On 02 October 2012, a group of armed men in civilian clothes have arrested human rights lawyer Khalil Matouk, executive director of the Syrian Centre for Legal Studies and Research, at a checkpoint positioned on the Syria/Jordan international Highway. Khalil Matouk was arrested as he was on his way from home in Sahnaya to his office in the capital Damascus. There is a strong believe that this group of armed men is part of the security forces in Syria.
Khalil Matouk is a prominent human rights lawyer, who is well-known for his valuable work at the Syrian Centre for Legal Studies and Research which includes defending many detained human rights defenders in Syria.
Following his arrest on 02 October 2012, Khalil Matouk was taken to an unknown destination where he remains held incommunicado. There are fears that he may be tortured or ill-treated.
Khalid Matouk is suffering from some chronic health problems. He is just back from a treatment trip outside the country and needs a constant medical care.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) strongly believes that Khalid Matouk has been arrested as a result of his peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights, in particular his work to defend the rights of detainees in Syria. The GCHR is very concerned that the arrest of Khalid Matouk is part of an ongoing trend of harassment against human rights defenders in Syria.
The GCHR expresses deep concern for Khalid Matouk’s physical and psychological integrity, especially given that he has a poor health condition and the fact that torture and ill-treatment of detainees in Syria is systematic.
The GCHR urges the Russian government as well as other governments that have influence in Syria, the UN, the EU, and leading human rights organizations to:
Call for the immediate release of human rights lawyer Khalil Matouk and all other human rights defenders who have been detained solely as a result of their legitimate human rights work;
Immediately ensure that Khalid Matouk has access to a doctor and to any medical treatment that he requires;
Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Khalid Matouk;
Increase the pressure on the Government of Syria to stop the ongoing daily human rights violations as well as escalating attacks on human rights defenders;
Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Syria are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fearof reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
The GCHR respectfully reminds the Syrian government 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 6 (b and c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms; (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”, and to Article 12 (1 and 2): “(1) Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. (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, threats, 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.”
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights is an independent centre and has been registered in Ireland. The Centre works to strengthen support for human rights defenders and independent journalists in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.