Wife of Guantánamo detainee released in Syria

Usra al-Hussein, a Syrian woman imprisoned incommunicado for nearly a year without charge or trial, was released on 18 July 2009.

Amnesty International had campaigned for her to be released unless charged with a recognizably criminal offence.

Usra al-Hussein was arrested on 31 July 2008 by State Security officials from her home in the village of al-‘Otayba, some 20km east of Damascus. Throughout her detention she was permitted no contact with the outside world and her family were given no information by the Syrian authorities as to where she was being held or why she had been arrested. Amnesty International does not yet have information on her treatment during detention.

Amnesty International believes that Usra al-Hussein’s imprisonment may have been related to her efforts to communicate with an international organization regarding the detention conditions of her husband, Jehad Diab, in US custody. Jehad Diab has been held without charge or trial as an “enemy combatant” in the US detention centre at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, since August 2002.

Detainees in Syrian detention and investigation centres are often held incommunicado, facilitating the widespread practice of torture and other ill-treatment. Suspects of affiliation to unauthorized Islamist groups are at particular risk of arbitrary arrest and detention.

One such person who remains in detention is Nabil Khlioui, who has been held incommunicado, without charge or trial, at the Palestine Branch, a Military Intelligence interrogation and detention centre in Damascus which is notorious for torture, since his arrest in August 2008. Nabil Khlioui was among scores of individuals arrested during that month, mostly in the city of Deir az-Zawr, but also in the cities of Aleppo and Hama.

According to Syrian human rights organizations, many appeared to have been arrested because the authorities interpreted their appearance and lifestyle as indications of their affiliation to unauthorized Islamist groups.