and prosecution of Syrian lawyers and raids targeting their homes and offices.
The security apparatus arrested activist and lawyer Fahd Mousa Al-Mousa on November 28, 2011 after raiding his friend Abdul Razzaq Abdo Al-Jamous’s house. They were both taken to an unknown destination in a humiliating and barbaric way.
In Ar-Raqqah Governorate, the security forces arrested human rights activist and lawyer Abdullah Al-Khalil on December 15, 2011 for the third time since the beginning of the Syrian Arab spring revolution. His son, Mohammad, who is barely 16 years old, was arrested along with Al-Khalil.
Also in Ar-Raqqah Governorate and on the same date, the security forces arrested lawyer Dirar Ismail Najm and took him to an unknown destination.
A group of security and semi-security personnel shamefully abducted lawyer Ahmad Al-Rashin from the Palace of Justice in Aleppo, beating and wounding him before his colleagues. Then they dragged him and put him inside the trunk of their car.
This act provoked his free colleagues, who obstructed the way of the perpetrators, caught two of them and handed them over to the Palace of Justice police after it became clear that the two men had no official capacity empowering them to arrest and beat people. The rest of the men fled the scene. They released their colleague from the trunk and he was covered in blood. They feared that his name would be added to the list of victims including university professor Bassam Al-Amad, engineer Mashaal Tammo and Dr. Sakhr Hallaq, whose killing was blamed on armed gangs.
The lawyers filed a complaint with the Chief Prosecutor in Aleppo regarding the gang’s attempt to abduct their colleague Ahmad Al-Rashid from the Palace of Justice in Aleppo after beating him severely with their rifle butts, dragging him and stuffing him into the trunk of their vehicle while he was covered in blood. The complaint demanded that the criminal clique be interrogated and penalized.
Yesterday morning, December 18, 2011, large numbers of armed men stormed the house of Ahmad Al-Rashid in Dar Izza in rural Aleppo searching for him. The raid was apparently a clear show of force.
Meanwhile, a group of free lawyers staged a sit-in in front of the Chief Prosecutor’s office to protest the assault of their colleague Al-Rashid on Thursday December 15, 2011. They issued a statement, a copy of which was handed to the Chief Prosecutor in Aleppo. The statement read:
“The thugs’ assault on a lawyer on Thursday December 15, 2011 and their attempt to kidnap him at gunpoint as he was leaving the Palace of Justice in Aleppo is a barbaric and criminal act that constitutes an aggression against all lawyers, the law and legal institutions.
We, Aleppo lawyers, denounce these irresponsible acts and condemn those who stand behind them. We also express our shock at the judicial authorities’ decision to release the members of this gang after they were captured along with their weapons by several lawyers present at the scene.
These gangs that wreak havoc across the country with impunity are the same ones responsible for a long list of previous criminal acts including the assault on the bar association headquarters in Aleppo and the beating of lawyers.
Abdul Salam Al-Atrush, Salam Othman and Husameddine Al-Asad are three colleagues who were abducted more than four months ago and remain unaccounted for. We hold the judicial, governmental and security authorities fully responsible for the safety of the aforementioned lawyers. We also hold them responsible for any assault carried out against lawyers or citizens. The first and foremost duty of the state and its institutions is to maintain national security and civil peace as well as fight the armed gangs known as “Shabiha” [thugs] that actively terrorize and assault peaceful citizens. We call on the judicial and security authorities to fulfill their full constitutional and legal responsibility and investigate the attempt to abduct our lawyer colleague and the disappearance of the aforementioned lawyers as well as to disclose their whereabouts. We call on these authorities to hold the perpetrators legally accountable, release the detained lawyers, respect their immunity, refrain from using illegal means to apprehend them in their houses and in public places based on mere suspicions, activate the role of judicial institutions and trade unions and enforce the rule of law and the constitution.
We also declare our rejection of the so-called popular committees that assume the role of security forces and police without a legal or constitutional warrant especially since the majority of their members have criminal records. These popular committees are ominous of sedition taking place among the people, threaten the security of citizens, destabilize the country, harm the authority of the state more than they protect it and will contribute to agitating the public opinion nationwide, tearing the social fabric, reviving tribal feuds, disturbing national tranquility and breaching national security and public safety. Long live free Syria.”
Current accounts indicate that some 62 lawyers in Aleppo alone are on the waiting list to be arrested or killed.
When the lawyers were demonstrating in front of the Chief Prosecutor’s office in Aleppo on the first business day of the week and delivering the aforementioned statement, heavy machinery and bulldozers were destroying real estate property owned by lawyer Abdullah Al-Khalil in Ar-Raqqa.
Free lawyers in Syria are subjected to grotesque torture, while the Bar Association is shamefully complicit. As a duty, the Bar Association should have supported the affected lawyers in the course of their plight instead of standing against them and filing disciplinary proceedings against them.
An honest review shows that the popular democracy format on the one hand and the amendments introduced to the laws regulating professions in the early 1980s, especially the third article of the law on regulating the legal profession on the other, have rendered the Bar Association a professional social organization that believes in the objectives of the Arab nation and is committed to achieving them in accordance with the principles, decisions and directives of the Baath Party.
The forth article of the same law has made the Bar Association work in collaboration with popular and formal entities and in coordination with the bureau of the national leadership of the ruling Baath party to mobilize the masses towards achieving national objectives.
In terms of its composition, laws and staff, the Bar Association has transformed gradually into a partisan cell functioning as the incubator for partisan lawyers who are raised on the values and principles of loyalty, subordination, hypocrisy and ostentation.
Thanks to these factors, these partisan lawyers will ascend to high positions in the association and will represent colleagues in the profession by force.
In the face of the harsh reality free lawyers inside Syria suffer; the Syrian Human Rights Organization (Sawasiah) tasked its branch abroad with forming a committee outside of Syria under the name “Defenders for Justice in Syria.” Sawasiah also tasked its branch with inviting Syrian lawyers, jurists and interested individuals abroad to join the Defenders for Justice in Syria in order to coordinate with lawyer committees inside Syria with the aim of:
- Investigating and documenting crimes committed against humanity, and working towards bringing the perpetrators to stand before international courts.
- Investigating and documenting all crimes committed against human rights in Syria using all available mechanisms and filing lawsuits against the perpetrators inside and outside of Syria.
- Highlighting the arsenal of repressive and illegitimate laws that contravene minimum international standards.
- Searching for the safest and best way to normalize the principles of transitional justice, and outlining a roadmap for a peaceful transition to a state built on the rule of law and institutions.
Sawasiah decided to designate an email address for those who wish to contact the committee
And a page on Facebook
Damascus 12/ 22 / 2011
The Board of Directors