Document - Syrian human rights lawyer feared arrested

URGENT ACTION

UA: 298/12 Index: MDE 24/080/2012 Syria Date: 4 October 2012

URGENT ACTION SYRIAN HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER FEARED ARRESTED Two Syrian men, one a human rights lawyer, have not been seen or heard from since 2 October. There is grave concern that they may have been detained and are at grave risk of torture and other ill-treatment. According to family and colleagues, human rights lawyer Khalil Ma’touq (53) and his friend Mohammed Thatha (47) left Khalil Ma’touq’s home in Sahnaya, a suburb of Damascus on 2 October. They never arrived at Khalil Ma’touq’s office in Damascus. There are several government-controlled checkpoints on the route Khalil Ma’touq usually takes and the phones of both men no longer work. The Syrian authorities have so far not responded to repeated requests from their families regarding their possible arrests, their well-being or whereabouts.

Family and colleagues have suggested that both men may be detained due to Khalil Ma’touq’s human rights work. Additionally, he had recently travelled to France for medical treatment which may have aroused the authorities’ suspicions about him. The situation is particularly concerning as Khalil Ma’touq suffers from advanced lung disease caused by a chronic inflammatory condition, and has severe breathing difficulties due to a reduced lung function. He takes regular medication and according to his family, must be under constant medical supervision.

Khalil Ma’touq, a member of Syria’s Christian minority, has been a human rights lawyer for many years. He has defended hundreds of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, including those that went before the Supreme State Security Court (which fell far short of international standards of fair trial and was abolished in 2011). Due to his human rights work, Khalil Ma’touq was banned from travelling between 2005 and 2011 and was unfairly sentenced in absentia in 2010 to two years’ imprisonment but was not made to serve his sentence.

Please write immediately in Arabic, English, French or your own language:  Calling on the Syrian authorities to urgently inform Khalil Ma’touq and Mohammed Thatha’s families of their fate and whereabouts. If they are in detention and are held solely on account of Khalil Ma’touq’s human rights work or for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, they should be released immediately and unconditionally;  If they are detained, urging them to ensure that both men are protected from torture and other ill-treatment, and allowed immediate contact with their families and lawyers of their choice;  If they are detained, urging the authorities to grant Khalil Ma’touq access to all necessary medical care, in civilian hospitals with specialized facilities if required.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 15 NOVEMBER 2012 TO: President Bashar al-Assad Fax: +963 11 332 3410 (keep trying) (fax/phone line – say "Fax") (Fax is the only reliable communication method; please do not send letters) Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Interior Major General Mohamad Ibrahim al- Shaar Fax: +963 11 311 0554 (fax/phone line – say "Fax") (Fax is the only reliable communication method; please do not send letters) Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Foreign Affairs Walid al-Mu’allim Fax: +963 11 214 6253 (keep trying) (fax/phone line – say "Fax") (Fax is the only reliable communication method; please do not send letters) Salutation: Your Excellence

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

URGENT ACTION SYRIAN HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER FEARED ARRESTED

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION Thousands of suspected opponents of the government have been arrested in Syria since protests broke out in February 2011 and many, if not most, are believed to have been tortured and otherwise ill-treated. Amnesty International has received the names of more than 570 people reported to have died in custody during this period and has documented many cases of torture or other ill-treatment. See ‘I wanted to die’: Syria’s torture survivors speak out (http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE24/016/2012/en).

Since protests broke out, the situation has evolved into an internal armed conflict throughout much of the country. Systematic and widespread human rights abuses, including crimes against humanity and possible war crimes have become rife in Syria, where civilians are the main victims. Amnesty International has documented numerous examples; most recently in documents such as Civilians bearing the brunt in the battle for Aleppo (Index: MDE 24/73/2012, 23 August 2012, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE24/073/2012/en) and Indiscriminate attacks terrorize and displace civilians (Index: MDE 24/078/2012, 19 September 2012, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE24/078/2012/en).

Although the vast majority of the human rights abuses documented by Amnesty International have been committed by the state’s armed forces and pro-government shabiha militias, abuses have also been committed by armed opposition groups. This includes the torture and killing of captured soldiers and shabiha militia members as well as the abduction and killing of people known or suspected to support or work with the government and its forces, or the taking of civilians as hostages to try to negotiate prisoner swaps. Amnesty International condemns without reservation such abuses and has called on the leadership of all armed opposition groups in Syria to state publicly that such acts are prohibited and to do all in their power to ensure that opposition forces put an immediate stop to them.

Other bodies such as the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic have made similar findings, including in their most recent report published on 15 August 2012.

In light of this, Amnesty International is continuing to call for the situation in Syria to be referred to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. The organization is also calling for an international arms embargo aimed at halting the flow of weapons to the Syrian government, and an assets freeze on President Bashar al-Assad and his close associates. Additionally, states considering supplying weapons to the armed opposition should have in place the necessary mechanisms to ensure the material supplied is not used to commit human rights abuses and/or war crimes. The Syrian government should also allow the international independent commission of inquiry as well as international human rights and humanitarian organizations unfettered access to all parts of the country.

Name: Khalil Ma’touq and Mohammed Thatha Gender m/f: m

UA: 298’/12 Index: MDE 24/080/2012 Issue Date: 4 October 2012

How you can help

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL WORLDWIDE