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Resolution adopted unanimously by the Governing Council
at its 173rd session (Geneva, 3 October 2003)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Having before it the case of Mr. Riad Seef, a former member of the People's Council of the Syrian Arab Republic, which has been the subject of a study and report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians in accordance with the "Procedure for the examination and treatment, by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, of communications concerning violations of human rights of parliamentarians",

Taking note of the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians (CL/173/11(b)-R.1), which contains a detailed outline of the case; also taking note of the report on the on-site mission which the Committee carried out from 11 to 14 May 2002 (CL/173/11(b)-R.4),

Taking into consideration the observations provided by the Syrian delegation at the hearing held on the occasion of the 109th Assembly,

Considering the following information on file:

  • Mr. Riad Seef, an independent member of the People's Assembly, was arrested on 6 September 2001, reportedly without a warrant and before his parliamentary immunity had been lifted; he was subsequently charged with "defaming the Constitution, unlawful activities and hostility towards the regime"; on 4 April 2002, the Criminal Court of Damascus found him guilty of attempting to change the Constitution by unlawful means, setting up a clandestine organisation and organising unauthorised meetings; on 24 June 2002, the judgment was upheld on appeal and has thus become binding; according to trial observers from the European Union, the trial fell short of fair trial standards; Mr. Seef was in particular prevented from properly presenting his defence;

  • according to the information gathered by the Committee's on-site mission, Mr, Seef had started in the time of President Hafez Al-Assad organising forums at which lectures were given and participants could discuss the issues; they took place every two weeks, most recently on 5 September 2001, the day before he was arrested; Mr. Seef never had received an official paper prohibiting the forum; he had also begun to establish a Social Peace Movement as a first step to setting up a political party because the Vice-President of the Republic had told him that a law on political parties was about to be adopted; according to the authorities, Mr. Seef attempted to set up a political party and hold gatherings outside the confines of the law and without the necessary legal authorisation;

  • at the hearing held on the occasion of the 109th Assembly, the Vice-President of the People's Council stated that the criminal acts held against Mr. Seef were in fact motivated by matters relating to financial and tax issues; Ms. Al-Somadi, MP stated on the same occasion that she herself had a literary salon in which Mr. Seef had participated; during the discussions he expressed criticism with regard to specific economic matters and he had attempted to exert pressure on the Finance Minister regarding his own financial problems,

Considering that, on the basis of the information gathered by the on-site mission, the Committee has called on the authorities to release Mr. Riad Seef; in September 2002 the Speaker of the People's Council stated that Parliament was about to consider the question of a special amnesty for Mr. Riad Seef and others; however, this did not happen; on the occasion of a meeting with the Committee's President in Santiago, the new Speaker stated that Parliament had no power to adopt an amnesty, but he undertook to relay favourably to the President of the Republic the question of an amnesty for Mr. Riad Seef; at the hearing held in Geneva, the Vice-President of the People's Council stated that the President of the Republic had granted a general amnesty which resulted in a one-third reduction of Mr. Riad Seef's prison sentence,

Bearing in mind that, in its concluding observations of April 2001 on the second periodic report of the Syrian Arab Republic submitted in conformity with Syria's obligations as a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the United Nations Human Rights Committee expressed concern at the restrictions placed on the right to peaceful assembly and at the absence of specific legislation on political parties, and invited Syria to ensure that the proposed law on political parties was compatible with the Covenant,

  1. Thanks the Syrian authorities and in particular, Parliament for their cooperation, especially for having received a mission of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians;

  2. Shares the Committee's concern, as expressed in its mission report, that Mr. Riad Seef was prosecuted on account of acts that constitute a peaceful and legitimate exercise of his right to freedom of expression, of assembly and association as guaranteed under Articles 38, 39 and 48, respectively, of the Constitution of Syria and Articles 19, 21 and 22, respectively, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Syria is a party;

  3. Stresses that it is the constitutional role of members of Parliament to propose new legislation, inter alia at the constitutional level, and to oversee the action of the executive branch, a role entailing criticism of the government and other State actors;

  4. Calls on the Head of State to grant Mr. Riad Seef an amnesty and to order his immediate release; calls on the People's Assembly to relay its plea favourably to the Head of State;

  5. Requests the Secretary General to convey this resolution to the competent authorities and the sources;

  6. Requests the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians to continue examining this case and report to it at its next session to be held on the occasion of the 110th Assembly.

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