Syria: British woman's mysterious detention raises concern about torture risk

Amnesty makes appeal for access

Amnesty International has expressed serious concern about the safety and welfare of a British woman who has apparently been apprehended by members of the Syrian security services more than two weeks ago and not seen since.

Amnesty supporters are sending urgent appeals to the Syrian authorities calling on them to release Maryam Kallis immediately and unconditionally unless she is charged with a recognisably criminal offence and given a prompt and fair trial. The authorities are also being asked to ensure Ms Kallis is given immediate access to a lawyer of her own choosing, her family and any medical treatment she may require.

Maryam Kallis, 36, has been detained incommunicado in an unknown location since 15 March and Amnesty believes she is in danger of torture and other ill-treatment, especially as she has been denied access to legal counsel or visits from her family.

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said:

“We’re very concerned about Maryam’s situation. The Syrian security services have a long and very troubling record of detaining people in secret for weeks, months or even years on end and subjecting them to torture.

“The important thing now is that British consular officials, a lawyer and her family are given proper access to Maryam and that her detention is regularised. She should be either charged with a recognisable criminal offence or released immediately.”

Maryam Kallis has been in Syria since 5 March, staying with her sister. She had her three Children's rights, aged between five and eight, with her. On 15 March, while in the company of her eight-year-old son, she was arrested by a group of 8-10 men in civilian clothes in the Rukna al-Din area of the capital, Damascus. The men took Maryam and her son back to her sister’s apartment, where they confiscated her passport and those of her Children's rights, before handcuffing Maryam and taking her away.

She had originally travelled with her family to Damascus in October 2002 to study Arabic. She came back to the UK in late 2008, and returned to Damascus in March 2009 to collect her Children's rights and bring them back to the UK. She was due to return to London at the end of March.

The UK authorities have contacted the Syrian authorities requesting access to Maryam Kallis asking why she has been arrested. To date they have not been provided with any information or allowed access to her.

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