European Parliament resolution of 17 September 2009 on Syria: the case of Muhannad al-Hassani
The European Parliament,
– having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,
– having regard to the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders of 1998,
– having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, which was ratified by Syria in 1969,
– having regard to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment of 1984, which was ratified by Syria in 2004,
– having regard to Article 11(1) of the Treaty on European Union and Article 177 of the EC Treaty, which establish the promotion of human rights as an objective of the common foreign and security policy,
– having regard to the European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders of 2004,
– having regard to its previous resolutions on Syria, in particular those of 8 September 2005, 15 June 2006 and 24 May 2007,
– having regard to Rule 122(5) of its Rules of Procedure,
A. mindful of the importance of the political, economic and cultural ties that exist between the European Union and Syria; whereas Syria has an important role to play in finding lasting peace and stability in the Middle East; whereas positive events occurred in this regard which provide a basis for the re-launching of efforts aimed at concluding the Association Agreement,
B. whereas the Association Agreement between the European Community and its Member States, of the one part, and the Syrian Arab Republic, of the other part, is still to be signed and ratified; whereas Article 2 of this Agreement stipulates that respect for human rights and democratic principles guide the internal and international policy of the parties and constitute an essential element of the Agreement,
C. whereas Muhannad al-Hassani, a leading human rights lawyer and President of the Syrian Human Rights Organisation (Swasiah), was arrested by the Syrian authorities on 28 July 2009; whereas he was referred to the Justice Palace in Damascus, where he was interrogated and formally charged with ‘weakening national sentiments’ and ‘spreading false news’ in a closed session to which his lawyer was not allowed access,
D. whereas Muhannad al-Hassani was involved in the monitoring of detention conditions in Syria and notably of legal practices of the Supreme State Security Court, where trials fall short of international standards according to Human Rights Watch’s report of February 2009; whereas he had been interrogated on several occasions before the arrest, these interrogations focusing mainly on his actions in the field of human rights and the defence of political prisoners,
E. whereas Parliament and its President have already intervened several times to obtain the release of human rights defenders, parliamentarians and other politicians detained in Syrian prisons, including Michel Kilo and Mahmoud Issa; whereas Parliament welcomes all successful initiatives taken by Syrian and international actors aimed at releasing human rights defenders,
F. whereas the Emergency Law in force since 1963 is effectively limiting citizens in the exercise of their civil and political rights; whereas the Syrian authorities have previously prevented Mr Muhannad al-Hassani and other human rights lawyers from travelling abroad in order to take part in human rights events and training seminars; whereas this is a well-established pattern used by the Syrian authorities to harass and punish human rights defenders,
1. Expresses its deepest concern about Mr al-Hassani’s detention, which seems to aim at sanctioning his human rights activities, especially regarding the monitoring of the Supreme State Security Court and detention conditions in Syria;
2. Calls on the Syrian authorities to release Mr Muhannad al-Hassani immediately and to guarantee in all circumstances his physical and psychological integrity;
3. Expresses its deepest concern at the significant repression human rights defenders in Syria still have to face and the absence of progress in respect for human rights by Syrian authorities; is confident that Syria, which could play an important role of pacification in the region, will improve and support human rights and freedom of expression in the country;
4. Calls on the Syrian authorities to put an end to this policy of persecution and harassment of human rights defenders and their families and to release immediately all prisoners of conscience, human rights defenders, including Anwar al-Bunni and Kamal Labwani, and peace activists;
5. Calls on the Syrian authorities to ensure the transparent functioning of the judicial system, with special regard to the Supreme State Security Court;
6. Urges the Syrian authorities to comply strictly with the above-mentioned UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and other pertinent international documents and standards to ensure that detainees in Syrian prisons:
(a) are well treated and not subjected to torture or other ill-treatment,
(b) are given prompt, regular and unrestricted access to their families, lawyers and doctors;
7. States once again its conviction that the promotion of human rights is one of the pillars upholding EU-Syria relations; welcomes the continuing dialogue between the European Union and Syria and hopes that the continuous efforts will lead to improvements not only in the economic and social situation in Syria but also politically and in the field of human rights; calls on the Swedish Presidency, the Council and the Commission to adopt a roadmap, prior to the signing of the Association Agreement, which clearly articulates the specific human rights improvements it expects from the Syrian authorities;
8. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, and the Government and Parliament of the Syrian Arab Republic.
 OJ C 193 E, 17.8.2006, p. 349.
 OJ C 300 E, 9.12.2006, p. 519.
 OJ C 102 E, 24.4.2008, p. 485.
Syria: the case of Muhannad al-Hassani