Blair urged to raise human rights cases with Syrian President

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'We have forwarded a dossier of Syrian human rights cases to Tony Blair in the hope that he will bring these to the attention of the Syrian president.

We are pleased that the UK government has previously raised specific cases of concern in Syria, and we trust that Mr Blair will see this first-time visit of a Syrian leader to the UK as a key opportunity to forward a growing dialogue on human rights with Syria.'

The letter and dossier draw particular attention to a wave of arrests and imprisonment during August and September 2001. Prison terms have been imposed on those considered to be opponents of the government, including two businessmen, two doctors, a lawyer, an engineer and a former university economics faculty dean. Amnesty International considers these individuals to be prisoners of conscience and is calling for their immediate and unconditional release.

Mr Blair's attention is also being drawn to the fact that at least 800 political prisoners are presently held in Syria, the majority having been imprisoned for several years.

In the letter Amnesty International also refers to reports of differences of opinion between the UK and Syria over how to categorise Palestinian armed opposition groups. Ms Allen expresses the hope that the Prime Minister and President Bashar al-Assad 'can agree that the targeting and indiscriminate or disproportionate killing of civilians is always wrong and cannot form a legitimate part of any conflict.'

Related information:

'Amnesty International Report 2002: Syria' (28 May 2002)

Syria: Prisoners of conscience must be released not convicted' (28 August 2002)

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