Syria Trials against Al-Hassani and Al-Maleh commence
12 March 2010

Syria Trials against Al-Hassani and Al-Maleh commence

On 10 March 2010 the trial against the Syrian human rights lawyer Muhanad al-Hassani, who was arrested on 28 July 2009 by national security forces, commenced. The start of the trial against the 79-year-old lawyer Haitham al-Maleh, who was arrested on 14 October 2009, is due this spring. Both lawyers face 15 years imprisonment.

Human rights organizations, Lawyers for Lawyers among them, have reasons to believe that both lawyers are prosecuted for their human rights activities. In particular, they are concerned about the role of the Syrian Bar Association. Although a Bar Association’s primary responsibility is to promote the interests of the legal profession, human rights organizations suspect that in Syria, the Bar Association may be controlled by the Syrian authorities and used as a means to thwart lawyers. This may also explain why, in November 2009, Muhanad al-Hassani was disbarred from practicing as a lawyer.

Particularly precarious is the Bar Association President’s decree of 2 February 2010, which states that lawyers who intend to join or form organizations shall apply for permission by the Bar Association in advance. This decree contradicts the freedom of association as provided for by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and enclosed in principle 23 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.

L4L has called upon the Syrian authorities to put an end to the prosecution of Haitham al-Maleh and Muhanad al-Hassani and to release them immediately and unconditionally. Moreover, L4L and the Amsterdam Bar Association have urged the Syrian Bar Association to protect its members and promote their interests. Here you can find the letters that have been sent by the L4L volunteers at the time.

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