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Imprisoned academic, rights activists in urgent need of medical care; Arab League Secretary urged to press for detainees' release

(HRW/IFEX) - The following is a Human Rights Watch press release:

Arab League: Use Summit to Press Syria on Detained Activists

New York, March 28, 2008 - The Secretary General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, should raise the case of detained political and human rights activists in his meetings with Syrian President Bashar al-Asad during the Arab Summit in Damascus on March 29-30, Human Rights Watch said in a letter released today.

This will be the first Arab League summit after member states adopted the Arab Charter on Human Rights, which mandates that countries such as Syria "place human rights at the center of the key national concerns." The Secretary General of the Arab League has a particular obligation to ensure that this goal is achieved.

"Amr Moussa should ask Syria to demonstrate its commitment to the Arab Charter by releasing the detained activists," said Joe Stork, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "This is the Arab League's opportunity to show that it cares about the principles that it has enacted in the charter."

The letter to Moussa highlights the recent arrests of Syrian activists who attended a December 1, 2007 meeting of opposition groups in Damascus as well as the prison sentences issued last year against prominent writer Michel Kilo and human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni ( ). These arrests and jail terms violate international human rights law as reflected in the provisions of the Arab Charter, which guarantee freedom of opinion and expression and to which Syria is a party.

The letter also raises concerns about the health of some of these detainees, such as former member of parliament Riad Seif ( ), and the recently elected president of the National Council of the Damascus Declaration for Democratic Change, Fida' al-Hurani ( ), both of whom suffer from ill health and need proper medical treatment, which they are not currently receiving in prison.

In addition, the letter urges Moussa to raise the case of Dr. 'Aref Dalilah, the former Dean of the Faculty of Economics at the Syrian University, who is serving a 10-year sentence for a 2001 speech in which he criticized Syrian authorities. Dalilah suffers from severe heart problems and from blood clotting in his leg, and needs urgent specialist medical care, which he is not currently receiving in prison.

Syria has a long record of detaining and prosecuting political activists for peacefully expressing their opinions.

To view the letter from Human Rights Watch to Amr Moussa, please visit: (English) (Arabic)

To view the October 2007 Human Rights Watch report, "No Room to Breathe: State Repression of Human Rights Activism in Syria," please visit:

For more of Human Rights Watch's work on Syria, please visit:

New case ('Aref Dalilah) and updates the Seif and al-Hurani (al-Horani) cases:

For further information on the Kilo case, see:

For further information on the al-Bunni case, see:

For further information on the cases of others arrested for the Damascus Declaration, see:

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