Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Syria: Kurds – Questions in the House of Lords

February 10, 2010 by sks

Lord HyltonSKSAsked by Lord Hylton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of any discrimination experienced by the Kurdish minority in Syria, and whether they possess normal citizenship and language rights. [HL1523]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made or will make to the government of Syria about the recent arrests of (a) Hassan Ibrahim Saleh, (b) Mohamed Mustapha, (c) Maroof Mullah Ahmed, and (d) Anwar Nasso, who have called for autonomy for the Kurdish region. [HL1524]

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of whether Kurdish politicians arrested in Syria since December 2002 have been brought before military or security courts, and whether they have had legal representation. [HL1525]

9 Feb 2010 : Column WA124

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the whereabouts and well-being of (a) Dilbireen Osei Hamdeen, a student from Derbasieh arrested on 16 August 2009 in Syria, and (b) Havraz Mohammed Amin Hassan, a student from Qamishli arrested on 14 December 2009; and whether they will make representations to the government of Syria on those cases. [HL1526]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead):

We are concerned about human rights in Syria. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has raised human rights when he has met Syrian Foreign Minister Muallem. My honourable friend the Minister of State at the Foreign Office, Mr Lewis, reiterated in a Westminster Hall debate on 24 June 2009 that Kurdish rights were still not legitimised within the Syrian constitution. We have highlighted our concerns about the general situation of Kurds in Syria in our 2008 annual human rights report.
My officials in Damascus have regular contact with Kurdish human rights defenders and monitor the situation closely, including the rights to citizenship and language rights. They have been following the cases of Hassan Ibrahim Saleh, Mohamed Mustapha, Maroof Mullah Ahmed, Anwar Nasso, Dilbireen Osei Hamdeen and Havraz Mohammed Amin Hassan. We have not raised their cases specifically-among the many hundreds of political prisoners in Syria-but with the EU are focusing our lobbying on small number of high-profile individuals (such as the prominent human rights lawyer Haitham al Maleh).
The criminal justice system in Syria is in need of reform and, where possible, we have sought to push this process forward. Unfortunately, it is common for detainees to be denied access to legal representation for some time while in custody. Of particular concern is the Supreme State Security Court, a special court that exists outside the ordinary criminal justice system to prosecute those perceived as challenging the Government. This court is exempt from the rules of criminal procedure that apply in Syria’s criminal courts. Defence lawyers usually see their clients for the first time on the day of the trial and the court denies them the opportunity to engage in oral defence or call on witnesses. Most trials consist of four short sessions, often less than 30 minutes each. Defendants have no right to appeal their verdict to a higher tribunal.

Asked by Lord Hylton:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of whether (a) Mr Fasih Yasamani from Khoy was hanged on 7 January, (b) Mr Ehsan Fatahiyou was executed on 11 November 2009, and (c) 17 other political prisoners of Kurdish origin are awaiting execution, in Syria; and whether they will make representations for clemency to the government of Syria. [HL1527]

Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead:

Reports unfortunately confirm that Ehsan Fattahian was executed on 11 November 2009, and that Fasih Yasamani was executed on 6 January 2010. Both executions happened

9 Feb 2010 : Column WA125

in Iran. We are also aware of a number of other Kurds in Iran with pending death sentences that are facing imminent execution.
On 20 November 2009, the EU presidency summoned the Iranian Ambassador in Stockholm to condemn a spate of executions, including Mr Fattahian’s, and plead for clemency in the case of 13 others, all of Kurdish origin, facing the same fate. The presidency noted there was credible information to suggest that the sentences appeared to be politically motivated. On 20 January 2010, my honourable friend Ivan Lewis raised the cases directly with the Iranian ambassador, expressing concern at reports that they faced imminent execution. Mr Lewis reiterated our long-held concerns about the trials not meeting international standards, and urged the Iranian Government to show clemency.
These executions undermine Iran’s claimed commitment to justice, human rights, and democratic values. Our long-standing opposition to capital punishment under all circumstances is clear; we raise these concerns with the Iranian authorities bilaterally and through the EU at every appropriate opportunity. We did so on over 70 separate occasions last year, and will continue to do so.

Previous reports from SKS:

Regarding Kurds in Iran: