We are writing with regard to your upcoming visit to Morocco and Syria. There is in each country an especially pressing individual case requiring urgent action on humanitarian grounds. We therefore request that you raise these two cases in your talks with the respective governments, and ask that they take prompt and tangible steps to remedy the situation.

The first case involves Abraham Serfaty of Morocco. When you meet with King Muhammad VI and Prime Minister Yousoufi, please ask them to take immediate steps to allow Serfaty to return to his country. Serfaty, a member of a leftist opposition group and a proponent of independence for Western Sahara, had been arrested in 1974 and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1977. He was released from Kenitra prison in September 1991, but promptly stripped of his Moroccan nationality and expelled to France, in violation of Moroccan and international law. Serfaty, now 73, despite his experience of torture and lengthy inhumane detention, has expressed his desire to spend his last years in his homeland, but the government has not yet responded to his October 1994 application for a passport. Serfaty's wife, Christine Daure-Serfaty, attempted to enter Morocco in early May 1999, reportedly after receiving private assurances from high government officials that she would be allowed to enter the country and plead his case, but she was detained at the airport and forced to return to France. We request that you ask the Moroccan authorities to act immediately to allow Abraham Serfaty to return from forced exile and to live with his wife in Morocco without harassment from the authorities.

The second case is that of Nizar Nayouf, an imprisoned human rights activist in Syria. We ask you to raise Nayouf's situation as a most urgent matter with President Asad. Nayouf has been serving a ten-year prison sentence following an unfair State Security Court trial in 1992. He has permanent spinal and other injuries as a result of torture in prison, and although he can move about only by crawling prison authorities have refused to provide him with a wheelchair. According to information we received late last year, Nayouf has been diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, a lymphatic cancer that is treatable in its early stages. Syrian authorities have responded to Human Rights Watch that this diagnosis is incorrect but have refused to allow an independent medical examination. Nayouf has been denied proper medical treatment unless he renounces his political beliefs and signs an admission that he made "false accusations concerning the human rights situation in Syria." Nayouf should never have been imprisoned in the first place, and now may face a life-threatening disease behind the bars of a solitary cell in a military prison. We urge you in the strongest terms to ask President Asad to release Nayouf immediately and unconditionally on humanitarian grounds, inasmuch as he has served two-thirds of his sentence, and to allow him to leave Syria if necessary for medical treatment.

We believe that the Department of State is well-informed about both of these situations. By raising these two cases with the top leaders in Morocco and Syria, you can have a profound and beneficial impact on the well-being, and in one case the very survival, of individuals who are being severely and inhumanely punished solely for their political views. Please do not forego this opportunity.


Hanny Megally
Executive Director
Middle East and North Africa Division

cc: Harold Koh, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Rights, and Labor

Martin Indyk, Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East and North Africa