In reaction to the conviction of Haitham Al-Maleh, the prominent 79-year-old Syrian human rights defender and lawyer, Federal Government Human Rights Commissioner Markus Löning issued the following statement today (7 July 2010):
“I was very shocked to learn of the conviction of Haitham Al-Maleh. Mr Al-Maleh is considered to be a pioneer of the Syrian human rights movement and has worked for the respect of human rights in his country for decades incurring considerable personal risk.
I call upon the Syrian Government to live up to its international obligations, in particular concerning the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and to release Mr Al-Maleh without delay also given his advanced years and his worrying state of health.”
Haitham Al-Maleh set up the first Syrian human rights organization (Human Rights Association in Syria) in 2001 and, in his capacity as a lawyer, has represented many Syrian human rights activists in court. He was imprisoned from 1980 to 1986 due to his work in the sphere of human rights in the Syrian Bar Association. He has not been allowed to leave the country since 2004.
Haitham Al-Maleh was arrested on 14 October 2009 and was handed down a three-year sentence in a military court in Damascus on 4 July 2010. Just like in similar cases involving other Syrian human rights defenders, he was accused of spreading false news that could “debilitate the morale of the nation” and “weaken national sentiment in a time of war”.