Syria: Human rights lawyer, Sabri Mirza | Letter

Re: Human rights lawyer, Sabri Mirza

To: President Bashar al-Assad

From: Vicheka Lay, Member, LRWC; Gail Davidson, Executive Director, LRWC

Date: 2011-06-22

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) is gravely concerned about the personal safety of human rights lawyer Sabri Mirza, Kurdish who was arrested on June 13, 2011.

LRWC has been informed that on June 13, 2011, Sabri Mirza was summoned by the local police department in Qamishly, arrested and handed over to Political Security forces, and has been disappeared. We understand that his whereabouts are still unknown. Given these factors, LRWC can only conclude that Sabri Mirza is at risk of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment contrary to international law including the Convention against Torture or other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Punishment or Treatment (CAT) and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), both ratified by and binding on Syria.

We also understand that Sabri Mirza has diabetes and a heart condition both of which require ongoing care and medication which LRWC believes is being denied.

Sabri Mirza, a lawyer respected internationally for his human rights work, had, prior to his arrest and disappearance, been providing legal representation to Kurdish people involved in peaceful demonstrations in Qamishly. LRWC is advised that Mr. Sabri Mirza also recently co-authored a statement emphasizing that dialogue between Syrian government officials and the Kurdish people would be possible only if the security forces refrained from further violence against peaceful protestors.

The arrest and disappearance of Sabri Mirza by Syrian government officials appears to be an extra-legal reprisal for his lawful activities in support of the internationally protected rights of his clients. The arrest and disappearance appear to be intended to prevent and punish Sabri Mirza and to deter other lawyers and human rights defenders from engaging in similar lawful professional actions defending human rights.

LRWC urges the Syrian government to honour the right of Sabri Mirza and other lawyers not to be either linked to clients’ causes, or persecuted in reprisal for representing causes or clients unpopular with the government. LRWC urges the Syrian government to ensure that Sabri Mirza and other lawyers are free to practice their profession free from intimidation, harassment and reprisals.

LRWC calls on the Syrian government to strictly adhere to the provisions of the ICCPR and CAT as well as the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 9 December 1998, and in particular, article 1 of that document, which states: “[Syria] has a responsibility to adopt such measures as are necessary to guarantee the life and physical safety of [Sabri Mirza]. This duty arises from [Syria]’s membership the United Nations (UN).

Article 9 (1) and (2) of the same Declaration states that “in the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the promotion and protection of human rights as referred to in the present Declaration, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to benefit from an effective remedy and to be protected in the event of the violation of those rights.

As a member of the United Nations General Assembly, Syria is also bound by the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers (Principles), welcomed by the UN General Assembly in 1990. Article 16 of the Principles states that “governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference”.

LRWC also bring to your attention the United Nations approved standards requiring the medical treatment. The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (approved by the Economic and Social Council in 1957 and again in 1977), entitles Sabri Mirza and other prisoners to effective medical attention and treatment. Article 22 (2) provides,

2) Sick prisoners who require specialist treatment shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals. Where hospital facilities are provided in an institution, their equipment, furnishings and pharmaceutical supplies shall be proper for the medical care and treatment of sick prisoners, and there shall be a staff of suitable trained officers. (emphasis added)

LRWC urgently requests you to do your utmost to restore and fully protect the professional rights and freedom of lawyer Sabri Mirza and to:

1. Ensure the immediate release of Sabri Mirza;
2. Provide Sabri Mirza with immediate access to a medical doctor of his choice who has full authority to do everything necessary to accurately diagnose and successfully treat Sabri Mirza; and,
3. Disclose the particulars of: a/ where Sabri Mirza has been held since June 13, 2011; b/ his treatment; and, c/ the names of the Syrian officials in charge of Sabri Mirza’s detention and care; and,
4. Adopt all necessary measures to protect the personal and professional safety of Sabri Mirza; and.
5. Advise LRWC of the name(s) and contacts for the Syrian officials in charge of Sabri Mirza’s case.

Once released, the Syrian government must adopt all necessary measures for ensure Sabri Mirza to fully continue his professional activities as a lawyers without harassment, intimidation or reprisals.

LRWC will continue to monitor this situation and await your response. Thank you for your attention to our concerns.