Human Rights and Protection of Lawyers

Over One and a Half Years since Enforced Disappearance of Human Rights Lawyer Khalil Ma’touq

The UIA expresses its deepest concern regarding the situation of Syrian human rights lawyer Khalil Ma’touq, who disappeared on October 2, 2012 along with his colleague Mohammed Thatha, as they were on their way to their office in Damascus.

According to information received from several human rights organizations, the two defenders were reportedly detained at a government security checkpoint. Several unofficial reports have suggested that Khalil Ma’touq has been held in different detention centres in Damascus. Nevertheless, Syrian authorities refuse to acknowledge to the families and friends of Ma’touq and Thatha that they have been detained and deprived of their liberty.

Mr. Ma’touq is the director of the Syrian Centre for Legal Studies and Research and the head of the Syrian Center for the Defense of Detainees. He defended hundreds of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, including Mazen Darwish, the head of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), who was arrested in February 2012.

The UIA believes that Mr. Ma’touq was detained solely because of his human rights activities.

More than eighteen months after they disappeared, the fate and whereabouts of Mr. Ma’touq and Mr. Thatha remain unknown.

The UIA is especially worried about Mr. Ma’touq, who suffers from advanced lung disease and has severe breathing difficulties.

Once again, the UIA reminds Syria of its obligations under international human rights law resulting from the treaties and conventions to which it is party and particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Arab Charter on Human Rights, since many of the rights guaranteed by these instruments are infringed by enforced disappearance.

The UIA strongly urges Syrian authorities to take whatever steps are necessary to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Ma’touq and Mr. Thatha and all lawyers who have been arbitrarily detained and subjected to enforced disappearance.

The UIA calls on the Syrian authorities, to disclose the whereabouts of Mr. Ma’touq and Mr. Thatha, clearly identify any charges against them and allow them to be represented by a lawyer of their choosing.

Also, the UIA asks Syrian authorities to ensure that the two defenders are protected from torture and other ill-treatment while in custody and that they be allowed immediate contact with their families. Finally, the UIA asks the Syrian authorities to ensure that Mr. Ma’Touq and Mr. Thatha receive whatever medical care they require.

Please see the UIA Press Release below.