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Syria
26.10.06
Urgent Interventions

New charges and ongoing arbitrary detention of Mr. Michel Kilo

New information
SYR 003 / 0506 / OBS 060.2
Arbitrary detention / Judicial proceedings
Syria
October 26, 2006

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), 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 of new charges brought against Mr. Michel Kilo, a writer, a journalist and former president of the Organisation for the Defence of Freedom of Speech and Press.

According to the information received, on October 19, 2006, the examining judge (qadi al-ihala) decided to order the release of Mr. Michel Kilo, who was detained at the Adra prison since May 14, 2006. According to the decision, Mr. Kilo had to pay a 1.000 Syrian Lira bail (20 US $), which his lawyers did.

However, the decision was not sent to the prison, although it was transmitted to the Public Ministry by the judge. As the offices were closed on Friday and Saturday, October 20 and 21, 2006, Mr. Kilo’s lawyers were only able to question the ongoing detention of Mr. Kilo on October 22, 2006. On this occasion, they were surprised to see that a new act of accusation had been drawn up against Mr. Kilo, which was dated October 19, 2006, a few hours after the decision to release him was taken by the judge. Moreover, they were told that the former file of Mr. Kilo had been “lost”.

According to the information received, Mr. Kilo is now accused of “undermining national pride” (article 285), “disseminating false news, harming the State’s reputation” (article 287 and 376) and “inciting to confessional and racial hatred” (article 307).

The Observatory is very preoccupied by Mr. Kilo’s situation and very concerned about this way to proceed by the Syrian judiciary, which is a clear proof of its lack of independence and seems to indicate that the Syrian authorities want him to stay in prison at any price.

Furthermore, the Observatory recalls that Mr. Anouar Al Bunni, founding member of the Syrian Human Rights Association (ASDH) and member of the Committee for the Defence of Prisoners of Conscience, who was arrested in the same circumstances on May 17, 2006, also remains detained at the Adra prison. Mr. Bunni has been charged, in particular, with “undermining national pride” and “incitement to racial and sectorial hatred”.

Background information:

Mr. Michel Kilo was arrested on May 14, 2006 after having been summoned to the Syrian intelligence services.

Mr. Kilo is one of the leaders of the Syrian NGOs discussion clubs, which regularly debate on issues related to political reform, democracy and human rights in Syria. He is also a journalist at al-Quds, a leading daily newspaper in Arabic that is published in London. He already spent two years in prison in the early 1980s and had also been shortly arrested with others at the end of March 2006, in the context of a wave of repression against civil society activists in Syria.

Mr. Kilo had been arrested in May 2006, along with nine other human rights defenders and political activists, after signing the “Beirut-Damascus Declaration”, a petition drawn up by Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals and human rights activists calling for the improvement of the relations between the two countries (see FIDH / OMCT joint press release dated May 18, 2006 and Observatory press release dated July, 28, 2006).

All of them have been release since then, except Mr. Kilo and Mr. Anouar Al Bunni.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Syrian authorities asking that they:

  1. guarantee under all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Michel Kilo and Mr. Anouar Bunni, as well as of all human rights defenders in Syria;
  2. release Mr. Kilo and Mr. Bunni immediately and unconditionally, as their detention are arbitrary;
  3. put an end to any kind of harassment, including on the judicial level, against Mr. Kilo and Mr. Bunni, as well as against all other human rights defenders;
  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”;
  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: admin@civilaffair-moi.gov.sy
  • 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: mission.syria@ties.itu.int
  • 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, October 26, 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:
E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
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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