ICJ Commissioner Muhannad Al-Hasani sentenced to three years

COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE – COMUNICADO DE PRENSA

For immediate release Geneva, 23 June 2009

Syria: ICJ Commissioner Muhannad Al-Hasani sentenced to three years
imprisonment

The ICJ calls for his immediate and unconditional release
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) strongly condemns the decision of the Second
Criminal Court of Damascus to convict Mr. Muhannad Al-Hasani, ICJ Commissioner and
prominent Syrian lawyer and human rights defender, sentencing him to three years
imprisonment. He was arrested on 28 July by officers of the Syrian General Intelligence
Service and formally charged by an Investigating Judge on 12 October 2009 for “weakening
national sentiments and encouraging racist and sectarian feelings”, and “transferring false and
exaggerated news that weaken national sentiments” under Articles 285, 286 and 287 of the Penal
Code.

“The trial of Mr. Al-Hasani before the Second Criminal Court of Damascus was a summary trial
which failed to meet international standards of due process,” said Wilder Tayler, ICJ Secretary
General. “The President of the Court denied all defence witnesses from giving evidence and did not
require the prosecution to present any credible evidence to support the accusations against Mr. Al-
Hasani,” Tayler added.

Convicting Al-Hasani for the charges arising from his observation and reporting on open
trials of the State Security Court, and his activities as President of the Syrian Organisation for
Human Rights, amount to punishment for the exercise of his legitimate right to freedom of
expression and association, and his professional conduct as a lawyer.

“From the outset and during the hearings, Mr. Al-Hasani was presumed guilty and the burden of
proof was placed on him not on the prosecution, “said Tayler. “His right to present evidence, to
examine and cross-examine witnesses was also denied,” he added.

Since 28 July 2009 Mr. Al-Hasani has been detained in jail, during which time his lawyers
were not allowed to meet him without prior authorization from the Syrian Bar Association, a
non-independent organization under the control of the Syrian authorities. On a number of
occasions they were refused permission to meet with him.

“The decision of the Criminal Court is final and can only be challenged before the Cassation
Court on procedural grounds,” said Wilder Tayler. Limiting the appeal to procedural
grounds in this case violates Mr. Al-Hasani’s right to appeal, constituting a further violation
of the guarantees to a fair trial” Tayler added.

“The Syrian authorities must abide by their obligations under international law and
immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Al-Hasani,” Tayler concluded.

For more information, please contact Saīd Benarbia,
Middle East & North Africa Legal Adviser, + 41765883362