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Urgent Interventions

Incommunicado detention of Mr. Ali Shahabi

New Information
SYR 005 / 0806 / OBS 099.3
Incommunicado detention / Fear of torture

November 21, 2006

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Syria.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources that Mr. Ali Shahabi, a writer and a professor in Syria, was again placed in incommunicado detention, still without charges against him. Mr. Ali Shahabi was arrested on August 10, 2006 (see background information).

According to the information received, on October 24, 2006, Mr. Shahabi’s relatives, when coming for their weekly visit, were informed that he had been again placed in isolation, for reasons that remain unknown. No further information was provided.

The Observatory strongly condemns Mr. Ali Shahabi’s incommunicado detention, which takes place in a context of recurrent harassment and repression of human rights defenders in Syria. The Observatory further expresses its deep concern about Mr. Shahabi’s health and physical and psychological integrity and fears that he may be subjected to torture and ill treatment.

Background information:

On August 10, 2006, Mr. Shahabi was summoned to the State Security Services in Damascus, as it had been regularly the case over the last past months. As Mr. Shahabi did not come back home, his wife went to the services in order to inquire into his situation. She was then told to “come back in a week”, strongly implying that he was being detained. Although his relatives tried to visit him on numerous occasions at the State Security Services office, they were denied the right to see him, under the pretext that he would still be “interrogated”, and were not informed of his whereabouts.

On October 16, 2006, Mr. Ali Shahabi’s relatives were informed that he had been transferred from an unknown place to Adra prison, after more than two months of detention. They were also informed that they would be allowed to meet him every Tuesday.

Mr. Shahabi was then accused of “creation of an illegal party” and of having signed the Beirut-Damascus Declaration in May 2006, which called for the normalisation of relations between Lebanon and Syria.

Mr. Shahabi was very involved in promoting fundamental freedoms and democracy in Syria through his writings and by taking part in public discussions forums, sit-ins and meetings dedicated to the defence of human rights. One year ago, he began to launch a “movement” called “Syria for all” and created a website, with articles on democracy and fundamental freedoms, which was then closed down by the authorities.

Action requested:

Please write to the Syrian authorities and ask them to :

  1. guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Ali Shahabi, as well as of all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained, and in particular ensure that he is not subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment during their detention;
  2. release Mr. Shahabi immediately and unconditionally in the absence of any valid charges against him, or in the case of valid charges against him, bring him before an impartial tribunal without delay and guarantee procedural rights at all times, ensuring, among others, that he has access to legal advice;
  3. put an end to all forms of harassment against all human rights defenders in Syria;
  4. conform with the provisions of the Declaration on Humans Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, and article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”, and with the provisions of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance;
  5. more generally, ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Syria in accordance with international human rights standards.

Addresses :

  • M. Bashar al-ASAD, President of the Republic, Presidential Palace, Abu Rummaneh, Al-Rashid Street Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic. Tel/ Fax : + 963 11 33 23 410
  • Général Basam ABD AL-MAJID, Ministry of the Interior, Merjeh Circle, Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic. Tel/Fax : +963 11 222 34 28; Email:
  • M. Muhammad al-GHAFRI, Ministry of Justice, Al Nasr street, Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic. Tel/Fax : +963 11 224 62 50
  • M. Walid MU’ALLIM, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, al-Rashid Street, Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic. Fax: + 963 11 332 76 20
  • His Excellence Ambassador Mr. Bashar JA’AFARI, Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations in Geneva, Rue de Lausanne 72 (3rd floor), 1202 Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 715 45 60, Email:
  • Ambassador Mr. Badi Khattab, Diplomatic Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic in Brussels, 1 avenue F.D. Roosevelt, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Tel: + 32 2 554 19 22; Fax: + 32 2 648 14 85

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Syria in your respective countries.


Paris-Geneva, November 21, 2006

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need. The Observatory was the winner of the 1998 Human Rights Prize of the French Republic.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT: + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

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