Syria: Syria- One-year anniversary marked in the disappearance of ‎prominent human rights lawyer Khalil Ma'touq

30.09.13

On 2 October 2013, the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) marks the first anniversary in the disappearance of prominent Syrian human rights lawyer Khalil Ma'touq, who was arrested together with his colleague while they were on their way to their office. His whereabouts remain unknown since his disappearance one year ago.

Khalil Ma'touq, the 54-year-old director of the Syrian Centre for Legal Studies and Research, was arrested along with his friend and assistant, 48-year-old Mohammed Thatha, on 2 October 2012. According to local reports, it is believed they were detained at a government security checkpoint on their way to work in the capital Damascus.

They have been subjected to enforced disappearance as, despite repeated requests from family and lawyers, the Syrian authorities continue to deny they are in custody. Such conditions increase the risk of their being subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, which is rife in Syrian prisons, local organizations said.

The GCHR believes the disappearance of Khalil Ma'touq is directly related to his legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights. The GCHR is gravely concerned for the physical, psychological integrity and security of Khalil Ma'touq.

The GCHR urges the authorities in Syria to:

1. Take urgent measures to ascertain the whereabouts of human rights defender Khalil Ma'touq and his colleague and guarantee their physical and psychological integrity;

2. Grant Khalil Ma'touq immediate and unfettered access to the medical treatment which he requires;

3. Grant Khalil Ma'touq and his colleague immediate and unfettered access to his families and lawyers;

4. Take active measures to establish responsibility for the disappearance of Khalil Ma'touq and his colleague Mohammed Thatha , with a view to identifying those responsible and bringing them to justice in accordance with international standards;

5. Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Syria are able to carry out their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 11: “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to the lawful exercise of his or her occupation or profession,” and to Article 12 (2): “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threat, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”