Joint Statement: Syria: Free Human Rights Lawyer Khalil Ma’touq Held for 4 Years

Renewed calls for Khalil Ma’touq’s release on 4th anniversary of detention

Lawyer Khalil Ma’touq

(Geneva, New York, October 04, 2016) – Syria should immediately release the Human Rights Lawyer Khalil Ma’touq and his assistant, Mohamed Thatha, 31 human rights organizations said today, on the fourth anniversary of their enforced disappearance.
On October 2, 2012, the two men are believed to have been arrested at a government-operated checkpoint on their way from Ma’touq’s home in the Damascus suburb of Sahnaya to his office in Damascus. Despite repeated requests for information to the public prosecutor’s office in Damascus in 2012 and 2013 by family and colleagues, Syrian authorities have denied that they arrested the men.

Despite these denials, individuals released from the government’s custody in 2015 have informed Ma’touq’s family that while in detention they spotted him in various government-operated detention facilities, including State Security Branch 285 and Military Intelligence Branch 235 in Damascus. Since then, the family has not received any information on his whereabouts.

Detention centers operated by the Syrian government’s security forces are appalling, with rampant torture and inhumane conditions, in which many thousands of detainees have died since 2011. Former detainees at Branch 235, where Ma’touq was reported to have been seen in 2015, said that they were held in poor conditions in crowded cells with inadequate access to food, water and hygienic facilities. One detainee, who cannot be identified for security reasons, told that approximately five men from his cell died each day as a consequence of torture or disease.

The organizations expressed grave concern that being held in such conditions may place Ma’touq’s life at risk. Ma’touq suffers from advanced lung disease, for which he requires appropriate medication and medical care, but which it is feared he has not received according to some local reports.

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