Syria: Obstacle to the freedom of movement of Mr. Danial Saoud | Letter

Re: Obstacle to the freedom of movement of Mr. Danial Saoud

To: President Bashar al-Assad

From: Vicheka Law, Member, LRWC

Date: 2011-07-04

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) is concerned about the freedom of movement of Mr. Danial Saoud, President of the Committees for the Defence of Democratic Freedom and Human Rights (CDF). LRWC has been informed by the Observatory that Mr. Danial Saoud was prevented from leaving Syria for Cairo, Egypt, where he was to participate in a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), from June 24 to 26, 2011. LRWC knows of no legal justification for preventing Mr. Danial Saoud from travelling to Egypt. We therefore assume the purpose is to restrict his ability to carry out lawful activities as a human rights defender.

The arbitrary travel restriction imposed on Danial Saoud violates a number of domestic and international laws and standards, binding on Syria, that guarantee freedom of movement within and outside Syria, namely: the Syrian Arab Republic Constitution (Constitution), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

1. Article 33(2) of the Constitution guarantees that “every citizen has the right to move within the state’s territory unless forbidden to do so by a judicial sentence or in implementation of public health and safety laws”.
2. Article 13 of the UDHR guarantees, (1) “Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” (emphasis added)
3. Article 12 of the ICCPR, guarantees freedom on movement within Syria by Article 12(1) which states, “everyone lawfully within the territory of a State shall, within that territory, have the right to liberty of movement and freedom to choose his residence. Article 12(2) guarantees the right to travel outside Syria, “everyone shall be free to leave any country, including his own”.(Emphasis added)

Other internationally protected rights violated indirectly by the Syrian government’s refusal to allow Mr. Danial Saoud to travel to Egypt to participate in his professional activities as a human rights advocate include:

1. freedom of expression guaranteed by Articles19 of both the UDHR and the ICCPR which guarantee freedom of opinion and expression and the freedom to impart ideas and information across boundaries; and,
2. the right to practice one’s profession recognized by Article 11 of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (DHRD) and guaranteed by the ICCPR, Article 17; and,
3. freedom to engage in criticism of governing bodies recognized by the DHRD art. 8.2 & 9.3.

LRWC calls attention to the Syria’s duty, imposed by these instruments, to protect the rights of Mr. Danial Saoud and other individuals and groups, to promote the recognition and implementation of human rights. The DHRD protects these rights as follows:

1. Article 1 states, “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”; (emphasis added)
2. Article 5 “for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at national and international levels (…) to communicate with non-governmental or intergovernmental organizations”; (emphasis added)
3. Article 6 which concerns the right to freely publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms,
4. Article 12.2 “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.

LRWC concerns are heightened by Human Rights Watch’s World Report/2011 which identifies Syria as one of the worst human rights violators in the Middle East region. Violations include the arbitrary detention of political and human rights activists, restricted freedom of expression, repression of the Kurdish minority, and incommunicado detention for lengthy periods, often involving torturing.

LRWC calls on the government of Syria to adhere to its domestic and international law duties and to:

1. Lift the travel ban on Mr. Danial Saoud both domestically and internationally;
2. Ensure Mr. Danial Saoud’s freedom of expression and his freedom to engage in dissemination, through travel and other means, of information across borders and to engage in criticisms of the government of Syria;
3. Ensure the right of Mr. Danial Saoud to work as a human rights defender without risk or threat of reprisals, interference of harassment.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. LRWC looks forward to receiving a reply as to the steps taken by the government of Syria to remedy the wrongs created by the arbitrary refusal to allow Mr. Danial Saoud to leave Syria.