President. − The next item is the debate on six motions for resolutions on the case of Rafah Nached in Syria(1).
Adam Bielan, author. − (PL) Mr President, as more and more dictatorships in Arab countries collapse, Bashar al-Assad’s regime still subscribes to a policy of terror and repressions against its own society, a policy of compromising human rights. The case of Rafah Nached, who is internationally renowned as the person who brought psychoanalysis to Syria, is a clear illustration of the regime’s loss of legitimacy and the total lack of consideration on the part of authorities for the need to coexist with its own society. The freedom movement in Syria is gaining momentum and the incumbent leader is already showing signs of being perfectly aware that the end of his dictatorship is imminent.
The arbitrary imprisonment of Rafah Nached gives every indication of being a violation of all civilised norms in the field of human rights. The charge of efforts intended to destabilise the country brought against a person who organises support workshops for the victims of crimes committed by government forces is exceptionally absurd and even comes close to being paranoia. I call upon the Syrian authorities to release Rafah Nached from prison immediately and to discontinue their policy of persecuting those who provide humanitarian aid.
I also urge them to free political prisoners and journalists. Rafah Nached is a person actively involved in facilitating dialogue between the people of Syria. I hope that these activities will continue on the basis of her achievements.
Jiří Maštálka, author. – (CS) Mr President, I fully support the release of Rafah Nached from prison. I assume that she is innocent, although I do not know why – having seen so much – I should still trust the media campaigns.
However, I fundamentally reject the exploitation of the European Parliament in support of further unnecessary and cruel wars. If we agree that an armed conflict with more than a thousand dead per year constitutes a war, then a civil war is already raging in Syria. The state is fighting insurgents who are supported from abroad. Meanwhile, Brussels is again backing one of the warring parties. We are again meekly setting out along a path without having any idea who the insurgents are. Our honest support for Ms Rafah Nached may also amount to blind involvement in a campaign promoting hatred.
I believe that the role of the EU is to mediate peace. Let us at least vote today not only for the release of Rafah Nached, but also for peace.
Rui Tavares, author. – (PT) Mr President, first of all, I would like to welcome our visitors to this House, namely the Syrian civil society activists and friends of the cause of Rafah Nached, who are here to attend this debate. One of the most important things when we have these debates on human rights is knowing that they do indeed have an effect, whether the House is full or empty. We often despair because we are talking about causes that are outside the territory of the European Union, but we often meet people who have been released after such debates and/or felt less alone in the knowledge that their cause was championed in a forum outside their own countries. Many of us, coming from countries that were also once dictatorships, know that the most important thing is not to abandon those who are resisting; not to abandon the people of the opposition.
This case concerns a Syrian psychoanalyst who works with torture victims, who was leaving Syria in order to return to France, where she lives, and where her daughter was due to give birth, when she was arrested by the Syrian authorities on spurious charges. However, she writes from prison, saying:
(FR) ‘I am now discovering a hidden part of the society in which I live and for which I am responsible.’
(PT) I think that these are admirable words from Ms Nached, as is the way in which, even when in prison, she feels responsible for her society. In this same society, of Syria, there have been 4 000 deaths during the Arab Spring, 7 000 missing, 22 000 arrested, 6 000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, 10 000 Syrian refugees in Turkey and 7 000 Syrian refugees in Jordan.
I believe it is crucial for the EU to establish a commission of inquiry to find out what is happening to human rights activists in Syria. There has been much talk here of double standards. I believe we should exercise the same honesty when speaking about cases in Syria as in Bahrain and Libya. That is what we are trying to do here in Parliament. We should follow this course of action and demand the same of Baroness Ashton and the Commission, represented here by Ms Kroes.
Véronique De Keyser, author. − (FR) Mr President, this morning we had a very political resolution on Syria or, rather, on Syria and Egypt. This afternoon, we wanted a separate resolution on Rafah Nached because, in truth, this is anything but a political issue. It is a human rights issue. Rafah Nached is, as has been mentioned, an eminent psychoanalyst, who studied in Paris, who is in a very poor state of health – she is 66 years old, she is recovering from cancer, she has heart problems – who is in prison with 15 other detainees and who, what is more, has done nothing. She is an example of those, in some cases prominent, citizens – journalists, actors, tribal chiefs – whom the Syrian Government is arbitrarily attacking to show that no one is immune from this arbitrariness.
Today, for humanitarian reasons, we are calling not only on the Syrian Government, over which, it must be said, we have very little influence, but also on all who are in contact with it, our Chinese friends, whom we were talking about earlier, the Arab League, which met with President Bashar al-Assad, all those with whom the European Union has relations, to ensure that these, completely innocent, people are freed and also that all those who are actively helping them – humanitarian organisations, etc. – can at least do humanitarian work.
I ask as a matter of urgency that Rafah Nached be freed. As you know, voices are being raised everywhere calling for her release. Baroness Ashton has made a statement in this regard. Even Carla Sarkozy has written about this. Well, today we are also telling the Syrian Government that enough is enough.
Marietje Schaake, author. − Mr President, Rafah Nached gives a face to the people behind the numbers, reflecting the cost of the unspeakable violence and injustice in Syria.
We are all eyewitnesses to what is happening. On the Internet we can see the disproportionate, government-led violence against unarmed citizens. We can see the brave demonstrators defying fear and risking their lives to get stories out. Holding a cell phone can be a reason to be shot by a sniper. Women are being raped and children tortured and mutilated. Parents who receive the bodies of their murdered children hide them and bury them in secret because the government also attacks funerals. I am speechless and furious at the same time.
Bashar al-Assad’s government and his collaborators have no legitimacy whatsoever. The international community lacks a UN mandate because China and Russia object to a UN Security Council resolution, but the EU can, and must, do more. Firstly, we must call for an international criminal court investigation into the crimes committed and, secondly, we must demand targeted sanctions for those who violate human rights.
We are Syria’s most important trading partner and therefore we need to apply targeted sanctions to the economic elites and give them a clear choice: doing business with Europe means doing no business with Bashar al-Assad. We must also make sure that EU-made ICT products that censor and spy on Syrians do not end up in the hands of the repressors, because that is continuing to happen. We must continue, with Turkey, to end the unspeakable violence in Syria.
Cristian Dan Preda, author. − (RO) Mr President, I also call for the immediate release of Ms Rafah Nached, the first female psychoanalyst in Syria. She was arbitrarily arrested on 10 September and has since been held in detention despite the precarious state of her health. No clear charge has been made against her but, according to information in the press, she is accused of activities likely to destabilise the Syrian State and, according to her family, risks spending seven years in prison if at some point she is found guilty.
This is a surreal situation. The Syrian regime is holding eight psychoanalysts in custody for the simple reason that they organised meetings designed to help Syrians overcome fear. This is a clear sign that repression in Syria knows no limits, and consequently I am pleased that our emergency resolution was preceded by a text dealing with the political situation in this country, strongly condemning the repression that has killed over three thousand victims and calling on Assad to withdraw from power so that a transition will be possible.
Elena Băsescu, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (RO) Mr President, dictatorial regimes often take action against psychology and psychologists. Hitler abolished social sciences departments. In 1977, the communist regime in Romania closed down the psychology departments of the country’s large universities. Specialists in the field were indicted or forced into unskilled work.
Through the abusive arrest of the psychologist Ms Rafah Nached, the Syrian regime continues this sad tradition, again proving its undemocratic credentials. She is not a political activist, but her actions were considered subversive because they are concerned with the human soul, which naturally aspires to freedom. And for the Syrian regime, this aspiration represents a danger.
Ms Rafah Nached should be released immediately. Not because she is well known in the scientific community or because of her health problems, but because she has done nothing more than to exercise her profession.
Joanna Senyszyn, on behalf of the S&D Group. – (PL) Mr President, on 10 September Rafah Nached, who for 26 years had been running a psychoanalytical clinic in Damascus, was unlawfully arrested in Damascus. Up until recently she had been actively involved in providing help to those traumatised by activities of the regime ruling Syria. Nine thousand people have signed a petition demanding her release. The imprisonment of Rafah Nached amounts to a violation of fundamental human rights. It is the moral duty of our Parliament to seek her immediate release. We also demand that the Syrian authorities guarantee that doctors, volunteers and human rights activists will be able to conduct their work without fear, repression or sanctions being imposed on them by the authorities.
Under the Lisbon Treaty, promoting the activities of human right activists and ensuring their protection and security must be seen as a priority in relations between the European Union and third countries and taken into account when formulating the Union’s foreign policy. We should simultaneously develop and apply harsh sanctions against third countries that commit serious violations of human rights.
Kristiina Ojuland, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, the arrest of Rafah Nached in Damascus is an example of the haphazard repressive measures that the Syrian regime is taking against its own people. She is one of many who have been detained by the authorities for alleged activities that are said to be likely to destabilise the state. Arbitrary arrests and vague accusations indicate that President al-Assad’s regime has become mistrustful of virtually every Syrian citizen and can no longer tell the difference between compassion and confrontation.
The deepening paranoia of Syrian authorities may be considered – perhaps – a positive sign; all governments should be afraid of their people. However, people should not be afraid of their government and for that matter the Syrian regime has crossed all the lines. President al-Assad must end the violence and turn the power over to the people so that a democratic transition can commence.
Michał Tomasz Kamiński, on behalf of the ECR Group. – (PL) Mr President, the case of Rafah Nached has profoundly shocked everybody in this House. I am pleased that irrespective of which parliamentary party takes the floor, Members are essentially speaking with one voice. We all demand that this courageous woman be released. At the same time, the problem under discussion here today does not concern only this event, outrageous though it may be. The problem is that of democracy in Syria.
I believe that what we have been witnessing in the course of the Arab Spring makes it imperative that we, in this House, recognise that events of unprecedented importance for the history of the world are happening as we watch. We are thus learning that the opinions of some people that only some civilisations, some religions and some cultures are destined to experience democracy and freedom, whereas others are not mature enough to embrace democracy, are wrong. Our Arab brothers today are paying in blood because of their struggle for freedom. This is strong confirmation of the fact that freedom is for all and that democracy is for everybody.
Marie-Christine Vergiat, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (FR) Mr President, the situation of Rafah Nached is a symbol, especially for her European friends, of the repression that is gripping Syria. She was arrested at the airport when arriving from Paris to be present at her daughter’s confinement. Aged 66, she is seriously ill, and her state of health is getting worse. We must therefore do everything we can to obtain the release of this woman, who has always worked hard to encourage dialogue between all Syrians.
Ms Nached is a true symbol. She is a symbol of the terrible repression in Syria against all those peaceful demonstrators, who are entirely innocent. Thousands of people have been imprisoned, hundreds have been killed, mainly because they had the courage to photograph the repression. They paid with their lives for those photographs that tell us what is happening. Yet the voice of the European Union is not strong enough. The sanctions announced are inadequate and poorly implemented.
Only through pressure being exerted on the Syrian bourgeoisie can President al-Assad be toppled. What is the European Union waiting for before it will implement effective sanctions?
Jaroslav Paška, on behalf of the EFD Group. – (SK) Mr President, the situation in Syria remains highly complex. The Assad regime is only holding on to power through military force, and repeated reports of demonstrations being suppressed by army units bear witness to how nervous the regime is. We should not try to seek any logic in what the Syrian security forces are doing. The baffling arrest of 66-year-old Ms Nached, who is recovering from cancer and has a heart condition, clearly shows that the suspicious and paranoid security forces fear for their very existence. Under these circumstances I believe it would be difficult for us to call for humane behaviour or freedom of expression and international standards, particularly as the Syrian leadership regards the European Union as an enemy rather than a friend. Diplomacy by Moscow or Beijing has a better chance of success, which is why I believe that in this particular case greater creativity on the part of the European External Action Service could bring the desired outcomes, particularly through closer collaboration with some of our more non-traditional partners.
Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (S&D). – (PL) Mr President, the protests that have been taking place in Syria since last March will not cease until the authorities learn the lessons of the Arab Spring. We have been discussing the case of Rafah Nached, the first woman in Syria to practise psychoanalysis. Her academic and clinical research has focused on self-help techniques aimed at overcoming the fear of violence. The free courses organised by her with her father’s help, with the intention of helping Syrians to conquer their fears, were used as a pretext for her arrest at Damascus airport on 10 September this year. In spite of the huge number of appeals made for her release by both the international community and public figures as well as the World Association of Psychoanalysis, Rafah Nached remains in custody, while information on her situation is being withheld.
Taking into account the escalation of violence in Syria and the routine violations of human rights by the Syrian authorities, I believe it is time for international action. The Syrian Government must finally realise that violating the fundamental human rights of its citizens entails the risk of being called to account by the international community. Political changes in Syria are inevitable and the use of violence is only a way of procrastination. The recent end of Gaddafi’s rule proves that all dictators inevitably fall. However, the price of their departure is always very high.
Tomasz Piotr Poręba (ECR). – (PL) Mr President, recent events in Syria show that this country does not have a chance of achieving a non-violent revolution and that all expressions of disobedience against the regime will be suppressed by the authorities. Citizens fighting for their fundamental human rights and journalists are being illegally arrested without good reason or are being held in prison. One such prisoner, lawlessly detained on the basis of arbitrary arrest and being held without a fair trial, is Rafah Nached, who was arrested last month in Damascus. The question of her detention must be resolved immediately, especially in view of her continually deteriorating health.
Today we must raise our voice in appeal to the Syrian authorities to discontinue their practice of arbitrary arrests and detentions of political figures, human rights activists and journalists, and to release all prisoners of conscience. The authorities must also provide a public account of all cases of people killed, wounded or missing in their country.
Sari Essayah (PPE). – (FI) Mr President, Commissioner, the Syrian Government has responded to the Arab Spring uprising both cruelly and violently. One example is the 66-year-old Syrian psychoanalyst, Rafah Nached, who was arrested on 10 September and charged with attempting to treat traumatised patients using therapy.
The case of Nached shows that a real dictatorship, which is what Syria undoubtedly is, wants to control both the conscious and subconscious experiences of its subjects. That is how Nached, in practising her profession, became an enemy of the state. A doctor who helped countless patients during her career, and even founded a school of psychoanalysis in her city, is now in a women’s prison in a Damascus suburb, charged with activities undermining the stability of the nation.
Today we, the European Parliament, have issued a resolution and have highlighted the situation in Syria in general. It is good that we can still, in this way, separately bring an individual human case to the attention of the world.
Justas Vincas Paleckis (S&D). – (LT) Mr President, sadly the debates and words of condemnation in this and other important chambers have done nothing to stop the machine of terror which has been crushing people for six months and has claimed almost 3 000 lives. However, I hope that the European Parliament’s attention to an individual case and such a famous women will have an impact. The arrest of the doctor, psychoanalyst and scientist Rafah Nached on a manufactured pretext has provoked a huge outcry and protests, particularly because she is sick and is imprisoned in horrible conditions. Her release would be a total victory and would bring change in Syria even closer.
Gesine Meissner (ALDE). – (DE) Mr President, Commissioner, if Ms Rafah Nached is sentenced, then this really will be a sign of the despotism and brutality of the Syrian state, as well as its helplessness and paranoia, as a previous speaker has already said. After all, what does a state have to fear from a woman who is old and infirm and who is only doing her job by helping traumatised people? What is so dangerous about this? She has been accused of having a destabilising effect on the state. In this case, however, the government, the dictatorship, is completely at a loss and, in a completely misguided move, is attempting to make an example of her. As my colleague Mr Preda has already pointed out, we now find ourselves in the realms of the surreal.
We all welcomed the Arab Spring and the democratisation of the region. Of course we Europeans are pleased to see such developments and are trying to support this movement, including though a variety of contacts. However, we must also protest when individuals are imprisoned without grounds. This is truly a violation of human rights, and we must not accept it.
Marek Henryk Migalski (ECR). – (PL) Mr President, Commissioner, we are talking today, in essence, about one event, although I am glad that in this Chamber it provides a certain starting point for discussions about current events in Syria. The reason is that the case of Rafah Nached is a good example – a tragic, but good example – of what is happening in Syria and what should not be happening. It is good that an unequivocal signal is being sent from here to Damascus, for I have not heard a single speaker who would disagree, who would offer a different view in respect of the practices adopted in Syria as being totally unacceptable to the European Union. I am very pleased that as regards the matter in hand we have risen above our political differences. Parliament must state clearly that what is happening in Syria is unacceptable to us.
Miroslav Mikolášik (PPE). – (SK) Mr President, according to the UN Human Rights Council, the suppression of peaceful demonstrations by the Syrian authorities and their use of force has already claimed at least 3 000 victims. The police and the army are firing upon their own citizens. In a situation where the state violently suppresses human rights instead of defending them, these actions should be roundly condemned and calls made for an immediate end to such conduct. Rafah Nached is one of the most recent persons to be arbitrarily imprisoned and her case arouses particular concern as there is evidence that members of the security services torture and physically abuse detainees and prisoners. I therefore call upon the Syrian authorities to stop the use of force against their own citizens, to respect their fundamental human rights and freedoms and to immediately release all prisoners who have been illegally detained.
Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă (S&D). – (RO) Mr President, as we have seen, the EU considers the aspirations of the Syrian people for a peaceful transition to democracy to be legitimate and calls on the Syrian authorities to respect the rights of citizens to live in security, and for their legitimate desire for political and social reform to be respected. We believe that the arrest of individuals such as Ms Rafah Nached without well-founded reason makes any transition to democracy difficult and will only further isolate the Syrian authorities from the democratic world. Discussion and diplomacy are needed in order to reach a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria, and I believe that the EU should play a mediating role, provided that this is wanted by the Syrian authorities and they accept that the rule of law and fundamental freedoms should be respected and that economic and social reforms should be implemented.
I believe that such reforms are one of the best solutions for investing in the future of the country and helping to stabilise its democracy, and that respect for democracy requires the immediate release of Rafah Nached.
Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the Commission. − Mr President, many Members have touched on how our thoughts are with the Syrian people, who continue to suffer under the brutal repressive campaign of Bashar al-Assad’s regime. As far as we are aware, more than 3 000 people have been killed so far. Many thousands more remain in detention following arbitrary arrests and are subject to widespread human rights abuses.
Those detentions are unjust. Let me highlight the particular case of Ms Rafah Nached, the renowned Syrian psychoanalyst, who has now spent over six weeks in jail. She was arrested for no reason, despite her age and despite her health conditions, and there was no reason for arresting her.
The Vice-President/High Representative has reacted strongly and called for the immediate release of Ms Nached, along with all those arbitrarily arrested. It is clear that we need to keep up the pressure to ensure the release of all innocent people, including Ms Nached.
Our strong approach on the Assad regime is right. We have imposed sanctions against that regime and must keep up the pressure to help end the violence. I would also like to emphasise that we have been working through the United Nations with regard to the human rights situation in Syria, with the Special Session of the Human Rights Council in August adopting a strongly-worded resolution on Syria thanks to the EU’s commitment.
President. − The debate is closed.
The vote will take place shortly.
Written statements (Rule 149)
Sylvie Guillaume (S&D), in writing. – (FR) Rafah Nached, a psychoanalyst, was arrested on 10 September in the middle of the night at Damascus airport. She wanted to go to France, where she had undertaken part of her studies, for family reasons. She also has many colleagues and friends and maintains strong professional and friendly relationships in France. That is why her arrest arouses deep emotion and has led to a huge outcry in France and in Europe. Dr Nached has practised for many years in Syria, where her professionalism and her human attention are highly regarded. Dr Nached is also very attached to her country, which her reputation honours. In poor health, her detention puts her life in danger. Like thousands of Syrians, Dr Nached is the victim of a violent, indiscriminate regime. No charge has been brought against her by the Syrian authorities. She is aware that the authorities use repression for a cruelly simple reason: because they are afraid of their people. Commissioner, we expect Europe to demand the release of Dr Nached.
Jacek Olgierd Kurski (ECR), in writing. – (PL) The case of Rafah Nached is just one of many tragedies daily affecting thousands of Syrians. Repressions and brutal torture are experienced by the old and young, men and women alike. Having taken a new town or city, the army proceeds with cleansing by rounding up people involved in protests. Many of those arrested never come back, and the bodies which are discovered have had their internal organs removed in order to be sold. These methods were developed by Alois Brunner, a high-ranking officer in the SS, the man who, from 1939 onwards, was responsible for the mass deportations and extermination of Polish, Czech, and later French and Balkan Jews. After the war, wanted by international bodies, he escaped punishment for his crimes against humanity. Alois Brunner managed to find asylum in Syria where he was involved in the inception and development of the security forces. A Nazi criminal responsible for murdering hundreds of thousands of Europeans was the founding father of the services that are now bringing bloodshed to the streets of Hims, Hama, Damascus and Latakia. We must keep this fact in mind, especially today when the entire European Union must condemn with one voice the events taking place in Syria. When demonstrations were underway in Libya, the decision to impose a no-fly zone was taken quickly. While the Assad regime is torturing the Syrian people, the world remains silent and averts its gaze. Europe must work towards peace in Syria at any price and put pressure on the compromised president who, instead of being in Damascus, should be in the cells of the Hague tribunal.
Monica Luisa Macovei (PPE), in writing. – (RO) I condemn the violence which the Syrian Government has used against its own people. UN data show that more than 3 000 people have been killed by the authorities in Damascus in the last seven months. This figure includes 180 children. Amnesty International has recently reported cases in which patients are being tortured in hospitals. Arbitrary arrests, such as that of Ms Rafah Nached on 10 September, are a means of repressing the Syrian people. Critics of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and supporters of human rights are the main victims.
The Syrian authorities should immediately end abuses committed against defenders of human rights and allow humanitarian organisations access to the country so that the victims can be helped. I call on the Council and the Commission to impose sanctions on the regime in Damascus and to intervene for the immediate release of Ms Rafah Nached.
Tokia Saïfi (PPE), in writing. – (FR) This resolution on urgent topics is indispensable, and we must adopt it with the largest possible majority. The state of health of Dr Nached, who has been arbitrarily detained by the Syrian authorities since 10 September 2011, has seriously deteriorated, and she must be released and treated as quickly as possible. Despite numerous statements from President al-Assad in favour of reform, many journalists, members of the medical profession, human rights defenders and ordinary citizens remain arbitrarily detained in Syria, in violation of human rights and all the rules governing a fair and impartial trial. During the last session, we adopted a resolution calling, inter alia, for the departure of President al-Assad, the cessation of violence and a return to the rule of law. Our position has not changed and we will continue to monitor the situation in Syria with the utmost attention.