Document - Syria: fear of torture / health concern / prisoners of conscience

EXTERNALAI Index: MDE 24/03/96

UA 16/96 Fear of torture / Health concern /

Prisoners of conscience26 January 1996

SYRIAMustafa al-Hussain

'Umar al-Hayak

Muhammad Kheir Khalaf

'Abd al-Karim 'Issa

'Abdalla Qabbara

Hikmat Mirjaneh

Yassin al-Haj Salih

Yusha' al-Khatib

Mazin Shamsin

Firas Yunis

Ten prisoners of conscience are reported to have recently been moved to Tadmur military prison after refusing to sign a statement promising that they will dissociate themselves from all past political activities and expressing support for the present regime. Given that Tadmur military prison is renowned for its harsh conditions and torture and ill-treatment of prisoners there is common, Amnesty International fears that these men may face torture or ill-treatment whilst held there. As prisoners of conscience, all 10 should be immediately and unconditionally released.

Reports that some of the men are in need of medical attention are raising additional concern, especially as lack of adequate medical care for prisoners is common in Syria. Mustafa al-Hussain and Muhammad Kheir Khalaf are said to be suffering from mental illness, 'Abdalla Qabbara reportedly suffers from diabetes, 'Umar al-Hayak from scabies, 'Abd al-Karim 'Issa from tuberculosis, and Hikmat Mirjaneh from an unspecified "eye disease".


The first eight men named above were among more than 100 people arrested between 1980 and 1990 in connection with the unauthorized Communist Party Political Bureau (CPPB), al-Hizb al-Shuyu'i al-Maktab al-Siyassi. At least one of the eight, 'Abdalla Qabbara, was reported to have been tortured during his interrogation. Most of the detainees were released at the end of 1991 or during the first half of 1992 in large-scale amnesties, but the eight remained in prison. Their trials began in 1992 on charges of membership of, or links with the CPPB, and in 1994 they were sentenced by the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) to terms of imprisonment of between 12 and 15 years' imprisonment. One of them - Yassin al-Haj Salih - was due for release in December 1995 having already served 15 years in detention. Despite another amnesty in November 1995, to mark the anniversary of President al-Assad's 25th year in power, when as many as 1,000 political prisoners are believed to have been released, the eight remained in prison together with scores of political prisoners including other prisoners of conscience.

The other two men named above also spent long periods of time in pre-trial detention before being brought to trial in 1992 and sentenced in 1994. Both were imprisoned for their links with the Party for Communist Action (Hizb al-'Amal al-Shuyu'i). Firas Yunis was arrested in 1981 and tried

only 13 years later, in October 1994. He was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment. Mazin Shamsin was arrested in 1990 and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment in April 1994.

Amnesty International considers all 10 to be prisoners of conscience as they have neither used nor advocated violence and are imprisoned solely on the basis of their political beliefs or affiliation.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/airmail letters in Arabic, English or your own language:

- expressing deep concern that 10 prisoners of conscience (naming some or all) have been moved to Tadmur military prison;

- seeking assurances that they are being protected from any form of torture or ill-treatment and will be granted immediate and continuing access to family members and lawyers;

- noting that six (naming some or all) are known to be in need of medical attention and seeking assurances that they will be provided with all the medical care they require while they remain in prison;

- noting that, while many other political prisoners benefited from a Presidential amnesty in November 1995, these men are reported to have been exempted from the terms of the amnesty because of their refusal to sign a statement recanting their political beliefs;

- calling for the 10 to be immediately and unconditionally released.


His Excellency

President Hafez al-Assad

Presidential Palace

Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic

Telegrams: President al-Assad, Damascus, Syria

Telexes: 419160 prespl sy

Salutation: Your Excellency

His Excellency

Dr Muhammad Harba

Minister of the Interior

Ministry of the Interior

Merjeh Circle


Syrian Arab Republic

Telegrams: Interior Minister, Damascus, Syria

Telexes: 411016 AFIRS SY

Salutation: Your Excellency

His Excellency

Husayn Hassun

Minister of Justice

Ministry of Justice

Al-Nasr Street


Syrian Arab Republic

Telegrams: Justice Minister, Damascus, Syria

Salutation: Your Excellency

The prison director

Tadmur military prison

Syrian Arab Republic

Telegrams: Director, Tadmur military prison, Syria

Salutation: Dear Director


His Excellency

Dr Iyad al-Shatti

Minister of Health

Ministry of Health

al-Majlis al-Niyabi Street


Syrian Arab Republic

and to diplomatic representatives of Syria accredited to your country.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat, or your section office, if sending appeals after 25 March 1996.

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