First: Rulings of the Supreme State Security Court
The Syrian regime stepped up its crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood Movement. The Supreme State Security Court continued sentencing to death all the detainees that had been subjected to trial on the charge of being members thereof, according to Law No. 49 of 1980 the first article of which states that “each and everyone belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood Movement is considered a criminal who will be sentenced to death”. The article is applicable to the members of the movement, their proponents, their children and whoever contacts them. But such rulings, after being fixed, confirmed and emphasised are not enforced nowadays, as they used to be in the 1980s and 1990s, but rather reduced to 12 years in prison with hard labour, deprivation of civil rights, interdiction and fines. It is noteworthy that most of those against whom the unjust judgments were passed were the children or relatives of members in the Muslim Brotherhood Movement living in coercive exile since the 1980s. Those coercively exiled individuals returned home after properly referring to their respective Syrian embassies or after promises of pardon given to relatives of theirs referring to the proper security authorities in Syria on their behalf. But once they arrived in the country they were arrested, subjected to torture and ill-treatment and were sentenced to death in accordance with the above-mentioned law. Notably, the court did not declare such rulings clearly. Conversely, the former Minister of Information ‘Adnan ’Imran alleged in several interviews that Law No. 49 had been frozen whereas other officials claimed in their press statements that it was cancelled. However, reactivating the Law in this manner implies the renewal of the nihilistic crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood Movement.
Consequently, the Exceptional Supreme State Security Court, in application of the first article of Law No. 49 of 1980, sentenced to death dozens of persons, and then reduced the sentences to 12 years in prison with hard labour, deprivation of civil rights, interdiction and fines. Among those individuals were the youth Muhammad Usama Sayes (25 June 2006) from Aleppo after being deported by the British Authorities who denied him asylum because his father, not he himself, was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, and ‘Abdul-Rahman al-Mousa (27 June 2006) from Hama, who had been arbitrarily deported from the USA to Syria on 19 January 2005 for violating immigration laws. He was arrested as soon as he landed at Damascus International Airport and was subjected to torture and ill treatment. The others were Ahmad Mustafa Ibrahim from Aleppo (8 October 2006) and three youths from the city of Jisr al-Shughur; Yusuf ‘Umar Husain, Muhammad Thabit Hilli and Fu’ad Ali al-Shughari. The three of them had left the country with their families in the early 1980s, when they were little children and returned in 2005 from their compulsory exile in Iraq in the wake of the horrific deterioration of security and the deliberate targeting of Syrian residents. On 11 February 2007, a sentence was passed against the detainee Muhammad Haidar Zammar of German nationality. Zammar had been abducted in Morocco in 2002 with the help of the American and German intelligence on charges related to terrorism. He disappeared in the Palestinian Branch for four years under military interrogation before being transferred in late 2006 to Sednaya prison and presented for trial before the Supreme State Security Court when it had been proven that the accusations of terrorism against him were false. Meanwhile, a sentence was passed against Mahmud Muhammad Summaq (62) from Ariha in the province of Idlib. He was one of the exiles of the 1980s and was a resident in Yemen and had worked there since 1981. He returned to Syria pursuant to information he had received that his case had been settled. But the Syrian Intelligence apparatus arrested him as soon as he arrived in Syria on 12 April 2005 and subjected him to torture. Sentences were passed against Ali Fu’ad al-Shaghri on 20 May 2007, Abdul-Jabbar ‘Llawi (35) from Suraqib in Idlib Province, Yasin Nafi’ al-Sayil (30) from the Deir Alzoor Province on 25 March 2007, 72 year old Yusuf Najiyyah, a returnee from Saudi Arabia and Muwafaq Qarmah (44) on 28 August 2007, Ali Ahmad al-‘Ajeel on 30 September 2007, and Ali Ibrahim Ahmad al-Khalaf (60), who had been detained since 6 November 2005, on 4 November 2007, and others.
Due to attempt to affiliate to the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, the detainees were sentenced to death and then the sentence was reduced to 12, 8, or 6 years in prison with hard labour, deprivation of civil rights, interdiction and fines.
Similarly, on 27 February 2007 the Exceptional Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) sentenced to death Sami Ali Dirbak (43) from Banyas for committing the crime of affiliation to the Muslim Brotherhood Movement. The sentence was then reduced to 8 years in prison with hard labour. Sentences of 6 years in prison were the lot of Khalid Ahmad Ahmad (46) from Latakia, Tariq Abdullah al-Hallaq (30), Ali Muhammad Isma’il (35), Abdul Nasir Taha Dirbak (35), and Jamal Jameel Jallul (49), all from Banyas. On 4 November 2007 the court passed a similar judgment against Usama Ahmad ‘Abdeen, who holds the German nationality. On 1 April 2007 Ali Mahmud Shahood ’Umar from Salqeen in Idlib was sentenced to 6 years in prison.
Second: The Disappeared
Nothing new has emerged this year concerning the issue of the disappeared in Syria, numbering about 17000 Syrian citizens who were detained in the late 1970s and early 1980s and whose traces have vanished. Syrian authorities try to ignore the existence of this problem and severely punish whoever discusses this issue or enquires after any of his or her relatives that have disappeared in the prisons of the Syrian regime. This, in spite of the urgent legal situations that require settlement after the elapse of three decades since their detention and subsequent disappearance. The SHRC received numerous enquiries from the relatives of the disappeared, and when the Committee clarified the circumstances and situations that led to their disappearance in the prisons of Tadmur, Al-Mazzah, Kafar Susah and al-Baluna and the interrogation centres of the various intelligence and security apparatuses, they would not welcome the news that their relatives had died or been killed in cold blood, or that they were executed following on-the-spot trials, or had died as a result of diseases and epidemics that permeated the Syrian prisons. Under the new issues the universal human rights organisations have ignored this issue, while some local organisations regard it as a bygone matter unrelated to the present, and refer to it with such statements as unequal to their human responsibilities.
Third: The Exiled
Since the early 1980s, thousands of Syrian citizens have been living outside Syria coercively because they, their children and grandchildren are subjected to Law No. 49 of 1980, which sentences the members of the Muslim Brotherhood Movement and their supporters to death. Syrian authorities enforce this unjust law on whoever contacts such persons. Coercive exiles scattered in the neighbouring countries and the Arab region and with time and due to the complications of their respective circumstances, some of them were forced to depart for Europe and the Americas.
Last year some citizens tried to settle their cases with the Syrian authorities in accordance with the conditions of the security forces, but when they arrived in Syria, they were detained and were sentenced according to Law No. 49 of 1980 (See the section on the Ordeal of the Returnees and Visitors). In the wake of the war that broke out in Iraq in March 2003, many citizens were forced to return to Syria to be detained and tried according to the above-mentioned law. As for those who are still abroad, the Syrian regime is trying to press the governments to dismiss them. The security authorities, taking advantage of their cooperation with the Americans in respect of the so-called “war on terror”, have provided them with lists of hundreds of Syrian dissidents as terrorists. Some ambassadors of the Syrian regime have, during the current year, demanded that certain exiles and residents in some Arab and European countries be handed over, and they tried to exert pressure in this direction. In several meetings between the Syrian government and its counterparts from neighbouring counties this issue was discussed. Now and then, the exiles become the victims of the closeness in official relations and bargaining chips between the Syrian regime and some of these countries. Some of the exiles whose petition for refuge to a secure location was denied were then deported to Syria to face detention and cruel trials before the Exceptional State Security Court.
Under such continuous pressures, the ordeal of the exiles who are living abroad worsens, as many of them lose their ‘legal identity’ as Syrian citizens as well as their belongings to a specified country and their unstable residence in various countries depending on their being favoured or rejected according to the fluctuations in political circumstances. The families of the exiled unwillingly scatter among various countries, so that they cannot meet each other or live together. Many of them suffer from unemployment, inability to educate their children, and many social, economic and psychological problems. We have referred to some examples in some of the sections of the report, mentioning names and numbers. As for Syrian Ministry of Expatriates Affairs, and rather than giving priority to the solution and settlement of this issue, the Minister is apparently exclusively concerned with establishing relationships with the rich, the business communities and those supporting the Regime, while ignoring those and similar people who become targets for their aggression as was the case on several occasions in the last year.
During the last summer vacation of 2007, the Syrian Human Rights Committee recorded some images of the sufferings experienced by the families of the exiles, some of whom can visit Syria. They are exposed to lengthy stopping on the land borders and at airports and ordered to refer to the intelligence and security centres in their respective provinces and the capital. The wife and children are required to give precise information about the husband or father, his biography, life circumstances and social environment. They are usually faced with threats, insults, prevention from travel and return, and sometimes with confinement, detention, ill-treatment and torture (See the report: The Suffering of the Families of the Coercive Exiles during the Summer Vacation of 2007).