SYRIA: Where is human rights lawyer Khalil Maatouk?

Urgent Appeal

Paris-Geneva, February 18, 2013. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), expresses its utmost concern for the physical and psychological integrity of human rights lawyer Khalil Maatouk after his enforced disappearance 139 days ago.

Mr. Khalil Maatouk, a human rights lawyer who has defended numerous prisoners of conscience before Syrian courts, was arrested with a friend by armed men on October 2, 2012 at a checkpoint in Sahnaya (in the countryside outside of Damascus). Since then, no further information could be obtained regarding his situation and whereabouts. Neither of the men has been seen since, although even the extensive period of legal custody of 60 days elapsed. Despite repeated requests by his relatives and lawyers, the Syrian authorities have failed to provide information on Mr. Khalil Maatouk’s fate and whereabouts and did not allow him to contact his family and lawyers.

While two witnesses claimed having seen Mr. Maatouk in a detention centre, the judicial authorities have recently denied holding him in custody. Thus being placed outside the protection of the law, there are serious concerns for his physical and mental integrity, accentuated by his need of medical treatment for a chronic disease. Indeed, Mr. Maatouk suffers from a serious medical condition, which requires specific medical care.

The Observatory calls upon the Syrian authorities to immediately disclose Mr. Maatouk’s whereabouts and release him as it believes that his arrest is related to his human rights activities.

In addition, the Observatory urges the Syrian authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment against human rights defenders, to immediately and unconditionally release all persons arbitrarily detained and to conform in all circumstances with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (1998) as well as international human rights instruments ratified by Syria.

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