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SNHR Condemns Syrian Regime Forces Forcibly Disappearing Jamal al-Matni for Nearly Three Years, Killing Him, then Registering Him as Dead in the Civil Registry Records

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SNHR Reiterates Its Calls for the US Administration to Take the Harshest Measures Possible Against the Syrian Regime for Killing a US Citizen Under Torture

Jamal Shahin al-Matni, born in 1951, was a naturalized US Citizen originally from Suwayda city in Syria. He was abducted by armed personnel affiliated with the Syrian regime’s Military Security Intelligence Directorate on Monday, July 5, 2021, in a raid on his home near al-Tha’la Roundabout in Suwayda city. He was then taken to an undisclosed location. Jamal has been forcibly disappeared ever since with the regime denying holding him and refusing to allow anyone, even a lawyer, to visit him.

According to intelligence received by the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), Jamal was abducted by the locally known militia group ‘Raji Falhout’s Militia Group’, which then handed him over to the regime’s Military Security Intelligence branch in Damascus city. During the abduction itself, militia members also beat his family members. Jamal’s family believes he was abducted over his American citizenship.

On May 26, 2024, Jamal al-Matni’s family obtained a death certificate form the civil registry office in Suwayda, which states that he died in Damascus city on December 23, 2021, with no other details provided regarding the cause of death, meaning that he died about six months after his arrest. SNHR can confirm that Jamal was in need of medical assistance and was taking medication on account of suffering from several illnesses at the time of his arrest, indicating a strong probability that he died due to torture and medical negligence in a regime detention center. SNHR can also confirm that Syrian regime forces did not disclose Jamal’s death to his family at the time it took place, nor have they returned his body to his family. 

International law strictly prohibits torture and all other forms of cruel, degrading, or inhumane punishment. The prohibition of torture is a customary rule that cannot be disputed or balanced against other rights or values, even in times of emergency. Violating this rule is a crime under international criminal law. Those who issue the orders for or assist in carrying out torture are also criminally liable for their actions.

Furthermore, by forcibly disappearing Jamal and then killing him in one of its detention centers, the Syrian regime has also violated the order of the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued on November 16, 2023, in regard to a request for provisional measures in the case brought by Canada and the Netherlands against the Syrian regime on the application of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. According to the ICJ’s court order, the Syrian Arab Republic, as part of its obligations under the Convention against Torture, is bound to “take all measures within its power to prevent acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and ensure that its officials, as well as any organizations or persons which may be subject to its control, direction or influence, do not commit any acts of torture or other acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” In addition, the document continues, the Syrian Arab Republic “shall take effective measures to prevent the destruction and ensure the preservation of any evidence related to allegations of acts within the scope of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.”

SNHR condemns all abduction and torture practices by Syrian regime and affiliated personnel, as by all other forces. We call for the immediate launch of an independent investigation into all incidents of arrest and torture that have taken place, particularly this latest barbaric incident that serves as further proof of the barbarism of the Syrian regime and further highlights the rightful demand of the Syrian people to change this monstrous regime for a democratic government that respects human rights and defends the Syrian people.

The US administration must take the harshest measures against the Syrian regime over its killing of a U.S. citizen under torture in this barbaric, unconscionable way. Jamal’s death is the second recently documented case in which a US citizen has died in regime custody, following that of Dr. Majd Kamalmaz, about which we issued a statement on May 21. The US Department of State must issue an urgent statement of condemnation that clearly expresses its intention to hold the Syrian regime accountable and demand that the regime compensates both victims’ families.

SNHR stands in solidarity with Jamal’s family, extending our heartfelt thoughts and condolences to them and to all bereaved families who have lost loved ones to the Syrian regime’s heinous machinery of torture.

SNHR Condemns Syrian Regime Forces Forcibly Disappearing Jamal al-Matni for Nearly Three Years, Killing Him, then Registering Him as Dead in the Civil Registry Records