Aktham Nu’aysa, lawyer and human rights defender

Re: Aktham Nu’aysa, lawyer and human rights defender

To: President Barshar al-Assad, President of Syrian Arab Republic

From: Monique Pongracic-Speier, member of LRWC

Date: 2004-04-15

LRWC has received information from Amnesty International which leads us to be gravely concerned about Mr. Aktham Nu’aysa.

LRWC is advised that Mr. Nu’aysa was arrested on April 13, 2004, after he presented himself, as ordered, at the department of military security in Latakia. He has been held incommunicado since that time. This fact causes LRWC heightened concern. LRWC is aware that prisoners of conscience in the Syrian Arab Republic may be subject to maltreatment in custody. Further, Mr. Nu’aysa suffers from an irregular heartbeat and kidney complaints, both of which require medication. We fear for Mr. Nu’aysa’s health and well being.

It is apparent to LRWC that Mr. Nu’aysa was arrested solely because of his human rights work. We note that Mr. Nu’aysa is head of the Committees for the Defence of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights (the “CDDLHR”). In its 2003 annual report, which was issued shortly before Mr. Nu’aysa was arrested, the CDDLHR detailed serious human rights violations in the Syrian Arab Republic. Further, Mr. Nu’aysa had announced that the CDDLHR was preparing a petition to His Excellency President Bashar al-Assad calling for the state to respect human rights and lift the state of emergency.

LRWC notes that Mr. Nu’aysa was detained as a prisoner of conscience in Syria between 1991 and 1998, and suffered ill-treatment while in detention. We also note that Mr. Nu’aysa was subject to harassment by security forces after his release in 1998. In 2003, this harassment included an attempt to intimidate Mr. Nu’aysa by beating his mother.

Your Excellencies, LRWC is alarmed by the recent arrest of Mr. Nu’aysa. We consider him to be a prisoner of conscience, in custody solely for his advocacy of human rights, and the peaceful expression of his opinions. We call upon you to order Mr. Nu’aysa’s immediate and unconditional release. We also call upon you to direct your authorities to:

  • reveal where Mr. Nu’aysa is being held,
  • provide him with any medical care he may require, and
  • ensure that Mr. Nu’aysa is treated humanely while in detention, free from torture and other ill-treatment.

LRWC 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 note 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.
  • 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 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 . . .

Further, LRWC 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 arrested persons shall have prompt access to a lawyer, and in any case not more than 48 hours after arrest (Article 7); and 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.

Please advise LRWC, by mail, e-mail or fax, of your response.