Syria: LRWC troubled by sentencing of Beirut-Damascus Declaration signatories

Michael Macaulay

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) is deeply troubled by the 13 May 2007 sentencing of Michel Kilo, President of the Organization for the Defence of Freedom of Speech and Press, and Mahmoud Issa, a human rights defender. Both men were sentenced to three years in prison for “weakening the national ethic, spreading false news, and inciting sectarian strife”, as the result of their signing of the Beirut-Damascus Declaration in May 2006.[1] Both Kilo and Issa were arrested shortly after becoming signatories and have been in custody since this time. The Beirut-Damascus Declaration was a petition signed by more than 300 Lebanese and Syrian human rights advocates and intellectuals calling for improved relationships between their countries. Several of its signatories have since been arrested and charged with various offences. Two other signatories, Suleiman Shammar and Khalil Hussein, were also sentenced in absentia on 13 May 2007 to 5 years each for “weakening national sentiment” and an additional 5 years for “inciting a foreign state to attack Syria”. [2] Shammar and Hussein have been in hiding for months. Another signatory, Anwar al-Bunni, a lawyer and prominent advocate for human rights, was sentenced on 24 April 2007 to 5 years in prison for “disseminating false information likely to undermine the morale of the nation” and ordered to pay a US $2000 fine for “carrying on activities in an organization that has not been legally authorized”.[3] The fine was to be paid to the Ministry of Social Affairs. The fine was a response to moneys received by Bunni from the European Union for the establishment of centre for human rights training in Syria. LRWC has repeatedly written Syrian officials requesting that charges against Beirut-Damascus Declaration signatories be dropped and that all detained signatories be immediately released. LRWC continues to stand by these previous sentiments and stands in solidarity with other organizations and national governments in opposition to the politically motivated sentences received by these activists.


Gail Davidson, Director at; or +1 604 738 0338, or Fax +1 604 736 1175

Michael Macaulay, Syria Monitor at ; or +1 778 840 9220

LRWC is a committee of Canadian lawyers who promote human rights and the rule of law internationally by providing support to lawyers and other human rights defenders in danger because of their advocacy. LRWC is an NGO with Special Consultative Status with the

Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

[1] The Syria Monitor, “Kilo and Issa Sentenced to Three Years” (13 May 2007) online: The Syria Monitor <>.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Human Rights First “HRF Condemns Long Prison Term for Leading Syrian Human Rights Lawyer” (24 April 2007) online: Human Rights First <>.