Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Human Rights

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Human Rights

Article excerpt


Syria Accused of Holding "Longest-Serving Political Prisoners"

Middle East Watch has called upon the European Parliament to condition its financial and technical assistance to Syria on specific improvements in the country's human rights record. Exceptions, the New York-based human rights watchdog group says, should be made solely for humanitarian aid to Syria that directly benefits the needy.

A November Human Rights Watch report points out that 1993 marked "the 30th year that Syria's 15 million residents have been ruled under emergency law, imposed in March 1963 when the Arab Ba'th Socialist Party seized power." To date, political reforms promised by President Hafez Al-Assad in a June 1991 speech "have not been realized," according to the report. "Political opposition in Syria is still not tolerated, independent institutions of civil society are not permitted to exist, and the print and broadcast media are completely controlled by the state."

The report continues:

"The Assad regime, which has ruled in authoritarian fashion since 1970, continues to merit the ignominious distinction of holding some of the world's longest-serving political prisoners detained without charge or trial for over 20 years. One of these prisoners, Gen. Salah Jadid, died in August of this year, at 69 years of age.

"Despite the welcome mass releases over the last two years of thousands of Syria's security and political prisoners--including 4,018 in three successive amnesties between December 1991 and December 1992--Middle East Watch estimates that some 4,000 remain incarcerated. Among them are individuals held for association with political groups not engaged in violence, and writers and other professionals held for peaceful expression and association.

"Fifteen human rights activists from the Committee for the Defense of Democratic Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria (CDF), an independent human rights organization formed in Damascus in 1989 that is barred from working openly inside the country, are now part of this group of prisoners of conscience. The CDF members were arrested between December 1991 and March 1992."

Middle East Watch called upon Syria to release all prisoners and detainees held for peaceful expression and association; end the practice of torture and provide detainees prompt access to family members and lawyers; discontinue trials before Syria's State Security Court which violate international fair-trial standards; and end prolonged detention without charges or trial.

Middle East Watch Criticizes Egypt's State Security Directorate

An Oct. 22 Middle East Watch report calls upon President Bill Clinton and congressional policy-makers "to hold President Mubarak publicly accountable for his government's poor record," and accuses the Egyptian government of human rights violations "including the continuing state of emergency (in force since October 1981), the ongoing practice of incommunicado detention and torture by security forces, and increasing restrictions on freedom of association and freedom of expression."

The report said the U.S. human rights organization had appealed to the Mubarak government to bring the elite General Directorate of State Security Investigation (SSI) under the control of the rule of law; halt the SSI practice of torture and holding of suspects in incommunicado detention and continuously blindfolded; investigate torture complaints and make the findings public; suspend trials of civilians in military courts and commute death sentences imposed by these courts; and expand rather than restrict institutions of civil society, including opposition political groups that do not incite or practice violence.

Amnesty International Asks Bhutto To Fulfill Promises

Amnesty International has called upon Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who assumed power after Pakistan's October elections, to fulfill the election pledge of her Pakistan People's Party to ban "torture and human degradation in any form" by agencies of Pakistan's government. …

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