On Tuesday, Shadi Dalila was beaten and knifed, and his sister physically and verbally abused, by three men who broke into their home near the city of Lataqiya on the Meditteranean coast. 

Dalila was later taken to a local hospital's intensive care unit, where according to his family the police arrived and took him to prison and told him that he should drop any accusations against the perpetrators or he would be kept in prison.

The family say they were later stopped and questioned by police.

No rule of law

Rights activists say the case is indicative of the absence of a rule of law and corrupt practices by the Syrian authorities.

Dalila was taken to an intensive
care unit in hospital 

Syrian Human Rights Committee (SHRC) president Walid Safur told Aljazeera.net that such incidents were increasing.

"These attackers are known to the local villagers, they are criminals but they are supported by one of the heads of the local security apparatus (in order) to carry out what they don't want to carry out," he said.

"These incidents are increasing, especially on the Syrian coast," Safur said. 

Intimidation

Although the family say the reasons behind the attack were not political, SHRC believes the incident suggests Syrian security forces are trying to intimidate parts of the population.

"The goals of these actions are to silence the voices of opposition"

Syrian Human Rights Committee

"The goals of these actions are to silence the voices of opposition and terrorise the families and friends of those who possess opinions independent of those of the government," a SHRC spokesperson said.

"They are changing their tactics but they are still trying hard to control the situation in Syria because there is growing dissent," Safur said.

A former Damascus University economics professor, Arif Dalila was a founding member of the Committee for the Revival of Civil Society and was given a 10 year prison sentence in 2001 during a crackdown on reformists. His family say he suffers from bad health and is kept in solitary confinement.

Getting worse

Syrian lawyer and human rights activist Anwar al-Buni told Aljazeera.net the human rights situation in Syria had worsened despite President Bashar al-Assad's promises of reform.

"The year 2004 was worse in our estimation. The problem is there are some civil society movements but all of it is illegal until they change the laws … they must change the laws," he said. "Everything has been promised but nothing has happened. Until now we don't see anything."

Syrian officials were unavailable for comment.