Today is Lawyers Day in Syria, a day that is celebrated by lawyers from Syria. On this day, we would like to highlight the cases of disappeared lawyers Khalil Ma’touq and Razan Zaitouneh from Syria.
Khalil Ma’touq, director of the Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research, is a human rights lawyer who has been defending peaceful activists for more than 20 years. He and his colleague and assistant Mohammed Zaza have been missing since October 2, 2012, when they were en route from Ma’touq’s home in Sahanaya, a Damascus suburb, to his office in Damascus. It is believed that they were arrested at a government security checkpoint. The exact reasons for the arrest are unknown, but there is reason to believe their arrest is connected to their legitimate and peaceful work in human rights.
Despite repeated requests by their families and lawyers for information about their fate, their whereabouts are still unknown. The Syrian authorities have denied that they arrested the men. However, individuals released from the government’s custody in 2015 have informed Ma’touq’s family that while in detention they spotted him in various government-operated detention facilities.
As a prominent human rights lawyer, activist, and journalist, Razan Zaitouneh has dedicated her life to defending political prisoners, documenting crimes against humanity, and helping others free themselves from oppression. Since the beginning of the crisis in 2011, Razan Zaitouneh has played a key role in efforts to defend human rights for all and protect independent groups and activists in Syria. She is co-founder of the Local Coordination Committees in Syria and the Violations Documentation Center, which documents human rights violations in Syria.
Together with her husband and two colleagues, Razan Zaitouneh disappeared on 9 December 2013 in Douma, after a group of armed men stormed the office of the Violations Documentation Center. Since then, no one has heard from them.