Syria - Public Statement October 2012

The Law Society of Upper Canada Expresses Grave Concerns about the Arrest and Disappearance of Human Rights Lawyer Khalil Maatouk

The Law Society of Upper Canada is gravely concerned about the arrest and detention of human rights lawyer Khalil Maatouk in Syria.

Maatouk is the Executive Director of the Syrian Centre for Legal Research and Studies and the head of the Syria Center for the Defense of Detainees.  He has defended a number of prisoners of conscience.  Before he disappeared, he was working on the case of Mazen Darwish, the detained head of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression. 

Reliable reports indicate that on October 2, 2012, Maatouk was arrested at a checkpoint in Sahnaya, located in the countryside outside of Damascus, on his way to work.  According to a close relative, Maatouk was being driven to work by Mohamed Zaza because Maatouk had health problems that made it difficult for him drive.  Zaza is also missing.  The pair never arrived at their destination and the car has not been located.  Their whereabouts are unknown.  Prior to Maatouk's disappearance, he had been summoned for interrogation a number of times in the past months because of his work defending activists and due to his frequent travel, which was required to undergo medical treatment.  Maatouk has a serious medical condition that requires specific and constant medical care. 

The Law Society is deeply concerned about situations where lawyers who work for the protection and respect of human rights are themselves targeted for exercising their freedoms and rights under international law. Article 16 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states that 'governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely; and shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.'

Therefore, the Law Society of Upper Canada calls on the Syrian authorities to,

  1. immediately and unconditionally release Khalil Maatouk and guarantee in all circumstances his physical and psychological integrity;
  2. put an end to all acts of harassment against Khalil Maatouk and other human rights defenders in Syria;
  3. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Syria.


 The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for some 44,000 lawyers and 4,700 paralegals in the Province of Ontario, Canada and the Treasurer is the head of the Law Society.  The mandate of the Law Society is to govern the legal profession in the public interest by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.

The Law Society urges the legal community to intervene in support of members of the legal profession in Syria in their effort to advance the respect of human rights and to promote the rule of law.