The human rights condition in Syria, documented in this report, has witnessed a setback in fundamental issues during the last year, between June 2004 and May 2005. This has led to the vanishing of hopes for improvement on the human rights situation in Syria. During this time, the country succumbed to a state of extremism and severe violations, reaching its worst point since Bashar al-Assad’s assumption of presidency in Syria five years ago.
The Authorities did not attempt to eradicate, freeze or neutralise any of the despotic laws or their methods of controlling all aspects of life in Syria. Despite the Syrian Authorities’ regular leakage of information regarding reform and modernisation projects, the Syrian scene remains governed by the state of emergency and martial laws of 1963, by the law of political execution No. 49 of 1980, and by the forceful Arabisation of the Syrian Kurds. In this timeframe, both the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) and military courts witnessed immense activity, and both were presented with individuals and groups of detainees whom they condemned to stringent sentences while lacking adequate evidence against them, and without allowing them the opportunity for self-defence.
Among the worst instances of despotic oppression throughout this period was the violent offensive that defenders of human rights and the members of the civil society movement were exposed to – an offensive that reached its peak with the arrest of Lawyer Muhammad Ra’doon, ‘Ali al-Abdullah, and the board of Jamal al-Atasi’s Forum this May.
Following the incidents of 12 March 2004, the Kurdish situation witnessed an escalation in the campaign of arrests and in the presentation of detainees before exceptional courts and the SSSC. A number of Syrian Kurds also met their deaths in military units, under torture, and in equivocal occurrences. Subsequently came the unfulfilled pardon offered to 312 Kurdish prisoners, yet the Authorities quickly avoided the full execution of the pardon by presenting a group of them for trial before the SSSC.
Despite the release of two groups of detainees from the 1980s and 1990s, a frenzied campaign of attacks brought forth new, baseless arrests of tens of people returning to the country, the majority of whom had made settlements regarding their circumstances with Syrian Embassies.
Not even those deported to Syria for one reason or the other were spared, and they were treated with the epitome of harshness. The Syrian Authorities further launched a severe attack against the Salafi orientation and illegally arrested tens of citizens from different provinces.
The Syrian Human Rights Committee (SHRC) has confirmed information relaying instances of torture operations carried out in the prisons and interrogation centres, numerous cases of which led to deaths or permanent disability, and encompassed new methods of torture and inhumane treatment practised by the security forces against the detainees and those held in temporary custody.
The Authorities activated mechanisms of abduction and punishment by means of third parties who acted on their behalf, in efforts to terrorise the opponents and suppress their voices.
Opponents, along with their family members were expelled sometimes from their jobs in the public sector because they did not receive security authorization, an element considered a prerequisite for work.
The Syrian Authorities continue to prevent the exercising of basic freedoms; the freedom of media and press are restrained and severely curbed, and the freedom to demonstrate and picket is harshly suppressed. Political activity is monopolised by the Ba’ath Party along with, on a limited level, the parties of the Front who have given their allegiance to the Ba’ath. All political activity beyond that of these groups is prohibited; there exist either unauthorised groups who face extreme limitations or groups and parties that the Authorities continue to uproot and eradicate.
In this year, there has been no democratic method in the nomination and election process, for everything yields to the orders legislated by the hegemonic Ba’ath Party over the Authorities, the administration of organisations, and the official trade unions in Syria.