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Your Excellency:  

We are writing to inquire about the location, well-being and reasons for the detention of Mr. Ziad Wasef Ramadan, a Syrian national detained by Syria's security services since July 21, 2005 apparently in relation to the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005. Mr. Ramadan's family last saw him on September 23, 2007, at the Palestine Branch of the Military Security in Damascus, and have not received any information about him since.

Mr. Ramadan worked in Lebanon in the same private company as Ahmad Abu Adass, the man who appeared in a videotape shortly after the killing of Prime Minister Hariri claiming responsibility for the assassination. Lebanese security services interrogated Mr. Ramadan following the airing of the video but released him shortly thereafter. Mr. Ramadan subsequently returned to Syria.

Syrian Military Security detained Mr. Ramadan on July 21, 2005 after he went to their offices in Damascus upon hearing that they were looking for him. According to information obtained by Human Rights Watch, Military Security detained Mr. Ramadan for almost a year without charge in the Palestine Branch before transferring him to the main prison in Homs in June or July 2006. His family was able to visit him regularly while he was detained in the Homs Prison.

In August 2007, Syrian security officials transferred Mr. Ramadan back to the Palestine Branch in Damascus. After repeated attempts to visit him, a member of his family was finally able to see him at the Palestine Branch on September 22 or 23, 2007. It was the last time his family ever saw him; officials in Military Intelligence have denied their request for a visit ever since.

According to Mr. Ramadan's family, the Syrian judiciary has not charged him with any crime. During his detention, the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) looking into the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri interviewed Mr. Ramadan twice, on December 1, 2005 and a second time during Mr. Serge Brammertz's tenure as head of the IIIC, which began in January 2006. The International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) has officially informed Human Rights Watch that it never requested his detention.

Mr. President, Mr. Ramadan has been in Syrian detention for almost four years, apparently without charge. We request you to clarify his whereabouts, the state of his health, and the reasons for his detention.  We also urge you to arrange for his immediate release from custody unless there is credible evidence that he may have committed a criminal offense. In that case, the government should immediately refer his case to the prosecutor or to the international tribunal if he committed a crime that falls within its jurisdiction, and accord him his due process rights, including immediate access to a lawyer and a medical examination.  Your government should ensure that Mr. Ramadan enjoys a hearing before a competent, independent judicial authority to determine the lawfulness of his continued detention. He should also be granted compensation for any period of unlawful detention.  In the meantime, we also urge you to instruct Military Intelligence to allow Mr. Ramadan's family to visit him.

We thank you in advance for your attention to this matter. As this is a matter of utmost urgency, we look forward to your prompt response.


Sarah Leah Whitson

Executive Director

Middle East & North Africa Division

Human Rights Watch

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