Syria: Shameful Participation of the Syrian “Bar Association” in the Crackdown on Human Rights Defenders

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The undersigned human rights NGOs hereby express full solidarity with prominent lawyer and human rights defender Radeef Mostafa, Head of the Kurdish Committee for Human Rights in Syria- al-Rased – in light of the tremendous pressures aimed at punishing him for defending human rights in general, and the rights of the Kurdish minority in particular.

The undersigned NGOs condemn the shameful use of the Bar Association, one of the many State-controlled professional syndicates in Syria, in the crackdown and defamation of human rights defenders.  Disciplinary charges have been brought against Mostafa by the Bar Association’s branch in Aleppo upon the directions of the Syrian Bar President. Grounds of referral include inciting citizens against the Syrian government in his articles; tackling topics with a view of undermining national unity; publishing unfounded news and claims to instigate citizens against the State; and presiding over an organization that is established without an official license. Mostafa was also accused- according to the Penal Code- of other crimes including threatening state security.

Signatory NGOs note that these charges are commonly used by the Syrian intelligence and security services on a wide scale to prosecute political opponents, critics of official policies, and human rights defenders.

The undersigned NGOs believe that this disciplinary action and the accusations upon which it was set in motion portrays irresponsibility of the Bar Association, which should protect its lawyers as any other trade union. This action contravenes in itself the duties of the legal profession that rests on the defense of the rights of the victims and provision of remedies to persons subjected to arbitrary measures. This also is a flagrant violation of the right to express one’s opinion and share information even if denied or blacked out by the authorities. Additionally, this breaches the universally recognized safeguards and rights accorded to human rights defenders and organizations as per the Universal Declaration on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1998.

The undersigned organizations call upon bar associations across the world to denounce the actions of the Syrian Bar Association and to urge it to suspend and drop the disciplinary action which if continued, may lead to penalties amounting to Mostafa’s dismissal, strike off and prevention from continuing to work as a lawyer.

The signatory NGOs recollect that prominent human rights defender and lawyer Mohannad Al-Hassani, chairman of the Syrian organization for Human Rights – Sawasiah, was the target of similar procedures by the Bar Association resulting in his dismissal. At the same time, the authorities were paving the way for bringing him to trial on the grounds of similar accusations. As a result, Al-Hassani was sentenced to three years in prison.

The undersigned organizations call upon the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Opinion and the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of  Human Rights Defenders to immediately intervene to put an end to the increasing assaults on human rights defenders; to urge Syrian authorities to take necessary measures to improve the deteriorating situation of citizens’ lack of freedom of expression and to safeguard the right of citizens, including political and human rights activists, writers, journalists and bloggers, to express their views and positions; and finally to urge authorities to immediately release all persons detained on grounds of opposing political views or stances and/or peaceful engagement in the defense of human rights.

Signatory Organizations:

1. Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies, Egypt
2. Arab Foundation for Civil Society and Human Rights Support, Egypt
3. Arab Network for Human Rights Information, Egypt
4. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, Egypt
5. Bahrain Center for Human Rights
6. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
7. Committees for the Defense of Democracy Freedom and Human Rights, Syria
8. Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies
9. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
10. Hesham Mubarak Law Center, Egypt
11. Human Rights First Society, Saudi Arabia
12. Human Rights Organization in Syria – MAF
13. Kurdish Committee for Human Rights in Syria al-Rased
14. Kurdish organization for the defence of human rights and public freedoms in Syria – DAD
15. National Organization for Human Right in Syria
16. Palestinian Organization for Human Rights – Lebanon
17. The Arab Organization for Human Rights-Syria
18. The Group for Human Rights Legal Aid, Egypt
19. The Syrian Human Rights Committee
20. Yemeni Organization for Defending Rights and Democratic Freedoms

محتوى المدونة منشور برخصة المشاع الإبداعي نَسب المُصنَّف 4.0