Human rights lawyers in Syria suffer surveillance and harassment by security officials, and are banned from holding meetings or travelling abroad, according to a report by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI).

The report said the international community had ‘great concerns’ over the treatment of several human rights lawyers, including octogenarian Haitham al-Maleh, who has been charged and convicted for speaking out against emergency laws, abuse of power and torture.

Syria’s ‘lack of judicial independence’ is another source of concern, ‘particularly as the government retains the power to appoint and dismiss judges’, the report said.

The document accuses the Syrian Bar Association (SBA) and its regional branches of imposing ‘obstacles’ on lawyers handling cases dealing with political dissent. Lawyers must seek permission from the SBA to visit clients in prison, and ‘consent is granted or withheld on political grounds’, it said.

Earlier this week it was reported that around 140 civilians had died in popular uprisings against the regime.

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