The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic on 30 June 2023. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, giving the Government time to reply. Regrettably, the Government did not reply within this time frame. If a reply is received it will be posted on the UN Special Procedures communications database.
This is a shorter version of the original communication.
Topic: physical attack against, and targeted intimidation of Mr. Jdea Abdullah Nawfal apparently in connection to his human rights work.
Mr. Jdea Abdullah Nawfal, 72 years old, is the Director of the Centre for Democracy and Civil Rights in Syria, established in 2011 and which aims to promote the culture of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic.
From as far back as the start of his activities in the 1990s, Mr. Nawfal has been subjected to arrests, harassment and targeted intimidation in connection to his peaceful work as a human rights defender.
On 17 January 1992, he was sentenced by the State Security Court to five years in prison with hard labour, which he served at Sednaya military prison. He was released on 27 January 1997.
On 31 October 2014, he was arrested by Syrian security forces at the Lebanese Syrian border crossing and held for around eight hours at the Syrian immigration post on his way back from a United Nations human rights event in Beirut. He was then moved to the Syrian State Security intelligence agency in the area of Mazzah, near Damascus, and remained in incommunicado detention with no access to a lawyer or medical care, despite a heart condition and diabetes that required attention. He was released three months later, at which point he was suffering from poor health.
On 1 April 2016, Mr. Nawfal was arrested by Syrian security forces at the Lebanon border immigration office while on his way to a human rights workshop in Beirut. He was detained at a military intelligence branch in Damascus and denied access to a lawyer or to his family. He was released on 23 April 2016.
Mr. Nawfal was also subjected to other acts of intimidation and targeting. Since 2016, he has not been allowed to travel or to freely access his properties, and since 2021, he has been subjected to monitoring by unknown men, and by security officers, who have been seeking his whereabouts, thus obliging him to move from one town to another.
In more recent events, on 3 May 2023 at 11:00, Mr. Nawfal was struck forcefully by an unknown male assailant while he was outside in the city of Suwayda. He fell to the ground and, before losing consciousness, he heard the assailant threatening him, saying “if I ever find you here again, you will see [what will happen to you].” He was unable to see what type of weapon the assailant may have used to attack him. He was then taken to a public hospital to treat his injuries, most notably a deep wound to the head he had sustained when he hit the ground. He was moved to a private hospital where he underwent surgery for fractures to his thigh, and treatment to his head. On 5 May 2023, Mr. Nawfal was discharged from hospital.
A complaint was lodged with the Suwayda police station. There has been no indication of any police investigation having taken place at the time of writing.
On 22 May 2023, Mr. Nawfal was admitted to hospital again as he urgently needed a blood transfusion. He was released four days later and is currently recuperating at his home. It is believed he will need three months to be strong enough to walk normally again.
In the communication, we express our concern that the attack against Mr. Nawfal was carried out with impunity and that the police showed no response to the complaint. We are also concerned at the continued pattern of harassment and targeted intimidation, including by State officials in retaliation for his human rights work.