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Urgent Interventions

Syria: Arbitrary detention of Mr. Ali Shahabi

SYR 005 / 0806 / OBS 099
Arbitrary detention / Fear of torture

August 18, 2006

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

Brief description of the situation :

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources of the arbitrary detention of Mr. Ali Shahabi, a writer and a professor, known for his strong involvement in the promotion of democracy and human rights in Syria.

According to the information received, on August 10, 2006, Mr. Shahabi was summoned to the State security services in Damascus, as it has 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.

The Observatory fears for Mr. Shehadeh’s physical and psychological integrity, as there is no information on his conditions of detention.

The Observatory recalls that those acts follow the arrests and detention of many other human rights activists and intellectuals during the past few months.

In this regard, the Observatory recalls that many other persons were arrested after signing the Damascus-Beirut Declaration, a petition initiated by Syrian and Lebanese intellectuals and human rights defenders, calling for the normalisation of relations between Lebanon and Syria, of which Mr. Shahabi was also a signatory. Amongst these persons were Mr. Michel Kilo, a prominent pro-democracy activist and the president of the Organisation for the Defence of Freedom of Expression and the Press, and Mr. Anouar Bunni, founder of the Syrian Human Rights Association (ASDH) and member of the Committee for the Defence of Prisoners of Conscience (CDF), who still remain detained to date (cf. Observatory Urgent Appeals SYR 003/0506/OBS 060 and OBS 060.1, as well as FIDH/OMCT joint press release dated May 18, 2006).

Action requested :

Please write to the Syrian authorities and ask them to :
i. guarantee, in all circumstances, the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Ali Shahabi, and of all human rights defenders arbitrarily detained;

ii. release Mr. Shahabi immediately and unconditionally, as well as all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained;

iii. put an end to all forms of harassment against all human rights defenders in Syria;

iv. 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”;

v. 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, August 18, 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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