Fax & Phone # (905) 272-9389
Web site:

Kurdish prisoners of conscience detained arbitrarily by the Baathist regime of Syria must be immediately released .

Press release, 10 January 2004

CLHRF calls on the Canadian government, the free world countries, the General Secretary of the UN, the Arab League, the Vatican, and all international human rights organizations to pressure the Stalinist Baathist Syrian regime to immediately release eight Syrian Kurdish activists who will be tried on 11 January 2004 for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

CLHRF also strongly urges the same oppressive regime to release all other detainees held on similar grounds, especially the hundreds of innocent Lebanese citizens who have been illegally detained in Syria's notorious jails for years without due process and in complete violation of their basic human rights.

According to Syrian human rights groups and Amnesty International, the eight Kurdish men are prisoners of conscience held solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression. All eight men - Mohammad Mustafa, Khaled Ahmed 'Ali, Sherif Ramadhan, 'Amr Mourad, Salar Saleh, Hosam Mohammad Amin, Husayn Ramadhan and Mas'ud Hamid - have reportedly been beaten up and ill-treated in detention. Seven are held in 1m x 1.5m cells, while Mohammad Mustafa, a lawyer, is being held in a cell which is said to be a toilet of 80cm x 80cm. The men are held for participating in a peaceful demonstration on 25 June 2003, outside the UNICEF headquarters in Damascus. They will appear before the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC), whose trial procedures are considered by all international human rights organizations to be grossly unfair.

CLHRF strongly believes that it is the Syrian regime's legal obligation to respect the legitimate rights of its Kurdish, Christian, Druze and other minorities. Two other Syrian Kurdish detainees, Hassan Saleh, 61, and Marwan 'Uthman, have been held incommunicado for more than one year. They have been denied visits by lawyers, relatives and doctors. Like the eight men named above, they are reported to be held in Adra prison outside Damascus where hundreds of innocent Lebanese citizens have been held for years but whose existence Syria officially denies. In this same horrible detention center thousands of Lebanese citizens, mostly Lebanese Muslim Sunnis, from the City of Tripoli were detained, tortured, executed and buried.

CLHRF considers trials held before the SSSC to be grossly unfair. In April 2001, the Human Rights Committee - the body of experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) - expressed concerns about the procedures of the SSSC. The experts stated that these procedures were incompatible with the provisions of the ICCPR, to which Syria is a state party.

Torture and ill-treatment are routinely inflicted on detainees while they are held incommunicado in Syrian prisons and detention centers. Joseph Huways, a Lebanese citizen, died because of torture while detained in Syrian jails. He had been reportedly denied access to medical treatment, and his death in the third week of June 2003 fits into a pattern of ill-treatment of Lebanese detained in Syria and highlights the endemic failure of Syrian authorities to uphold international laws and standards governing the detention and treatment in custody of political detainees. Huways, a 43-year-old epileptic, was among thousands of Lebanese to have been murdered in Syrian custody since 1976. Adel Khalaf Ajjuri, a Lebanese political prisoners died in Sednaya Prison in Syria on 22 September 1999 after nine years in detention, reportedly after being denied access to specialist medical care. The Syrian authorities indicated that the cause of death was heart failure, but no autopsy was performed on his body by either the Syrian or Lebanese authorities. Lebanese citizen Joseph Zughayb died in Syrian detention in 1996 in unknown circumstances. Radwan Ibrahim died in Lebanese detention shortly after being transferred from a prison in Syria in December 2000. He had been suffering from a kidney infection and high blood pressure and was reportedly not receiving any medication.

Despite repeated calls from numerous human rights organizations, Syrian authorities have failed over the years to provide clarifications on the scores of cases of Lebanese nationals who have been detained or who have disappeared in Syria.

CLHRF calls on the international community to exert pressure on the Syrian authorities to disclose as a matter of urgency the names of all Lebanese nationals held in Syrian jails and allow them immediate and unrestricted access to their families and lawyers. There is no legal basis for the arrest and transfer of Lebanese nationals to Syria who are later held either without trial or after unfair trials. CLHRF calls on the Syrian authorities to disclose the fate and whereabouts of scores of Lebanese who have ''disappeared" following their arrest in Lebanon and their transfer to Syria by Syrian military or intelligence forces.

CLHRF is concerned about the safety of the Lebanese detainees, especially in view of recurrent news of torture and ill-treatment, and their detention in inhumane conditions. CLHRF is also concerned by the failure of the Lebanese government to take the matter of Lebanese detainees and missing in Syria up with the Syrian authorities.

The Lebanese authorities must intervene on behalf of all Lebanese prisoners held in Syria, ascertain whom exactly is held and under what conditions, and keep relatives of the detainees informed. The failure of Lebanon's regime to prevent the transfer of those arrested within its jurisdiction, to protect them from torture, and to ensure that they are able to challenge the lawfulness of their detention amount at best to serious negligence and at worst to condoning these practices.

Spokesman for the CLHRF
Elias Bejjani