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IDHAE World  Globebservatory for Defence Rights and attacks against lawyers

 

General Security withheld the British passport for the lawyer, Nizar Saghieh, a dual British and Lebanese citizen, on March 2, 2010, without providing any justification. The passport was returned on March 4, following the direct intervention of Interior Minister Ziad Baroud. Nizar Saghieh had recently represented four Iraqi refugees in their lawsuits against the Lebanese state for illegal detention by General Security, resulting in court orders for their immediate release.
  
The passport was withheld after a travel agency sent General Security 13 passports of government representatives and civil society activists, including Saghieh’s, for approval to send them to Amman, Jordan, to seek visas for travel to Bosnia-Herzegovina. The passports had to be sent to Jordan because there is no Bosnian embassy in Lebanon. The trip’s purpose was to study Bosnia’s experience in dealing with enforced disappearances and mass graves.

When the travel agency went to retrieve the passports, General Security returned the others but said, without providing any reason, that they intended to summon Saghieh to come in person to retrieve his. The trip for the entire group has been postponed as a result. General Security is the security institution in charge of immigration and passport formalities in Lebanon.

While the organizations said they were relieved that the passport was returned following the minister’s intervention, they expressed concern that General Security had withheld the passport to intimidate Saghieh.

The organizations also called on Lebanon to respect human rights lawyers and to abide by the principles enunciated in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, particularly Article 12. That article calls on governments to “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, 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 their rights as a human rights defender.

The organizations also urged the bar associations of Beirut and Northern Lebanon to ensure that their members are not harassed for their work as lawyers.

Background:

Saghieh has worked on a number of human rights issues, including arbitrary detention of refugees, access to information for the families of persons forcibly disappeared during Lebanon’s civil war, and censorship. Most recently, he successfully represented the four Iraqi refugees in separate lawsuits against the state, seeking their immediate release from detention at the General Security jail after they had finished serving sentences [rf open letter to Lebanese government]. General Security has released only one of the four despite the court decisions calling for their immediate release.

Saghieh’s activism has caused him trouble with General Security in the past. In 2003, General Security issued an order prohibiting him from entering General Security buildings or conducting any “formality” in it. The order remains in place even though there is no basis under Lebanese law for such an order. The order was issued after Saghieh had acted as legal counsel for Frontiers Center, a non-governmental organization acting mainly on behalf of refugees, in the context of the harassment of the center’s director, Samira Trad.

The Lebanese government should investigate the seizure of a human rights lawyer’s passport by General Security, a group of 16 Lebanese and international human rights organizations said today.

 

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PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Arabic, English, French or your own language:

Urging the authorities to :

To investigate the seizure of a human rights lawyer’s passport by General Security, a group of 16 Lebanese and international human rights organizations said today.

·         Put an end to any acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against  Haytham El-Maleh and more generally against all human rights defenders in Syria;

·         Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, and Article 12.2, which provides that “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”;

·         Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the Syrian Arab Republic.

 

PLEASE SEND APPEALS TO: (Salutation: Your Excellency)

President

His Excellency Bashar al-Assad,

Presidential Palace,

al Rashid Street,

Damascus,

Syria Arab Republic,

Fax: +963 11 332 3410

 

Minister of Defence

His Excellency General,

Hassan Ali Turkmani,

Ministry of Defence,

O mayyad Square,

Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic,

Fax: +963 11 223 7842

 

Minister of Justice

His Excellency Mr. Ahmad Hamod Younes,

Mazeh “Otstrad”,

Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic,

Fax: +963 11 666 2460

 

Minister of Foreign Affairs,

His Excellency Wallid Mu’allim,

Ministry of Foreign Affairs,

al-Rashid Street, Damascus,

Syrian Arab Republic,

Fax: +963 11 332 7620

 

Minister of Interior

His Excellency Major Sa'id Mohamed Samour

Ministry of Interior

‘Abd al-Rahman Shahbandar Street

Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic

Fax: +963 11 222 3428

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