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Resolution adopted unanimously by the Governing Council
at its 175th session (geneva, 1st October 2004)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Referring to the outline of the case of Mr. Riad Seef, a former member of the People’s Council of the Syrian Arab Republic, as contained in the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians (CL/175/11(a)-R.1), and to the resolution adopted at its 174th session (April 2004),

Taking account of the information provided by the Syrian delegation at the hearing held on the occasion of the 111th Assembly (September 2004),

Recalling that Mr. Seef was arrested on 6 September 2001 and charged with "defamation of the Constitution, unlawful activities and hostility towards the regime" on account of having organised discussion forums; on 4 April 2002 he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment; the judgment was upheld on appeal on 24 June 2002,

Recalling further that, at the hearing held in September 2002, the then President of the People’s Council stated that the Council’s Bureau would propose a special amnesty in favour of Mr. Riad Seef, so that he might be released in the course of October 2002; however, no such action was taken and the Committee was only informed on 10 January 2003 that on 16 December 2002 the term of the People’s Council had expired; at the hearing held on the occasion of the 108th Conference (April 2003), the new President of the Council stated that Parliament had no competence to grant an amnesty but he undertook to intercede with the Head of State in favour of an amnesty for Mr. Riad Seef; at the hearing held on the occasion of the 109th Assembly (October 2003), the Syrian delegation stated that, as a consequence of an amnesty, Mr. Riad Seef’s prison term had been reduced by one third; finally, at the hearing held during the 110th Assembly (April 2004), the Syrian delegation stated that in October 2003 Parliament had requested the President of the Republic to pardon Mr. Riad Seef; an ad hoc commission had been set up to study his case together with that of Mr. Al-Homsi, and both might be released shortly,

Considering that, after the meeting the Secretary General had with President Bashar al-Assad on the occasion of his visit to Damascus in March 2004, during which he raised the case of Mr. Riad Seef, he was told that a decision in principle had been taken to release him,

Considering nevertheless that, at the hearing held in Geneva (September 2004), the Syrian delegation affirmed that the President could only grant an amnesty if the person concerned had lodged a petition; this was not the case of Mr. Riad Seef as it had turned out after the Secretary General’s visit; Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs, which then met, confirmed that a pardon petition was necessary for the President to consider a case and Mr. Riad Seef was informed accordingly; however, he has refused to submit such a petition; considering that, according to the delegation, Parliament remained committed to action in favour of Mr. Riad Seef’s pardoning,

Noting that, according to the delegation, Mr. Riad Seef has not been granted a one-third reduction in his sentence because a convicted person had statutorily to serve three quarters of his sentence before being entitled to such reduction and, even then, only after having lodged an application for that purpose,

  1. Thanks the Syrian delegation for the information provided;

  2. Is perplexed at the different information provided by the Syrian authorities over time as to the prospect of Mr. Riad Seef’s being granted an amnesty or pardon and as to whether or not his sentence had been reduced; deplores this state of affairs;

  3. Fails to understand why, two years after the question of an amnesty was raised for the first time and one year after an ad hoc committee was set up to study the matter, the parliamentary authorities only now discover that a petition had to be submitted to the President for an amnesty to be granted, and that Mr. Riad Seef did not do so;

  4. Is dismayed that such ignorance of procedure has considerably delayed the consideration of a pardon for Mr. Riad Seef, with the result that he has now already served more than half of his sentence;

  5. Would appreciate receiving a copy of the legal provisions governing pardon and amnesty;

  6. Wishes to ascertain whether Mr. Riad Seef intends to submit a pardon petition, which, according to the authorities, does not entail any admission of guilt;

  7. Requests the Secretary General to inform the authorities accordingly;

  8. Requests the Committee to continue examining this case and report to it at its next session, to be held on the occasion of the 112th Assembly (April 2005).

* The Syrian delegation took the floor to comment on the resolution. Its observations may be found in the Summary Records of the 175th session of the Governing Council.


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