LRWC calls for release of human rights lawyer Haithem Maleh in Syria

Re: LRWC calls for release of human rights lawyer Haithem Maleh in Syria

To: His Excellency President Bashar al-Assad, His Excellency General Basam Abd Al-Majid, His Excellency Muhammad al-Ghafari

From: John Cotter

Date: 2010-07-13

LRWC calls for release of human rights lawyer Haithem Maleh in Syria

Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) denounces the sentencing by a Syrian court of 79-year-old human rights lawyer Haithem Maleh to 3 years in prison for the “crime” of “weakening national morale”. The basis for this charge is his criticism of the dictatorship in Syria, which has ruled the country pursuant to a “declaration of state of emergency” since 1963.

The regime imprisoned him for six years in 1980s, also for criticizing the state of emergency. He also was banned from leaving Syria. In recognition of his work on behalf of human rights over several decades, in 2006 he was awarded the Dutch Geuzen Medal, named after Nazi resistance fighters.

As noted in a 2004 report by Amnesty International, “The State of Emergency Legislation allows the Syrian authorities to restrict the right to freedom of expression by permitting the censorship of correspondence, communications and information media. It also allows for the establishment of special courts for the trial of state security and political cases without recourse to ordinary court procedures and guarantees.”

Since that report was issued in 2004, efforts by the Syrian Government to crush dissent have stepped up.

LRWC and other human rights organizations note that the State of Emergency Legislation (SEL) is inconsistent with the requirements of Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Syria is a state party. Article 4 permits a declaration of a state of emergency, but severely limits its breadth “to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation.”
Syria has been governed with this SEL since 1963; its provisions, enforcement and duration violate the requirements of Article 4.
LRWC calls on the government of Syria to unconditionally release Mr. Haithem Maleh and to vacate his criminal conviction and sentence.

LRWC is a committee of Canadian lawyers who promote human rights and the rule of law internationally by providing support to lawyers and other human rights defenders in danger because of their advocacy. LRWC is an NGO with Special Consultative Status with the
Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.