Urgent Interventions

Syria: Trial against Syrian human rights defender once again postponed

Press Release


Trial against Syrian human rights defender once again postponed

Copenhagen – Geneva – Paris, January 17, 2005. The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and 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), express their deep concern over the continued postponement of Mr. Aktham Naisse’s trial hearing, President of the Committees of the Defense of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria (CDF), member of EMHRN, FIDH and OMCT.

On Sunday January 16, 2005, the trial against Mr. Aktham Naisse was scheduled to resume. However, upon arrival to the court in Damascus, and without prior notice, Mr. Naisse was informed that the trial hearing had been postponed until April 26, 2005. This postponement can be considered as part of the Syrian method of harassing human rights defenders.

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). Mr. Naisse 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. As a consequence of an amnesty granted by the Syrian President on July 15, 2004, the Court dropped the third charge against him of “affiliation with international organisations”.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (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.

Furthermore, the EMHRN and the Observatory express their concern at the fact that the Observatory was unable to send a mission to Syria on January 16, 2005, in order to observe Mr. Naisse's trial, as its delegate was not delivered any visa. This violates article 9.3.c of the UN declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to attend public hearings, proceedings and trials so as to form an opinion on their compliance with national law and applicable obligations and commitments”.

Our organisations recall that Mr. Naisse, who has just 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 are 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 European Union and Syria, in which article 2 clearly states the Parties’ commitment to respect human rights.

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 put an end to postponement of trials as a method of harassing human rights defenders and delaying their work;

  • to ensure that international observers be able to attend Mr. Naisse’s trial without any hindrances;

  • 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 26 April trial hearing against Mr. Naisse;

  • to demand that Syria respects international human rights and international laws, 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.


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 : + 4122 809 49 39

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax FIDH 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / (0)1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT + 4122 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29
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