Question of Palestine home || Permalink || About UNISPAL || Search

English (pdf) ||Arabic||Chinese||Français||Русский||Español||



Follow UNISPAL Twitter RSS

UNITED
NATIONS
E

        Economic and Social Council
Distr.
GENERAL
E/CN.4/2005/64/Add.1
29 March 2005

ORIGINAL:
ENGLISH/FRENCH/SPANISH

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Sixty-first session
Agenda item 11 (c)



CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS, INCLUDING QUESTIONS OF
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION


The right to freedom of opinion and expression


Addendum


Summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received*


...



Introduction

1. This addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression gives an account of actions undertaken by the Special Rapporteur between 1 January and 31 December 2004. It also contains in summary form the replies received from Governments to his communications.

2. Replies to communications received after 31 December 2004 will be included in the Special Rapporteur’s report to the sixty-second session of the Commission on Human Rights.

3. Owing to restrictions on the length of documents, the Special Rapporteur has been obliged to reduce considerably details of communications sent and received. As a result, replies from Governments could not be published in their entirety.


SUMMARY OF CASES TRANSMITTED AND REPLIES RECEIVED



Israel

487. On 21 May 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, sent a letter of allegation concerning a civil demonstration organized on 19 May 2004 by the residents of Rafah town and refugee camp. It was reported that thousands of protesters marched to protest against a reported operation by Israeli forces, which had been ongoing since 17 May, to demolish houses in the Tel Sultan area of Rafah and which allegedly resulted in the death at least 30 civilians. According to information received, as the demonstrators were heading towards the Tel Sultan area, the Israeli forces allegedly opened fired on them with heavy artillery, including machine guns and tanks, at the same time as an Israeli Defence Force helicopter gunship reportedly fired a missile at the crowd of marchers. The assault allegedly resulted in the killing of 10 individuals, among whom there were children, and allegedly wounding another 50. Six of those killed have been identified as Walid Naji Abu Qamar, 10, Mubarak Salim Al Hashash, 11, Mahmoud Tareq Mansour, 13, Mohammed Talal Abu Sha’ar, 20, Alla Musalam Sheikh-Eid, 20, and Fuad Khamis Al-Saqqa, 31.

488. On 24 May 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, sent an urgent appeal concerning reports that the Government of Israel was unwilling to issue press cards to Palestinian journalists . According to information received, the Government had refused to renew press accreditation to Palestinian journalists since 2001, allegedly on the grounds that they posed a potential security threat by being Palestinians. It was reported that this position had been challenged by media organizations before the Israeli High Court of Justice, which found that the Government Press Office was acting illegally, in a 25 April 2004 ruling. The Court also added that Palestinian journalists should be given press cards if they had been given security clearance to work in Israel. However, reports indicate that, on 11 May, the Government petitioned the High Court, claiming that threatening statements from militant Palestinian groups had made Palestinian journalists a danger to Israeli leaders in particular, therefore in effect continuing the discriminatory practice implemented since 2001.

489. On 9 August 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, sent an urgent appeal concerning On 9 August 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, sent an urgent appeal concerning Abd al-Latif Gheith, a human rights defender and board chairman of Addameer Prisoner’s Support and Human Rights Association, a Palestinian non-governmental organization based in Ramallah, which works to bring an end to the torture of political prisoners. According to the information received, on 29 July 2004 Abd al-Latif Gheith was detained after security guards had reportedly stopped him at a military checkpoint and questioned him about Addameer’s activities and staff. It is further reported that, on 4 July 2004, an order was allegedly issued by Israel’s deputy military commander for the six-month detention of Abd al-Latif Gheith. This order was reportedly issued on the grounds of “endangering security” in the absence of any official charge being brought against him. Concern was expressed that Abd al-Latif Gheith might be detained in an attempt to hinder his work with political prisoners, his human rights activities with Addameer as well as his active participation in campaigning against Israel’s construction of a separation barrier in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Observations

490. The Special Rapporteur regrets that no replies to his communications were received at the time this report was finalized.

...


Lebanon

511. Le 30 avril 2004, le Rapporteur spécial, conjointement avec le Rapporteur spécial sur la question de la torture, a envoyé une communication concernant des rapports selon lesquels un Le 30 avril 2004, le Rapporteur spécial, conjointement avec le Rapporteur spécial sur la question de la torture, a envoyé une communication concernant des rapports selon lesquels un rassemblement pacifique en faveur de la libération de prisonniers libanais détenus en République arabe syrienne, organisé le 7 avril 2004 à Beyrouth, aurait été violemment dispersé. Selon les informations reçues, près de 500 personnes, dont des étudiants, des familles de détenus et des représentants d’ONG, se seraient réunies dans la matinée du 7 avril 2004 à l’initiative du Comité des familles de détenus libanais en Syrie et de SOLIDE (Soutien aux Libanais détenus et exilés). Selon les informations reçues, l’organisation de ce rassemblement avait été annoncée deux jours plus tôt lors d’une conférence de presse. Selon les rapports, ce rassemblement visait à soutenir la délégation qui devait se rendre au siège de la Commission économique et sociale des Nations Unies pour l’Asie occidentale à Beyrouth, afin de déposer une pétition lancée par différents mouvements étudiants demandant la libération de quelque 200 Libanais qui seraient détenus en République arabe syrienne. Selon les informations disponibles, plus de 10 000 signatures avaient été recueillies en ce sens. Toutefois, il semblerait que les participants aient été violemment dispersés par l’armée, qui aurait notamment utilisé des lances à eau. Plusieurs d’entre eux auraient été frappés au moyen de matraques, y compris des personnes âgées, ainsi que M. Ghazi Aad , responsable de SOLIDE, dont la chaise roulante aurait été cassée. Au moins un étudiant aurait été transporté à l’hôpital. Selon les rapports, la délégation n’aurait pas pu se rendre au rendez-vous qui lui avait été fixé avec un fonctionnaire des Nations Unies chargé des droits de l’homme.

512. On 26 July 2004 the Government sent a reply to the Special Rapporteur’s communication of 30 April 2004, in which it indicated that, on 7 April 2004, the organization SOLIDE (Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile), which lobbied for the liberation of alleged Lebanese prisoners in the Syrian Arab Republic, organized a demonstration in the centre of Beirut, despite a ban on all demonstrations adopted by the Council of Ministers. The demonstrators gathered and made their way towards the city’s centre, and were stopped by the security forces when they tried to move away from the location assigned by the authorities for the demonstration. An hour after the beginning of the demonstration, the security forces were taking measures to protect and maintain security and order, when a number of demonstrators attacked them, trying to break through their ranks in order to reach the city’s centre. Security forces used the legal means at their disposal to defend themselves and arrested a number of demonstrators, without using any form of violence, for staging an unlawful protest. These people were released after a few hours.

513. By a further communication dated 16 September 2004, the Government transmitted additional information in relation to this case from the General Directorate of Internal Security Forces, indicating that freedom of opinion and expression was guaranteed to all in accordance with the Constitution, and the security forces had carried out their duties in this domain in an exemplary fashion. The procedures and measures adopted by the security forces were merely intended to preserve security and public order in accordance with the prevailing laws, applicable regulations and human rights law. Persons are normally arrested under the laws in force for breaching security or for committing offences punishable by law, and they are not subjected to any form of torture. Finally, all the methods used by the security forces to prevent the commission of offences are the same as those applied in other States and they do not violate human rights or the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The security forces carry out their duties in a serious, disciplined, competent and proper manner.

514. Le 21 juillet 2004, le Rapporteur spécial, conjointement avec la Rapporteuse spéciale sur les exécutions extrajudiciaires, sommaires ou arbitraires, a envoyé une communication concernant au moins cinq personnes , incluant une femme, qui auraient été tuées et des dizaines d’autres blessées dans la banlieue de Hay al-Sellom à Beyrouth, le 27 mai 2004. L’armée libanaise aurait tiré des coups de feu d’avertissement afin de disperser une foule d’environ 600 personnes venues protester contre la hausse du prix de l’essence. Il y aurait des raisons de croire que l’armée aurait recouru à un usage excessif de la force lors de cette opération.

515. Le 27 septembre 2004, le Gouvernement a répondu à la communication du 21 juillet 2004, expliquant que le Conseil des ministres a, immédiatement après les incidents, chargé une commission, présidée par le procureur général près la Cour de cassation et comprenant le commissaire du Gouvernement près le Tribunal militaire et le commandant de la police militaire, d’effectuer les investigations nécessaires et de lui soumettre un rapport. Tous les services compétents ont effectué ces investigations et la Commission a établi un rapport préliminaire présenté au Conseil des ministres. Les enquêtes judiciaires sont encore en cours dans ce dossier, et le procureur général près la Cour de cassation a délivré des mandats judiciaires à tous les services de sécurité des forces de sécurité intérieure, de la sûreté générale, des renseignements de l’armée et de la sûreté de l’État pour collecter des informations et enquêter sur quelques personnes soupçonnées d’avoir participé à ces incidents. Ces enquêtes préliminaires sont secrètes et, par suite, il ne peut être rendu public aucune information les concernant ou portant sur les résultats auxquels elles ont abouti, qu’ils soient provisoires ou définitifs. En conséquence, aucune décision judiciaire ou administrative n’a été prise concernant la détermination de la responsabilité de ces incidents ou d’éventuelles sanctions. Le Conseil des ministres a décidé de verser des aides aux familles des victimes de ces incidents, aides dont le total a atteint 50 millions de livres libanaises, et qui ne revêtent pas la qualité d’indemnisations que les tribunaux compétents décideraient d’attribuer au cas où un crime serait prouvé et qu’une demande d’indemnisation serait déposée. Les rapports établis par le médecin légiste et la police judiciaire ont déterminé la cause du décès des victimes: at teintes par balles. Il n’est pas possible de donner des informations ou de fournir des documents à cet égard en raison du caractère secret que revêtent les investigations préliminaires. La décision judiciaire qui sera prise dans cette affaire après la fin des enquêtes préliminaires déterminera si des personnes ont perpétré des actes constituant des crimes, auquel cas elles seront poursuivies par les autorités judiciaires compétentes; le parquet près la Cour de cassation a pris toutes les dispositions nécessaires pour finaliser ces investigations et prendre la décision adéquate à la lumière de leurs résultats.

Observations

516. The Special Rapporteur wishes to thank the Government for its responses to his communications.

...


Syrian Arab Republic

840. On 15 January 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture, sent an urgent appeal concerning Mohammad Mustafa, Khaled Ahmed ‘Ali, Sherif Ramadhan, ‘Amr Mourad, Salar Saleh, Hosam Mohammad Amin, Husayn Ramadhan and Mas’ud Hamid. These people were also subject of an urgent appeal sent on behalf of the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture and the Chairman-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention dated 30 June 2003 (E/CN.4/2004/62/Add ) , to which the Government replied by letter dated 12 August 2003, and of another urgent appeal sent on behalf of the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Special Rapporteur on torture on 23 September 2003 (E/CN.4/2004/62/Add.1). They were arrested for participating in a peaceful demonstration on 25 June 2003, outside the UNICEF headquarters in Damascus. Reports alleged that the eight men were beaten up and ill-treated in detention at the ‘Adra prison outside Damascus, and that seven of them were held in cells of 1 metre by 1.5 m, while Mohammad Mustafa, a lawyer, was being held in a cell said to be a toilet of 80 centimers by 80 cm. These persons were reportedly scheduled to appear before the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC), on 11 January 2004 and, although it was not clear on which charges they would be tried, fears had been expressed that they might have been sentenced to extremely heavy prison terms. Reports also indicated that two other Syrian Kurds, Hassan Saleh, 61, and Marwan ‘Uthman had been held incommunicado at the ‘Adra prison since 15 December 2002, five days after participating in a peaceful demonstration in Damascus that called for greater protection for the rights of Syrian Kurds. They had allegedly been denied visits by lawyers, relatives and doctors. Both men were reportedly first charged with “membership of an unauthorized organization” and “inciting sectarian strife”, and then SSSC reportedly added a further charge of “attempting to sever a part of the Syrian territories”. If convicted, they could have been jailed for life. Further reports indicated that Fateh Jamus and Safwan ‘Akkash , both members of the Party for Communist Action, ‘Abd al-Ghani Bakri , Hazim ‘Ajaj al-Aghra’i, Muhammad Deeb Kor, ‘Abd al-Jawwad al-Saleh, Hashem al-Hashem, Yassar Qaddur, Zaradesht Muhammad, Rashid Sha’ban, Fuad Bawadqji, Ghazi Mustafa, Najib Dedem and Samir ‘Abd al-Karim Nashar , who were arrested by the police on 23 August 2003 as they were heading for a lecture on the state of emergency imposed by the authorities in the Syrian Arab Republic since 1963, were scheduled to be tried on 20 December 2003. The 14 men were reportedly charged with “affiliation to a secret organization and carrying out acts that could incite factional conflict within the nation”. Fears were expressed that they might be sentenced to extremely heavy prison terms. Finally, reports indicated that another Syrian Kurd, Idris ‘Abdel Hamid , was arrested on 21 December 2003 for participating in a demonstration outside the Aleppo Military Court, in support of the 14 men mentioned above. Idris ‘Abdel Hamid was reportedly being held in incommunicado detention at an unknown location at the time this communication was sent.

841. On 12 July 2004, the Government sent a response to the Special Rapporteur’s communication of 15 January 2004, concerning Hassan Saleh and Marwan ‘Uthman, stating that both persons were released by a court of law on 24 February 2004. Moreover, the detainees are subject to prevailing prison regulations and are provided with food and health care. They also received regular family visits.

842. On 12 July 2004, the Government sent a response to the Special Rapporteur’s communication of 15 January 2004, indicating that Mohammad Mustafa, Khaled Ahmed ‘Ali, Sherif Ramadhan, ‘Amr Mourad, Salar Saleh, Hosam Mohammad Amin, Husayn Ramadhan and Mas’ud Hamid , were arrested for taking part in an unlawful demonstration in the city of Damascus and were referred for trial. As for Hassan Saleh and Marwan `Uthman, they were released by the courts on 24 February 2004. With regard to Fateh Jamus, Safwan `Akkash, `Abd al-Ghani Bakri, Hazim `Ajaj al-Aghra`i, Mohammed Deeb Kor, `Abd al-Jawwad Saleh, Hashem al-Hasem, Yasser Qaddur, Zaradesht Muhammad, Rashid Sha`ban, Fuad Bawadqji, Ghazi Mustafa, Najib Dedem and Samir `Abd al-Karim Nashar, none of these persons were in detention at the time this reply was sent. Moreover, the detainees were subject to prevailing prison regulations and provided with food and health care. They also received regular family visits.

843. On 16 February 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, sent an urgent appeal concerning On 16 February 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, sent an urgent appeal concerning Akhtam Naisse , the President of the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria (CDF), for whom an urgent appeal was sent by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders on 15 November 2001 ( E/CN.4/2002/106). According to information received, in the late afternoon of February 11, Akhtam Naisse, was reportedly summoned to report to the “al-Mintaqa” offices of the military secret service in Damascus. He was then allegedly detained and interrogated by two high-ranking military officers until after midnight and reportedly released on 12 February 12 in the early afternoon. It was reported that, during his detention, military officers verbally harassed Akhtam Naisse, who was scheduled to travel abroad shortly, threatening him that he would not be allowed to leave the Syrian Arab Republic or that he would not be allowed to return, and reportedly suggesting that other accidents “might happen”. The military secret services allegedly accused Mr. Naisse and CDF of having illegal contacts, and of being “the workers of Europe, U.S.A. and Israel”, reportedly on the basis of conversations tapped from Mr. Naisse’s telephone allegedly under surveillance by Syrian authorities. Concern had been expressed that his detention might have been linked to Akhtam Naisse’s work in the defense of human rights, in particular with an online petition, “To end the state of emergency in Syria”, reportedly launched by CDF at the end of January 2004. It was reported that the military secret service officers said that the number of signatories, amounting to more than 3,500, was a sign that CDF had illegal international contacts. Concerns were heightened by reports of prior surveillance and by the fact that CDF had not yet been recognized by the authorities at the time this communication was sent.

844. On 17 February 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture, sent an urgent appeal concerning Massud Hamid , a journalism student and photographer, for whom an urgent appeal was sent on 23 September 2003 on behalf of the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression (E/CN.4/2004/62/Add.1). According to more recent information received, Mr. Hamid had reportedly been held in incommunicado detention since 24 July 2003 in Adra prison, near Damascus, after the police arrested him on 24 July while he was writing an exam at Damascus University. This was one month after photographs that he had taken on 25 June, during a peaceful Kurdish protest in front of UNICEF’s Damascus offices, were posted on a Kurdish-language website ( www.amude.com). Mr. Hamid had reportedly been accused of “membership in an illegal organisation”, and he was reportedly expected to appear before the State Security Court, a military tribunal which allegedly has proven in the past to fall short of the international guarantees for a fair and equitable trial. It was finally reported that since his arrest, Mr. Hamid had not been allowed any visits in detention, apart from a 10-minute meeting with a member of his family, and reports suggested that he had been tortured in detention.

845. On 10 May 2004, the Government sent a response to the Special Rapporteur’s communication of 17 February 2004 indicating that On 10 May 2004, the Government sent a response to the Special Rapporteur’s communication of 17 February 2004 indicating that Mas’oud Hamid was arrested for committing an unlawful offence, for belonging to “Yakiti”, a proscribed Kurdish party, for incitement, and for publishing articles in an unauthorized magazine called DEM under the name of Wahami. The magazine, which Mr. Hamid distributed within the university grounds, promoted racist ideas. Mr. Hamid also printed 1,000 almanacs, containing a map of what is purported to be Kurdistan, with a view to distributing them among Kurdish students at Damascus University. By his actions, he sought to stir up racial hatred and to jeopardize national unity, also challenging the authority of the State by taking part in demonstrations without the permission of the authorities. It was for these reasons that was brought to justice and was awaiting trial at the time this reply was sent.

846. On 23 February 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, sent an urgent appeal concerning Haytham Al-Maleh , director of the Human Rights Association in the Syrian Arab Republic, who had reportedly been prevented from travelling abroad. According to information received, on 11 February 2004 Haytham Al-Maleh was due to travel to United Arab Emirates on a family visit when he was stopped by Syrian security authorities at the International Airport of Damascus and was not permitted to leave the country. It was believed that this prohibition to travel followed a speech that Mr. Al-Maleh made in front of the Human Rights Committee of the German Parliament on the International Day of Human Rights, concerning the human rights conditions under the law of emergency in the Syrian Arab Republic. It seems that Mr. Haytham Al-Maleh had not been allowed to leave Syria for several months until he received an official invitation from the German Parliament and that, at that point, the Syrian Ministry of the Republic for Presidential Affairs asserted that Mr. Haytham was not banned from leaving the country. Concern had been expressed that this restriction on the movement of Mr Haytham Al-Maleh might have been linked to his work in defence of human rights.

847. On 27 February 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture, sent an urgent appeal concerning Abdel Rahman al-Shaghouri , who was reportedly arrested at a checkpoint between Qunaytra and Damascus on 23 February 2003, for his use of the Internet to send articles to his friends. He was allegedly beaten in custody, before being transferred to Sednaya prison, where he was said to be held incommunicado. It was reported that, on 14 December 2003, he appeared before a State security court which set the next court session for March 2004.

848. On 15 September 2003, the Government responded to the joint urgent appeal that the Special Rapporteur sent concerning Abdel Rahman al-Shaghouri . According to the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, Mr. Shaghouri was detained because of the articles he was distributing via Internet to persons outside the country, breaching State security by the content of those articles.

849. On 1 March 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, sent an urgent appeal concerning reports that Muhannad Koutaish, an actor, Haytham Koutash, his brother, and Yahia Alous , were arrested on 10 October and 12 September 2002. The three were reportedly accused of sending articles to an electronic newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, and were taken to a State security court, where they were reportedly charged with “publishing and disseminating false reports”. It was further reported that, under such charges, people could be temporarily detained from three months to three years. The three concerned were reportedly to be presented to a court on 15 March 2004.

850. On 9 March 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, sent an urgent appeal concerning the situation of Aktahm Naisse, Daniel Sauod and Nadal Darwish and other members of the Committee for the Defence of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights, who were allegedly arrested following a peaceful demonstration to demand more political freedom and an end to the state of emergency. According to the information received, on 8 March 2004 the Committee organized a sit-in in front of the Syrian Parliament in Damascus to protest against the emergency laws and to call for the release of political prisoners as well as for democratic reforms. It was reported that, in the days preceding the demonstration, members of the Committee for the Defence of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights were summoned by State security officers for questioning and a number of members did not participate in the sit-in, reportedly due to intimidation. According to the information received, 20 minutes after the demonstration began, the security forces allegedly intervened, removing all the banners and arresting a number of demonstrators, including Aktahm Naisse, head of the Committee for the Defence of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights and two members of its council of trustees, Daniel Sauod and Nadal Darwish. Concern was expressed that members of the Committee for the Defence of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights had been targeted for their human rights work and, in particular, for having exercised their right to freedom of expression in demanding political reform.

851. On 16 March 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture, sent an urgent appeal concerning Fahim Hassan Yusuf, his son Jomard Fahim Yusuf, Hussain Muhammad Murad, Akram Muhammad Murad, Hassan Muhammad Murad, Khader Nawar Manja, and Zeres Nawar Manja . These Syrian Kurdish men were reportedly arrested at their homes on the morning of 9 March 2004. It was reported that the arrests followed Kurdish demonstrations in the northern cities of Qamishli and al-Hassaka on 8 March to mark International Women’s Day. The activities included the playing of Kurdish folk music. Their whereabouts were unknown, at the time this communication was sent, but it was believed they might have been held in the custody of Political Security in the northern city of al-Hassaka.

852. On 18 March 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and Special Rapporteur on torture, sent an urgent appeal concerning mass arrests of Syrian Kurds . It was reported that the arrests followed clashes between rival Kurdish and Arab fans at a football match in Qamishli. The security forces reportedly opened fire into the crowd, killing between 19 and 22 Kurds, and three children were trampled to death as the crowds tried to escape. According to reports, following this incident clashes between Syrian Kurds and Syrian security forces broke out in Qamishli, Aleppo, al-Hassaka and Damascus. It was reported that hundreds of Kurdish men, and boys as young as 14, were arrested at their homes. A number of those detained are reported to be Kurdish students at the university of Damascus, including: Fahima Asko (f); Sourya Amko (f); ‘Ali Huseini (f); Mizgin Huseini (f); Nasiba Huseini (f); Nizar Kousa; Jawdan Huseini; Jawan Hasse; Nawras Moura’i; Sipan Sayda; Sarteep Youssef; and Darchin Huchik.

853. On 16 September 2004, the Government sent a response to the Special Rapporteur’s communication of 18 March 2004 stating that the arrests were made following disturbances that broke out in the governorate of Hassakah. The vast majority of those arrested were released after questioning, while the remainder were referred to the competent court, under the laws on riotous assembly, sabotage and causing damage to public property, and were tried for committing acts of sabotage against public institutions and installations. None of the arrested persons was subjected to torture or ill-treatment, and they were all arrested, detained and tried in accordance with laws and regulations which do not conflict with human rights.

854. On 1 April 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture, sent an urgent appeal concerning Mohammed Ghanem , a writer and journalist, who had reportedly been arrested, following the publication of an article he wrote on recent violent clashes between Kurds, Arab tribes and security forces in the Qamichli region in the North-East of the country. It is reported that the article was seen by the authorities as “incitement to fitna ” (disunity). No other details on Mr. Ghanem’s whereabouts were known at the time this communication was sent.

855. On 1 April 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, concerning Hassan Watfi , 39, a human rights defender and an active member of the Syrian-based Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR). According to the information received, Watfi was reportedly arrested by political security officers on 16 March 2004 at his home in the area of Masiaf on the outskirts of Hama, in central Syria. He was allegedly held incommunicado at the Military Intelligence Centre in Damascus at the time this communication was sent. Concern had been expressed that he might have been at risk of torture and that his arrest might have been a way to hinder his work in the defense of human rights in particular his work with the AOHR.

856. On 13 April 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture, sent an urgent appeal concerning reports received that at least 40 Syrian Kurds , including children, had allegedly been killed, most of them by the security forces, during violent clashes at a 12 March football match. It is reported that on 13 March, police apparently attacked mourners attending the funerals of those killed during the 12 March clashes. This reportedly led to two days of protests in various towns in north-eastern Syria, including al-Malikiya, al-Qahtaniya and ‘Amouda. In al-Malikiya the security forces reportedly fired at protesters who were throwing stones at the Military Intelligence and State Security buildings: 16-year-old H.N. and 6-year-old B.S . were allegedly shot dead. Protesters were also reportedly shot at and injured in al-Qahtaniya. It is also reported that around 13 March, protesters beat up the head of the ‘Amouda police station, who reportedly later died of his injuries. It was also reported that up to 2,500 Syrian Kurds, including M.J., a 16-year-old youth from al-Qahtaniya, and other minors, remained in detention since their arrest on 12 March 2004. It seemed that although some 500 to 600 people were reportedly released around 19 March, the whereabouts of the rest of the detainees remained unknown at the time this communication was sent, and it was believed that they were being held incommunicado. It was further reported that some, including children, had reportedly been tortured. K.M.R., a 17-year-old youth who was reportedly arrested at the football match and held for nine days, was allegedly subjected to electric shocks until he lost consciousness. Moussa ‘Abdel Fatah Shaheen , who was reportedly arrested at a protest in al-Qahtaniya, allegedly had to be hospitalized after he was tortured in custody. Reports suggested that many of the injured were being held in detention in government hospitals. In view of these allegations, concern had been expressed that those reportedly held incommunicado at unknown places of detention might have been at risk of torture or other forms of ill-treatment.

857. By letter dated 15 September 2004, the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic reported that the persons were arrested following disturbances that took place in the governorate of Hassakah. The vast majority of those arrested were released after questioning, while the remainder wre referred to the competent court, pursuant to the laws on riotous assembly, sabotage and damage to public property, and were tried for committing acts of sabotage against public institutions and installations. None of these persons was subjected to torture or ill-treatment and all the arrests, detention and trial procedures were carried out in accordance with due process of law, as defined in laws and regulations that do not conflict with human rights.

858. On 15 April 2004, the Special Rapporteur sent an urgent appeal concerning the reported sentencing of Fateh Jamus, Safwan ‘Akkash, ‘Abd al-Ghani Bakri, Hazim ‘Ajaj al-Aghra’i, Muhammad Deeb Kor, ‘Abd al-Jawwad al-Saleh, Hashem al-Hashem, Yassar Qaddur, Zaradesht Muhammad, Rashid Sha’ban, Fuad Bawadqji, Ghazi Mustafa, Najib Dedem and Samir ‘Abd al-Karim Nashar , to up to one year in prison following a trial before the Military Court in Aleppo, which allegedly fell short of international norms and standards of due process. According to information received, the 14 men, who were reportedly members of unauthorized political parties, were initially detained for several hours in August 2003 as they were waiting to attend a seminar in Aleppo focusing on the state of emergency in the Syrian Arab Republic. They were reportedly subsequently referred to the military court, which reportedly convicted them of “affiliation to a secret organization and carrying out acts that could incite factional conflict within the nation” and sentenced them to prison terms ranging from three months to one year. The sentences were reportedly passed in accordance with the 1963 state of emergency law and were reportedly subject to appeal before the Military Court of Appeal. It was also reported that Fateh Jamus and Safwan ‘Akkash are members of the unauthorized Party for Communist Action (PCA) and were reportedly sentenced to 15 years in prison after alleged unfair trials. They were allegedly tortured and ill-treated during their detention. It was further reported that, as a leading member of the PCA, Fateh Jamus had in recent years been actively involved with emerging civil society groups in Syria, and he was a signatory of a memo presented to the President in 2002 calling for the restrictions imposed on a number of people who had been detained for their political activity to be lifted and for their civil rights to be restored.

859. On 16 April 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, sent an urgent appeal concerning reports that Aktham Nu’aysa , a prominent human rights defender, for whom urgent appeals were sent on 15 November 2001 (E/CN.4/2002/106 ) by the Special Representative on human rights defenders, and on 16 February and 9 March 2004 by the Special Representative on human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, was arrested on 13 April 2004, reportedly when he presented himself, as summoned, at the department of military security in the city of Latakia, in the west of the country. It was believed that he was being held incommunicado at the time this communication was sent, although the department of military security in the city of Latakia denied having him in custody. Aktham Nu’aysa is the head of the Committees for the Defence of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights (CDDLHR), which had been spe arheading a nationwide campaign for political reform and respect for human rights, and for an end to the state of emergency in force in Syria since 1963. In particular, it was reported that in March 2004, they organized a sit-down protest in front of the Parliament attended by around 100 human rights activists, to mark the 41st anniversary of the declaration of the state of emergency. On that occasion, dozens of activists, including Aktham Nu’aysa, were reportedly arrested but released without charge a few hours later. According to information received, Aktham Nu’aysa was arrested shortly after CDDLHR issued its annual report for 2003, which detailed serious human rights violations in the Syrian Arab Republic. Further reports indicated that he had recently said that CDDLHR was preparing a petition to be presented to the President, calling for the lifting of the state of emergency and respect for human rights. As a founding member of CDDLHR, Aktham Nu’aya had reportedly previously been detained from 1991 to 1998, because of his human rights work. In 1992 he was reportedly sentenced to nine years in prison by the Supreme State Security Court after an allegedly unfair trial. He was allegedly tortured and ill-treated in custody. Finally, it is reported that he suffers from an irregular heartbeat and a kidney complaint, both of which require medication.

860. On 27 April 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture, sent an urgent appeal regarding Muhannad al-Dabas, Wa’il ‘Azzuz, Shadi Abu-Fakhr, Dhahayr Abu-Latif, ‘Umar ‘Abdalla, Khaled al-’Asrawi, Muhammad ‘Arab, Basil Dayyub, Mihyar Khashrum, Naser Babesni, Mustafa al-Yusuf, Moris ‘Ayiqq , all students from the University of Damascus and University of Aleppo. It is alleged that on 24 April the 12 students were arrested by the security forces in Damascus, and were held incommunicado at the Department of Political Security. Their arrest was allegedly related to a 25 February protest organized by students at the University of Damascus against new Government policies ending employment of engineering graduates by the State, as well as to another student protest at the University of Damascus following the brutal suppression of Kurds by the Government following clashes between Arab and Kurdish football fans in March. It was reported that, after the protest, several students, including some of the above, were dismissed from the university and their names were struck off the register of the National Students’ Union. In view of their alleged detention incommunicado, concern was expressed that the students might have been at risk of torture or other forms of ill-treatment.

861. On 11 June 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, sent an urgent appeal regarding the situation of Aktham Naisse , President of the Committee for the Defense of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria (CDF). According to the information received, in January 2004 CDF launched an online petition “To end the state of emergency in Syria”, which was reportedly signed by over 7,000 people. On 16 February 2004, Aktham Naisse was reportedly summoned by the military secret services and interrogated about his human rights activities. On 8 March 2004 he and other members of CDF were reportedly arrested during a peaceful sit-in demonstration in front of the Syrian Parliament and were reportedly released five hours later. On 16 April, following the launch of the CDF 2003 annual report on human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic, Aktham Naisse was reportedly arrested. There was allegedly no official statement confirming his arrest and his whereabouts were unknown. In this context, and according to new information received on 22 April, Akhtam Naisse was reportedly charged with “carrying out activities contrary to the socialist system of the State” and “opposing the objectives of the revolution”. However, it was reported that no official statement regarding the charges had been issued. On 26 April, Akhtam Naisse appeared before the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) in Damascus where he was reportedly interrogated for two days regarding his human rights activities. It was reported that he had been subjected to mistreatment in prison and, as a result, suffered a stroke which left him partly paralysed and unable to speak clearly. He had reportedly been denied medical care. A lawyer was reportedly present at the hearing to assist with the questioning. However, on seeing the health condition of Aktham Naisse, he reportedly refused to do so. He was then allegedly threatened that “he would be in Mr Naisses’s place” if he did not cooperate. According to the information received, there had been no report on the outcome of the SSSC hearing and Aktham Naisse continued to be denied legal representation as well as visits from his family. Concern was expressed that Aktham Naisse had been targeted for his human rights work, particularly in light of CDF’s online petition calling for democratic reform and the publication of its annual report on human rights in Syria.

862. On 20 September 2004, the Government sent a response to the Special Rapporteur’s communication of 11 June 2004 stating that On 20 September 2004, the Government sent a response to the Special Rapporteur’s communication of 11 June 2004 stating that Aktham Naisse was arrested on 13 April 2004. He was sent for trial before the Higher State Security Court for disseminating false and exaggerated reports likely to harm Syria’s relations with neighbouring States, for circulating a petition calling for political reform in which fictitious names appeared or the names of well-known persons were used without their knowledge, and for founding an unauthorized secret association. The State Security Court held two sessions, the first on 26 July 2004 and the second on 16 August 2004, attended by a number of Syrian and Arab lawyers and representatives from the European Union and the United States of America embassy. At the second session, Akhtam Naisse was released on bail pending his trial, which was postponed until 24 October 2004. He confessed to the charges against him and made an apology.

863. On 15 July 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, sent an urgent appeal concerning Abdel Rahman al-Shaghouri , who was reportedly arrested at a checkpoint between Qunaytra and Damascus on 23 February 2003, for his use of the Internet to send articles to his friends. He was allegedly beaten in custody, before being transferred to Sednaya prison, where he was said to have been held incommunicado. The Special Rapporteur on torture, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had sent a joint urgent appeal in connection with this case on 26 June 2003 (E/CN.4/2004/56/Add.1 ) . The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression sent a second urgent appeal on 24 July 2003 (E/CN.4/2004/62/Add.1 ) . By letter dated 15 September 2003, the Government replied, stating that he was arrested on 23 March 2003 for breaching State security regulations and that he was therefore arraigned by the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC). An urgent appeal had also been sent by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture on 27 February 2004. According to new information received, on 14 December 2003 Abdel Rahman al-Shaghouri appeared before a State security court, which set the next court session for March 2004. He was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment by the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) on 20 June 2004, on charges of “disseminating false information. The charges relate to his e-mailing articles which were mainly from the Akhbar al-Sharq internet site, www.thisissyria.net. The prosecution charge sheet noted that material on the site was considered “detrimental to the reputation and security of the nation” and “full of ideas and views opposed to the system of Government in Syria”. The sentence was immediately reduced to two and a half years. It is reported that trials before the SSSC invariably fell short of international standards for fair trial. SSSC allegedly placed severe restrictions on the defendant’s right to obtain effective legal representation and its verdicts were not subject to appeal before a higher tribunal. In the past, concerns had been made that SSSC appeared to be neither independent nor impartial. During his trial ‘Abdel Rahman al-Shaghouri’s lawyers were allegedly not allowed to see all the court documents relating to the case, although they made repeated requests.

864. On 15 September 2003 the Government responded to the joint urgent appeal of 15 July 2004 that the Special Rapporteur sent concerning Abdel Rahman al-Shaghouri . Mr. al-Shaghouri, according to the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic, was detained because of the articles he was distributing via Internet to persons outside the country, breaching State Security due to the content of those articles.

865. On 6 August 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, sent an urgent appeal concerning regarding Akhtam Naisse , a human rights lawyer and President of the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria (CDF). Mr. Naisse was the subject of an urgent appeal sent by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders on 15 November 2001 (E/CN.4/2002/106 ) , two urgent appeals sent by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression on 16 February 2004 and 9 March 2004, an urgent appeal sent by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture and the Chairperson-Rapporteur on the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention on 16 April 2004 and an urgent appeal sent by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture on 11 June 2004. According to the information received, Akhtam Naisse was tried on 26 July 2004 at the Supreme State Security Council Court and the verdict was pending at the time this communication was sent. He had been charged with “opposing the objectives of the revolution” and “disseminating information aimed at weakening the State”. A very limited number of international observers were allowed in the courtroom, where he was tried on the grounds of the publication of the CDF annual report denouncing human rights violations in the Syrian Arab Republic and a number of press statements made by CDF members denouncing human rights violations against Kurdish citizens. Mr. Naisse, who needs daily medical treatment and had been kept in solitary confinement since 13 April, had allegedly been denied access to consult a lawyer in private and was not allowed to communicate with his family. Of particular concern was that the Supreme State Security Court is outside the ordinary criminal justice system, is accountable only to the Minister of Interior, is not bound by the rules of the Code of Criminal Procedures and its verdicts are not subject to appeal. Our information suggests that Aktham Naisse’s prosecution had been motivated by his human rights activities, particularly the publications and dissemination of information on respect for human rights in Syria, act ivities which were legally provided for by numerous international human rights instruments.

866. By letter dated 20 September 2004, the Government replied to the urgent appeal sent on 6 August 2004 concerning Aktham Naisse . The content of the letter is identical to the reply dated 20 September 2004 to the 11 June 2004 communication.

867. On 29 September 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture, sent an urgent appeal concerning Ayman Ardeli , a 44-year-old Australian/Syrian dual national, who reportedly left Syria when he was a teenager. According to allegations received, he was arrested at Damascus airport in August 2003. He was initially detained at the Aleppo Branch of Military Intelligence, where it is alleged that he was subjected to torture and other forms of ill-treatment. He was subsequently transferred to Far’Filisteen (Palestine Branch), where he was reportedly held in overcrowded cells known as “tomb” cells. These cells are reported to measure 475 cm by 475 cm and to house between 20 and 60 people. It was further reported that Ayman Ardeli had been held incommunicado for more than one year without access to his family, a lawyer, or Consular officials. He suffered from severe migraines, heart problems and high blood pressure. He was deprived from his own and usual medication and was given local Syrian medicine, which was said to be inadequate for his condition. It was thought that his detention could have been related to his father’s links with the Muslim Brotherhood, an outlawed organization. However, he had allegedly not been charged with any offence at the time this communicatiojn was sent. In view of his prolonged incommunicado detention, concern was expressed that he might have been at risk of further torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Concern was also expressed for his physical and mental integrity if he did not receive prompt and adequate medical care. Concern was heightened by the conditions of detention in which he was reportedly held.

868. On 14 October 2004, the Special Rapporteur sent a letter of allegation concerning Muhannad Qutaysh, his brother Haytham, and Yahia al-Aws who in January 2003 were held in Sednaya prison on similar grounds. They were reportedly arrested for sending articles to an electronic newspaper in the United Arab Emirates. Muhannad Qutaysh and Yahia al-Aws were charged with “receiving secret information on behalf of a foreign state which threatens the security of Syria”, and “publishing false news outside of Syria”. They had reportedly been writing articles, under pseudonyms, about government corruption, politics, economics and human rights issues in Syria. Haytham Qutaysh and Muhannad Qutaysh were both charged with “encouraging the transfer of secret information”; and Haythem Qutaysh was also charged with “writing which threatens the security of Syria and her relations with foreign States”. Mas’oud Hamid was reportedly arrested on 24 July 2003 while sitting for an exam at Damascus University, and imprisoned for reporting “unlawful” use of the Internet. It was believed that he was being held incommunicado in solitary confinement at ‘Adra Prison, near Damascus. He had apparently been detained because he allegedly posted photos of a peaceful Kurdish demonstration in Damascus, during which seven Kurds were arrested, on the Internet site www.amude.com. Fourteen men were reportedly arrested by the police on 23 August 2003 when they were attending a lecture marking the 40th anniversary of the declaration of the state of emergency in Syria. The meeting was due to have taken place at the temporary forum headquarters of the “Abd el-Rahman al-Kowakbi for Democratic Dialogue”. They were reportedly charged with “affiliation to a secret organization and carrying out acts which could incite factional conflict within the nation”. The men include Fateh Jamus and Safwan ‘Akkash , both members of the Party for Communist Action, who in 1983 were sentenced to 15 years in prison after allegedly unfair trials. The other 12 were ‘Abd al-Ghani Bakri, Hazim ‘Ajaj al-Aghra’i, Muhammad Deeb Kor, ‘Abd al-Jawwad al-Saleh, Hashem al-Hashem , Yassar Qaddur, Zaradesht Muhammad, Rashid Sha’ban , Fuad Bawadqji, Ghazi Mustafa, Najib Dedem and Samir ‘Abd al-Karim Nashar . According to the information received, they were all tried before a military court on 22 October 2003. Moreover, according to reports, two Kurdish-language websites, www.amude.com and www.qamislo.com , were blocked for Syrian Internet users in mid-March 2004. Both websites were allegedly a major source of information for Kurds abroad and for foreign media outlets, which regularly used their photos and videos. At first, the content of amude.com remained available at another address, www.amude.net, but that site was also blocked. On 20 June 2004, Abdel Rahman al-Shaghouri was reportedly sentenced to three years’ imprisonment by the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) on charges of “disseminating false information”. The sentence was immediately reduced to two and a half years. The charges related to his e-mailing articles which were mainly from the Akhbar al-Sharq Internet site, www.thisissyria.net. The Syrian authorities considered material on the site to be “detrimental to the reputation and security of the nation” and “full of ideas and views opposed to the system of government in Syria”. Abdel Rahman al-Shaghouri was arrested on 23 February. Since then, he had apparently been held incommunicado. He was reportedly beaten in custody before he was moved to Sednaya prison on the outskirts of Damascus, where he was being held at the time this communication was sent. His lawyers were not allowed to see all the court documents relating to the case, although they made repeated requests.

869. On 15 September 2003 the Government responded to the joint urgent appeal that the Special Rapporteur sent concerning Abdel Rahman al-Shaghouri. According to the Syrian Government Mr. Shaghouri was detained because of the articles he was distributing via Internet to persons outside the country, breaching State Security due to the content of those articles.

870. On 27 October 2004, the Special Rapporteur, jointly with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, sent a letter of allegation concerning the Syrian Organization for Human Rights , which published a report February 2004 on alleged use of torture in Syrian prisons and detention centres. The organization called for the establishment of a committee of lawyers and judges to carry out regular inspections of prisons and detention centres. According to the information received, on 11 December 2001, the Syrian Organization for Human Rights applied for registration. In a letter dated 10 February 2002, the Ministry of Social Affairs rejected the application. Allegedly, in June 2002, the organization filed a suit in the Administrative Court against the rejection of their application, and the case was still pending in court when this communication was sent. Concern was expressed over the refusal by the Ministry of Social Affairs to register the Syrian Organization for Human Rights and the delay in the court proceedings against this decision, which had been pending for more then two years, and that it might have been motivated by a wish to obstruct their human rights defence activities.

Observations

871. The Special Rapporteur thanks the Government for its replies to his communications of 15 January, 17 and 27 February, 18 March, 13 April, 11 June, 15 July, 6 August and 14 October 2004. He regrets, however, not having received any replies to his communications of 16 and 23 February, 1, 9 and 16 March, 1, 15, 16 and 27 April and 29 September 2004. The Government reply to the Special Rapporteur’s communication of 27 October 2004 was still pending translation at the time this report was finalised.

...

Communications sent to the Palestinian Authority

1047. On 28 July 2004, the Special Rapporteur sent an urgent appeal concerning the situation of several journalists in the Gaza Strip. According to information received, several journalists of the satellite channels Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiyya received telephone threats from men identifying themselves as Palestinian Authority security personnel or dissident members of the Fatah organization. The threats reportedly centred on the stations’ coverage of fighting in the Gaza Strip that followed the recent appointment of Musa Arafat as head of security for the Palestinian territories. Reports indicate that a caller who identified himself as a representative of a dissident wing of Fatah told a journalist from Al-Jazeera that the station would bear responsibility for the information they release. In a similar incident, a person claiming to represent the Palestinian Authority security forces threatened to burn Al-Arabiyya’s office if the station was not more careful about what it reported. It was further reported that, on 20 July 2004, the Palestinian Journalists’ Association, which allegedly supported the Palestinian Authority, announced a ban on statements that touched on internal events.

Observations

1048. The Special Rapporteur regrets that no reply to his communication of 28 July 2004 was received at the date this report was finalized.


----------


Follow UNISPAL RSS Twitter