Ali Shahabi – Writer, professor and pro-democracy activist

Re: Ali Shahabi – Writer, professor and pro-democracy activist

To: H.E. President Bashar al-Assad and others

From: Michael M. Macaulay, LRWC

Date: 2006-08-22

This letter is in regards to the August 10, 2006 detention of Ali Shahabi, an author and professor involved in the pro-democracy movement in Syria. According to the reports we have received Mr. Shahabi was summoned by State Security Services on August 10, 2006 and detained. When Mr. Shahabi’s wife inquired as to her husband’s situation, she was told to “come back in a week”, implying her husband would be held for a least a week.

LRWC is troubled by the circumstances under which Mr. Shahabi has been held, as it is extremely similar to the circumstances surrounding the detention of Michel Kilo and other pro-democracy activists on whose behalf we have previously written your government. LRWC wishes to respectfully remind you of your government’s commitments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, specifically:

  • Article 5, prohibiting all forms of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment;
  • Article 9, prohibiting arbitrary arrest and detention; and
  • Article 19, protecting individuals’ right to freely hold and express opinions without interference.

LRWC also wishes to bring to your attention the UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Person Under Any From of Detention or Imprisonment, adopted by the General Assembly in 1988, and encourage your government to abide by all of its principles with regard to Mr. Shahabi. In particular, we wish to draw your attention to the following principles:

  • Principle 6, prohibiting torture or other forms of cruel and unusual treatment;
  • Principle 8, requiring unconvicted prisoners to be treated as such;
  • Principle 10, requiring the detained to be informed of the charges for which he is being held; and
  • Principle 15, prohibiting prisoners from being denied communication with the outside world for more than a matter of days.

We also wish to remind your government of its commitments under:

  • Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, prohibiting torture, and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and which, under Article 4, cannot be derogated from as a result of Syria’s state of emergency; and
  • Article 38 of the Syrian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of expression to all Syrian citizens.

LRWC respectfully asks that your government make Mr. Shahabi’s location immediately known and that he be made available to friends, family and be granted access to legal representation. We also request that Mr. Shahabi be immediately released unless formally charged with an internationally recognized crime. In the meantime, LRWC asks your government to guarantee the Mr. Shahabi’s physical and psychological integrity will be respected, and that information on his condition be provided to LRWC.

Please advise LRWC by mail, e-mail or fax of all steps being taken by your government to rectify the situations of these men. Also, please advise LRWC of any and all steps being taken to ensure that all international standards and covenants are being respected.

Thank you once again for your time and attention to our concerns. LRWC awaits your response.