Syrian Human Rights Committee reports “Accelerated Deterioration” of human rights in Syria
In its seventh annual report, the Syrian Human Rights Committee (SHRC) have monitored the accelerated deterioration of the status of human rights in Syria on all levels.
SHRC stressed that the situation further worsened when the authorities launched a second crackdown in which 40 activists, from among the members of the National Council of the Damascus Declaration on the 9th and 10th of December 2007 , were arrested after they had held a conference during which they elected a new leadership.
Civil Society and Human Rights Activists
Ikhwanweb had a copy of the last report published by the (SHRC) in which the report confirmed that “the civil society and human rights activists have been exposed to considerable persecution, harassment, oppression and punitive and vengeful measures. Many of them were detained and sentenced to unfair prison terms, others were prevented from travel and turned back from the border outlets, while some others were dismissed from their jobs.”
SHRC referred to the campaign against signatories of Damascus-Beirut Declaration which resulted in condemning Michael Kilo and Anwar al-Bunni to harsh sentences.
It also referred to the recent crackdown against activists of Damascus declaration stating that Ahmad To’mah, Jabr al-Shoufi, Akram al-Bunni, Ali al-Abdullah, Fida’ al-Horani, Walid al-Bunni, Fayez Sara and Yaser al-Iti were still being detained by the end of 2007.
In its report, SHCR referred to the suffering of the children and relatives of the Muslim Brotherhood members detained since 1980s, those relatives face great social and economic problems opposed by the authorities.
The report mentioned the law in which individuals belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood Movement in Syria are sentenced to death. The report said, “The Syrian regime provocatively escalated its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, while the Supreme State Security Court continued sentencing to death all the detainees that had been subjected to trial on the charge of being members thereof, according to Law No. 49 of 1980.”
Twenty four individuals were condemned to death sentences, by the Supreme State Security Court , because of affiliating to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The report noted that although the death sentences were reduced to 12 year terms, yet “most of those against whom the unjust judgments were passed were the children or relatives of members in the Muslim Brotherhood Movement living in coercive exile since the 1980s. Those exiled individuals returned home after properly referring to their respective Syrian embassies or after promises of pardon given to relatives of theirs referring to the proper security authorities in Syria on their behalf. However, once they arrived in the country they were arrested, subjected to torture and ill-treatment.”
The report stated that the Dossier of the disappeared is still unsolved. The report added that there were no new information concerning those who were detained in the late 1970s and early 1980s who exceeded 17,000 Syrian citizens.
It is noteworthy that the Syrian authorities are ignoring the dossier of the disappeared, indeed they severely punish whoever discusses the matter or tries to search for his relatives among those detained in the Syrian prisons despite the fact that a period of about three decades have passed since the disappearance of those citizens.
In the same context, the report tackled the status of Arab citizens detained in Syrian prisons saying, “Apart from the dozens of Arab citizens arrested while visiting Syria during this period, there are hundreds who are already been languishing in the Syrian detention centres, not to mention those hundreds who disappeared in the same way as their Syrian detained fellowmen had disappeared three decades before.”
There were reports about detaining some Saudi citizens visiting the country to spend a holiday and visit their relatives, or even get a medical treatment. The Syrian authorities have arrested them, accusing them of affiliating to the Wahabi school of thought and Islamic orientations, or because of being suspected of attempting to sneak into Iraq or practising immoral actions. The report added that it turned out that most of the detention cases took place with the intention of blackmailing by supported corrupt security personnel.
As to the Jordanian detainees in the Syrian prisons, their case is quite old and recent at the same time. Some Jordanian Human Rights organizations have demanded the release of Jordanian detainees. Reports refer to the existence of 215 detainees. However, other Jordanian reports claim that the number of the Jordanian detainees in Syrian prisons may be 1000.
SHRC believes that many of the Jordanian detainees that were arrested in the 1980s have disappeared in the prisons; they were either hanged or died under torture. Yet, they are still ignored by the Syrian authorities as well.
Lebanese human rights organisations ask the Syrian authorities to disclose the fate of 850 detainees that were arrested during the period of the Syrian presence in Lebanon . Reports and some released detainees said that they were subjected to different kinds of torture as preventing the detainees from sleeping, flagellating, and chaining the detainees for long periods.
SHRC believes that many of those detainees have died because of torture and ill-treatment, yet, the Syrian authorities deny their harsh inhumane practices.
“Moreover, dozens of Palestinians and Iraqis were detained this year. Nothing is mentioned about them because of the silence of the Syrian intelligence authorities and the fear of the detainees’ families of the consequences of disclosing the detention of their loved ones.” The report said.
Also thousands of Syrian citizens have been living outside Syria coercively since the early 1980s because they, their children and grandchildren are subjected to Law No. 49 of 1980, which sentences the members of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement and their supporters to death. The Syrian regime has been trying to pressurise them by using their influence at the government of their countries of residence or through spreading their names as possible terrorists.
In the same context, Syrian exiles residing in Iraq for the last three decades were exposed, during the period covered by the report, to major dangers that threatened their lives and existence. They were targets for the Iraqi police, the armed militia close to them and the American forces. About 38 of them were killed after their being taken from their houses, their workplaces or from the street. About 23 persons were arrested, forces in the uniform of police attacked some of their houses in Hayfa Street and set on fire 15 houses on 16 January 2007 .
One of the main factors which increased the threat on the Syrian exiles was the act of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, as they tear the refugee documents of the Syrian and refuse to renew their residency.
The report confirmed that the families of the exiled which managed to move to other countries, are suffering now of unemployment and poverty, but those who returned to Syria were arrested and tried according to law 49/1980 or with other repressive laws.
On the other hand, during the last summer vacation of 2007, SHRC recorded some images of the sufferings experienced by the families of the exiles, some of whom can visit Syria , saying, “They are exposed to lengthy stopping on the land borders and at airports, then are ordered to refer to the intelligence centres. The wife and children are required to give precise information about the husband or father, his biography, life circumstances and social environment. They are usually faced with threats, insults, prevention from travel and return, and sometimes with confinement, detention, ill-treatment and torture.”
In the same context, SHRC also monitored the campaign of the Syrian security authorities to support some persons who tried to arouse the religious feelings of the citizens under the slogans of Jihad (holy war) and opposing the occupants in which the authorities provided them with great facilities in building centres and Shiite mosques and practicing various activities, whereas other trends of Islamists are not allowed to do so. Some of those who went there were killed; those who survived to return were promptly detained by the intelligence authorities, after accusing them of affiliating to extremist Islamist trends, and sentenced to several years in prison, deprivation of their civil rights and were fined.
SHRC noticed that the majority of arbitrary detentions do not have access to mass media and human organisations, particularly when the case is related to religious individuals, for they are secretly detained at night, and their families, who are threatened of detention and punitive measures, are reluctant to release the news. While other detainees who are not related to religious cases are referred to civilian courts; A matter which does not necessarily mean that full independency of such courts all the time.
Throughout the period covered by the report, the crackdown on the Kurdish activists is going on in all its varieties: detention, presentation to exceptional and military courts, persistence in denying the rights of Kurds as citizens entitled to all their rights, denying their cultural and ethnical rights which the Regime awards to other ethnic groups living in Syria and suppressing any of their claims even through the use of violence and shooting against them.
The report stated that many of them were presented to exceptional courts charged with ready accusations made to measure, such as affiliation to a secret organisation and the endeavour to split part of the Syrian land to annex it to a foreign country.
Arbitrary detentions go on in Syria widely in villages, towns and cities, targeting whoever opposes the Regime and whoever is suspected of opposing it. In reality, the majority of arbitrary detentions do not have access to mass media and human organisations, particularly when the case is related to religious individuals, for they are secretly detained at night, and their families, who are threatened of detention and punitive measures, are reluctant to release the news.
Torture and Ill-Treatment
SHRC confirmed in its report that “torture is widely practised on a systematic and routine basis in the Syrian interrogation centres, jails and prisons. Torture is intensified, diversified and coloured according to the detainee, his accusation and the degree of his cooperation with interrogators. Those detained because of their Islamic tendencies usually receive the worst portion of torture, and while the security and intelligence apparatuses degrade their integrity extensively, many international human rights organisations show no interest in highlighting their cases and defending them.”
In considerable cases torture leads to death, but the authorities do not acknowledge that. When the corpse of the detainee is handed over to his family, they are told not to open the coffin and to bury it promptly, while the report of the prison’s doctor explains out the death as the result of a “sudden heart attack”.
One of the examples given by SHRC for such cases was the corpse of “Abdul-Moez Al-Salem” from Ariha who was detained in Syria and the authorities ordered burying him as soon as he died on Sept., 4th, 2007 .
SHRC documented at least four cases of death under torture during this period in addition to ten cases of death because of shooting on the part of the authorities against protesting citizens or arbitrarily.
As well as other clashes mentioned in the report where there was gunfire in Arbeen city in Damascus as a result of arrest campaigns organized by the Syrian authorities.
Supreme State Security Court
SHRC believes that the Supreme State Security Court is one of the distinguished means of oppression used by the Syrian authorities against all opposition parties, it is even one of the worst, used against the whole Syrian society since 1980s and till now.
The report also said, “Supreme State Security Court in Damascus has passed hundred of judgements, out of them 24 against individuals accused of affiliation to Muslim Brotherhood in addition to scores of other judgements against Islamists, political and human right activists.”
“It is regarded among the most serious violations of human rights in the country due to the absolute jurisdictions that it enjoys.” According to the SHRC report.
The security forces have pursued a new method to prevent vigils and sit-ins, such as detaining those heading for the sit-in and beating them, or detaining them temporarily and transferring them to distant areas in the outskirts of Damascus to disperse the participants in the vigil and preventing it. The report mentioned an example talking about detaining all those intending to participate in a sit-in infront of the Parliament on 2007, where the security forces have transferred them to distant areas away from Damascus . Security forces and intelligence members in Syria are always used to threaten people and prevent them from participating in sit-ins and demonstrations.
Mass media in Syria are restricted in respect of licensing and the freedom of publication. Official mass media are still dominant in all fields. As to the majority of the magazines and newspapers that started to be published in the country during the few past years, they are void of political subjects, and overwhelmed by social issues, with the exception of some mass media that are owned by influential figures as “Abyad w’aswad” i.e. ”Black& White” magazine owned by “Bilal Korkomany”, the son of the Syrian minister of defence and “Al-Donia” channel owned by “Ramy Makhloof”. Others were compelled to cease after its official broadcasting.
The report mentioned that such restrictions extend to cover the new media, i.e, the websites. “The list of blocked websites is increasingly expanding. Prohibition does not involve only political or opponent websites but it covers some non-opponent websites.
The Syrian authorities have issued strict instructions to the owners of internet cafes requiring that they keep precise information about their visitors, including the identity of the persons “so that they will be liable in case they browse prohibited websites.” The report said.
Elections in Syria
The report mentioned the three election events that the year 2007 witnessed in Syria; Parliamentary elections in April, a referendum on the President in May, and local government elections in August, all of which saw the absence of proper democratic measures and standards because the Ba’th party and its allies monopolise the majority. No one is allowed to nominate themselves to presidency, as nominations can only be made by the higher strands of the ruling Ba’th Party which has a complete monopoly over state and society.
Although the authorities carried out a number of measures in order to raise the number of voters, SHRC have noted that they have been forcing voters to cast their votes on working days and checking ID of government employees to show that they will be punished if they have not voted, numbers have failed to rise above the 10% mark in all three election campaigns..
SHRC also documented that a number of citizens were arrested after the referendum on the President and disappeared in a variety of prisons and interrogation centres after casting a ‘no’ vote in the referendum. A number of journalists who covered the referendum were attacked by security officials and were ordered out of the country immediately. Authentic reports told SHRC that a large number of cases in which ID cards (lost or replaced) were issued in order to ensure dubious castings.