SYRIA: Concluding recommendations by the Human Rights Committee should be implemented without delay

'We share all the Committee's concerns and we believe that its recommendations must be acted upon for Syria to improve its human rights record,' Amnesty International said.

Concerns expressed by the Committee in its concluding observations include, among other things, the number of offences punishable by the death penalty ; the number of people held in pre-trial detention - some of whom are held in solitary confinement; the 'disappearance' following arrest of many Syrian and Lebanese nationals; the constant and 'duly substantiated' allegations of torture including in Syrian prisons, particularly Tadmur Military prison. The Committee also expressed its concerns over violation of the right to fair trial as stipulated by the ICCPR - in trials conducted by the State Security Court and the military courts.

The Committee recommended that Syria should reduce the number of offences punishable by the death penalty and that an independent commission of inquiry be established on allegations of extrajudicial executions and 'disappearances' of Syrian and Lebanese nationals transferred to Syria. The Committee also called on the Syrian authorities to ensure that complaints of torture and other abuses committed by agents of the state are considered by an independent body, and to take steps to improve prison conditions.

Further recommendations include ensuring that anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge be brought promptly before a judge; that respect for human rights be monitored by an independent agency; that human rights defenders and journalists be protected against any restriction on their activities; that legislation regarding limitations to freedom of expression and opposition to the 'aims of the revolution' be revised; and that the state of emergency - in force since 1963 - be lifted formally and as soon as possible.

Finally, the Committee called on the Syrian Government to review its legislation in order to render it compatible with all the provisions of the ICCPR.

Amnesty International welcomes the Committee's request to Syria to report within one year on the 'measures it has taken or envisages to take' to lift the state of emergency; and to submit information on the death penalty; the 'disappeared'; extra-judicial executions; and the composition, jurisdiction and procedures of the military courts.

Background

The Human Rights Committee is the 18 member body entrusted with monitoring the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and meets twice a year at the United Nations Head Quarters in New York and Geneva. During its 71st session in New York, the Committee considered the second periodic report submitted by the Syrian Arab Republic in January 2000 on its implementation of the ICCPR. The report was due in 1984.

Prior to the session Amnesty International briefed the Committee members on its human rights concerns in Syria. In its briefing Amnesty International welcomed the submission by the Syrian authorities of their second report to the Committee as a positive development. The organization also pointed out that although the Syrian Constitution and ordinary laws generally provide for human rights safeguards, the Syrian authorities have established a parallel regime under the state of emergency legislation which in effect nullifies all of these provisions for human rights protection.

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