Re: Aktham Nu’aysa (also known as Aktham Naisse), Lawyer and Human Rights Defender
To: Mr. Bashar El Assad, President of the Syrian Arab Republic
From: Monique Pongracic-Speier, LRWC member
LRWC continues to be extremely concerned about the ongoing detention and prosecution of Mr. Nu’aysa for reasons that appear to be solely related to his human rights advocacy, and, in particular, his work as head of the Committee for the Defence of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights (the “CDDLHR”).
LRWC understands that since our last letter to you, Mr. Nu’aysa has been accused of several offences under Syrian emergency laws, and that his trial in the State Security Court began today. If convicted, Mr. Nu’aysa faces a penalty of up to 15 years imprisonment.
Mr. Nu’aysa has been held in solitary confinement since his arrest on April 13, 2004. He has been permitted only brief visits with his family and legal counsel, and then only in the presence of officials of the Saidnaya Prison.
Further, LRWC is informed that early in his detention, Mr. Nu’aysa suffered a stroke that left him partially paralysed. The damage caused by the stroke is super-imposed on Mr. Nu’aysa’s pre-existing heart and kidney conditions, both of which require regular medical attention. It is apparent that Mr. Nu’aysa is now in extremely fragile health.
LRWC is extremely concerned about Mr. Nu’aysa’s poor health, his treatment in detention, the conditions under which his trial is proceeding, his lack of proper access to legal counsel, and the apparently extra-legal motivations for the charges against him.
We renew our call to you to order Mr. Nu’aysa’s immediate and unconditional release. So long as Mr. Nu’aysa continues to be held in detention, however, we call upon you to direct your authorities to provide him medical care appropriate to his fragile condition, ensure in all circumstances that Mr. Nu’aysa is free from ill-treatment, and respect Mr. Nu’aysa’s rights to counsel and family visits.
LRWC again reminds the Syrian Arab Republic that it is legally bound by the terms of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In particular, we re-iterate the fundamental rights articulated Articles 7, 9, 10, 17, 19, and 22 of the Covenant, which provide:
- Article 7: No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. We note that this is a non-derogable right in all circumstances.
- Article 9(1): Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as are established by law.
We also note the provisions of Articles 9(2) and (3).
- Article 10(1): All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.
- Article 14(3)(b): An accused has the right to adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence and to communicate with counsel of his own choosing.
- Article 17: (1) no one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation. (2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
- Article 19: (1) Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. (2) Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds. . .
- Article 22(1): Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others . . .
LRWC also brings the following instruments to the attention of Your Excellencies.
- The Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted in 1990, provides, inter alia, that lawyers, like other citizens, are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly, including, discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the protection and promotion of human rights (Article 23).
- The 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 the United Nations General Assembly on March 8, 1999 (A/RES/53/144), affirms the right of individuals everywhere to promote and strive for the protection and realisation of human rights (Article 1), and the obligation of governments to protect, promote and implement all human rights and fundamental freedoms (Article 2). In particular, the Declaration affirms the right to form, join and participate in non-governmental organisations, associations or groups (Article 5); to freely publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms (Article 6(b)); and to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms (Article 12(1)).
LRWC submits that these instruments evidence the international community’s general acceptance of an obligation to assiduously protect the rights and well-being of those who work in the cause of human rights protection and promotion.
LRWC expects, and sincerely hopes, that the Syrian Arab Republic will fulfill its obligations to act in accordance with the spirit and letter of international law and international political consensus by taking the actions requested above in relation to Mr. Nu’aysa.