Urgent Interventions

Free Human Rights Lawyer Khalil Ma’touq Held for 4 Years

Renewed calls for Khalil Ma’touq’srelease on 4th anniversary of detention

(Geneva, New York, October 04, 2016)– Syria should immediately release the Human Rights Lawyer Khalil Ma’touq and hisassistant, MohamedThatha, 31 human rights organizations said today, on the fourth anniversaryof their enforced disappearance.

On October 2, 2012, the twomen are believed to have been arrested at a government-operated checkpoint ontheir way from Ma’touq’s home in the Damascus suburb of Sahnaya to his officein Damascus. Despite repeated requestsfor information to the public prosecutor’s office in Damascus in 2012 and 2013by family and colleagues, Syrian authorities have denied that they arrested themen.

Despite these denials, individualsreleased from the government’s custody in 2015 have informed Ma’touq’s familythat while in detention they spotted him in various government-operateddetention facilities, including State Security Branch 285 and MilitaryIntelligence Branch 235 in Damascus. Since then, the family has not receivedany information on his whereabouts.

Detention centers operated by the Syriangovernment’s security forces are appalling, with rampant torture and inhumaneconditions, in which many thousands of detainees have died since 2011. Formerdetainees at Branch 235, where Ma’touq was reported to have been seen in 2015,said that they were held in poor conditions in crowded cells with inadequateaccess to food, water and hygienic facilities. One detainee, who cannot be identified for security reasons, told that approximately fivemen from his cell died each day as a consequence of torture or disease.

The organizations expressed grave concernthat being held in such conditions may place Ma’touq’s life at risk. Ma’touqsuffers from advanced lung disease, for which he requires appropriatemedication and medical care, but which it is feared he has not receivedaccording to some local reports.

It is not clear why the men werearrested, but it is likely related to Ma’touq’s longstanding work as a humanrights lawyer specializing in defending political prisoners. He is also thedirector of the Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research.

Ma’touq and Thatha have not been releaseddespite calls by human rights activists and organizations to end the practicesof enforced disappearances and torture and other ill-treatment in detentionfacilities in Syria. UN Security Council Resolution 2139 of February 2014demanded the release of all those arbitrarily detained, a call reiterated by aUN Security Council Presidential Statement on August 17, 2015.

Thousands ofpeople have been detained or disappeared since the beginning of the conflict inSyria. Many of them are peaceful activists, humanitarian and journalists.

An enforced disappearanceoccurs when someone is deprived of their liberty by agents of the state orthose acting with its acquiescence, followed by a refusal to acknowledge thedeprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of thedisappeared person.

The Syrian authorities should heed thesecalls without further delay and immediately and unconditionally release Ma’touqand Thatha, as well as all others detained solely for the peaceful exercise oftheir human rights. The UN Security Council should ensure the effective andimmediate implementation of UN Resolution 2139.

The undersigned organizations also callon the USA and Russia to pressure the Syrian government – and all other partiesto the conflict who have detention facilities in Syria – to grant independentinternational monitors unhindered access to all persons deprived of theirliberty.

List of signatories:

1. AmnestyInternational (AI)

2. Arab Foundation for Development and Citizenship

3. ArabicNetwork for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)

4. Bahrain Center for HumanRights (BCHR)

5. English PEN

6. EuroMedRights (EMHRN)

7. FrontLine Defenders (FLD)

8. GulfCentre for Human Rights (GCHR)

9. Human Rights Watch (HRW)

10. Initiative Association for the Defense of Freedoms andHuman Rights in Algeria

11. InternationalFederation for Human Rights (FIDH),within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human RightsDefenders

12. International Service forHuman Rights (ISHR)

13. Iraqi Association for theDefence of Journalists’ Rights (IJRDA)

14. Lawyers for Lawyers

15. Lawyer'sRights Watch Canada (LRWC)

16. Maharat Foundation

17. Metro Centre to DefendJournalists in Iraqi Kurdistan

18. NadimCenter for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence

19. PAX

20. PEN International

21 Sisters' Arab Forum for HumanRights (SAF)

22. SKeyes Center for Media andCultural Freedom

23. Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research

24. Syrian Center for Media andFreedom of Expression (SCM)

25. Syria Justice &Accountability Center (SJAC)

26. Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR)

27. Syriansfor Truth and Justice (STJ)

28. TunisianAssociation for the Defense of university values

29. Vigilance Association for Democracy & Civil State in Tunis

30. Vivarta

31. WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatoryfor the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

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