Eight important NGOs protest assault on MEA laureate Al-Hassani in Syrian jail – situation criticial

November 4, 2010

On 4 November 2010 eight leading human rights organizations  – of which 6 are on the jury of the Martin Ennals Award (MEA) – called on the Syrian government to guarantee the safety of Muhannad al-Hassani, a human rights defender serving a three year prison term, after he was assaulted last week in ‘Adra prison, Damascus. The eight organizations – Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Commission of Jurists, the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and Front Line – urged the Syrian government to investigate the assault and protect Muhannad al-Hassani from further brutality or ill-treatment. The joint statement adds some important new development:

Muhannad al-Hassani was physically assaulted on 28 October by a prisoner sentenced for a criminal offence who was being held in the same cell in ‘Adra prison. For five days after the attack Muhannad al-Hassani continued to be held in the same cell as his attacker, but is then reported to have been moved to a tiny underground isolation cell. He and other political prisoners in ‘Adra prison have now launched a hunger strike to protest against his solitary confinement.

The prisoner who attacked Muhannad al-Hassani is said to have been moved into the same cell only recently and to have beaten him using a heavy metal finger ring he was wearing at the time of the assault although prisoners are not normally permitted to wear such ‘jewellery’. As a result of the assault, Muhannad al-Hassani suffered a cut to his forehead requiring ten stitches, swelling to his eye and cheek and bruising to his body.

Following the incident, the police took statements from other prisoners who had witnessed the assault and interviewed Muhannad al-Hassani in the presence of his attacker, but reportedly took no action when he continued to threaten him and accused him of being unpatriotic and did not even make note of the threats.

Muhannad al-Hassani was subsequently taken to a doctor at a government forensic clinic in Douma, a town between ‘Adra and Damascus, who issued a report on his injuries on 1 November. The case was referred to a court in Douma though Muhannad al-Hassani’s lawyers were not informed and so were unable to be present at the hearing.

The eight human rights organizations call on the Syrian authorities to carry out a prompt, thorough and transparent, independent investigation into the assault on Muhannad al-Hassani and the circumstances which led to his being exposed to such risk. In particular, they must examine whether officials at ‘Adra prison were complicit in the attack by moving the prisoner responsible into Muhannad al-Hassani’s cell to facilitate it, and why they continued to hold them in the same cell for several days afterwards. The results of such an investigation should be made public and those responsible for the attack must be brought to justice.”

The  organizations also called for an immediate end to Muhannad al-Hassani’s solitary confinement and for guarantees of his safety while he remains in prison, although he should NOT be in prison to start with (see previous posts). The statement adds that “other government critics are previously reported to have been assaulted by criminal inmates, as well as prison guards, while held in ‘Adra prison. In December 2006, for example, Anwar al-Bunni, another human rights lawyer, was pushed down a flight of stairs by a criminal detainee and beaten on his head in the presence of prison guards, who failed to intervene.”

9 Responses to “Eight important NGOs protest assault on MEA laureate Al-Hassani in Syrian jail – situation criticial”

  1. Village Gossip Says:

    When we consider the stonewall response of a so-called open democracy like the USA to calls for humane treatment of its prisoners (often unjustly held innocents) in places like Gitmo, is there any hope that an avowedly authoritarian government like Syria’s will listen to the world community’s outrage? So long as the world’s most powerful nations set the fashion for ignoring world opinion and human decency, what real impact can such protests have?

    • Hans Thoolen Says:

      well, decades of human rights action and hundreds of freed political prisoners tell a different story, and …the retraction of the Gitmo ‘policy’ by Obama was also – at least partly – due to the actions by less cynical activists. It is the old story:should we do nothing because the result is so often elusive?. Let me know when you have a (better/ more effective) solution. best Hans

      • Village Gossip Says:

        Ah, but I wasn’t suggesting that there should not be these protests to the Syrian government, only that we should put much more pressure on our own governments, to force them to begin leading the way in the right direction instead of the wrong.

      • Hans Thoolen Says:

        Ok let’s pressure the Canadian government!

      • Village Gossip Says:

        Actually, I did apologize for my lapse into pessimism, said I withdrew my original comment and asked you not to post it. But you did anyway, I don’t know why.

        Sure, let’s pressure Canada on whatever you like; but apart from the fact that Canada is not in Iraq nor apparently currently involved in the torture of randomly selected innocents, Stephen Harper is, I feel, not the man to listen to humanitarian concerns. One of the threads in the fabric of my pessimism. What in particular do you want to challenge him on?

      • Hans Thoolen Says:

        sorry, had not understood that you did not want it up at all; anyway my readers are very few…
        cats are being fed from time to time and Max thanks you for the tip left on the box, enjoy trips

  2. Alexandra Bisia Says:

    And still no action taken by the Syrian government??!!

    • UnDyInG Says:

      no action has been taken, and they wont ….
      if they take any action .. it would be against Mr.Al-hassani

      • Hans Thoolen Says:

        I doubt it but then we simply have to up the pressure; and I am sure the international human rights movement will take this extremely serious


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