Urgent Interventions

Syria: Trial against prominent and awarded Syrian human rights defender continues

Press Release

Trial against prominent and awarded Syrian human rights defender continues

Copenhagen – Geneva – Paris, April 22, 2005. The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a FIDH and OMCT joint programme) express their deep concern over the continued legal proceedings against Mr. Aktham Naisse, President of the Committees of the Defense of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria (CDF), member of EMHRN, FIDH and OMCT.

On Sunday April 24, 2005, the trial against Mr. Aktham Naisse is scheduled to resume. He is charged with “opposing the objectives of the revolution”, and “disseminating false information aiming at weakening the State”, risking a prison sentence of 15 years. Mr. Naisse was arrested on April 13, 2004 and released on bail on August 17, 2004, following a decision by the Syrian Supreme State Security Court (SSSC). The previously scheduled trial on January 16 was postponed without prior notice.

The EMHRN and the Observatory are deeply worried by the fact that usual criminal procedures relative to a fair trial are not applicable before the Supreme State Security Court (according to decree 47 passed in 1968). In addition, the SSSC does not fall under the authority of the higher judiciary but under the National Security Office of the Baath Party. Moreover, one military judge is among the panel of three judges. Finally, the decisions of the SSSC cannot be appealed.

The EMHRN and the Observatory are deeply worried by the unfair trial against Mr. Naisse. The EMHRN and the Observatory are furthermore highly concerned about the continued harassment of Syrian human rights defenders, especially in the context of the initiation at the end of 2004 of the Association Agreement between the EU and Syria in which article 2 clearly states the Parties’ commitment to respect human rights. The European Parliament gave its full support to Mr. Naisse when it invited him on March 31, 2005, to speak on human rights in Syria and the future EU-Syria agreement.

Our organisations recall that Mr. Naisse, who won the 2005 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders (MEA), has been repeatedly harassed for many years for his activities in favour of human rights in Syria, as a mean to sanction his right to freedom of expression and association.

The EMHRN and the Observatory call upon the Syrian authorities:
  • to ensure that Mr. Aktham Naisse be brought before a civil, competent and impartial tribunal, and that his procedural rights be guaranteed at all times, including his right to access to counsel;

  • to recognise the CDF and other human rights and civil society organisations;

  • to put an end to harassment, intimidation, threats, and deliberate attacks on human rights defenders, and to respect its human rights commitments according to international standards and as expressed in the Barcelona Declaration to which Syria is a part as well as the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (of December 9, 1998)

The EMHRN and the Observatory call upon the European Union and its Member States:
  • to send representatives to observe the 24 April trial hearing against Mr. Naisse

  • to demand that Syria respects international human rights law, particularly now that the EU is expected soon to sign an Association Agreement with Syria

The EMHRN and the Observatory call upon the international community:
  • to continue expressing their concern about the situation for human rights defenders and human rights organisations in Syria, and to continue supporting them.

Furthermore, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders will send a mission to Syria on January 24, 2005, jointly with the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), in order to observe Mr. Naisse's trial and urges the Syrian authorities to provide all necessary assistance for the proper fulfilment of its delegate's mandate.


EMHRN: Marit Floe Joergensen, Information Officer
Tel: +45-32 69 89 12 / Fax: +45-32 95 65 54

FIDH: Gael Grilhot, press officer
tel: +33 1 43 55 25 18

OMCT: Eric Sottas, Director
Tel: + 41 22 809 49 39

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: + 4122 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29
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