Finally free, Mazen Darwish must now be acquitted

SYRIA:Finally free, Mazen Darwish must now be acquitted

Paris-Geneva,August 10, 2015 – The release today of prominent human rights defenderMazen Darwish, after three years and a half of detention, is a great relief,said the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Despite hisrelease, Mazen Darwish, like his colleagues Hussein Ghrer and Hani al-Zaitani,has been charged with “publicising terrorist acts” and is being tried beforethe Syrian Anti-Terrorism Court. Our organisation calls for all charges againstthem to be dropped. The verdict hearing is expected on August 31, 2015.

Mazen,Hussein and Hani are not terrorists, they are human rights defenders,”FIDH President Karim Lahidji said today. “All charges against them mustbe dropped immediately”, he added.

Since theywere arrested on February 16, 2012, the three human rights defenders have beenheld in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance and subjected to acts oftorture on several occasions. Most recently, their whereabouts have beenunknown for a period of almost two months between May 3 and June 30, 2015[1].

We urge the Syrian Anti-TerrorismCourt to acquit them during the verdict hearing on August 31, as their judicialharassment has only been aimed at sanctioning their human rights activities”,OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock concluded.

Mazen Darwish,Director of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), anFIDH member-organisation, had been listed in an amnesty decree granted on theoccasion of Eid al-Fitr, together with his colleagues Hussein Ghrer and Hanial-Zaitani. These latter were released respectively on July 17 and 18, 2015[2].

On May 15, 2013, in its Resolution67/262, the UN GeneralAssembly called for the release of the three defenders. In January 2014, the UN WorkingGroup on Arbitrary Detention alsofound that the three defenders had been arbitrarily deprived of their libertydue to their human rights activities and called for their immediate release.Finally, UN SecurityCouncil Resolution 2139, adoptedon February 22, 2014, also demanded the release of all arbitrarily detainedpeople in Syria.

The Observatory has been calling on Syrian authorities to release Mazen,Hussein and Hani since their arrest on February 16, 2012. It its is only a yearlater that they were charged before an investigating judge of theAnti-Terrorism Court, referring explicitly to Mazen Darwish's work to promoteand protect human rights to indict them.

TheObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS) was created in1997 by FIDHand the WorldOrganisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of thisprogramme is to intervene to prevent or remedy to situations of repressionagainst human rights defenders.

For moreinformation, please contact :

FIDH :Lucie Kroening (French / English / German / Arabic) - Tel: +33 6 48 05 91 57(Paris) ; Arthur Manet (French / English / Spanish) - Tel : +33 6 7228 42 94 (Paris)

OMCT :Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui(Spanish / English / French) - Tel: +41 22 809 49 24 (Geneva/Brussels)

[1] See theObservatory’s Press Release of May 19, 2015

[2] See theObservatory’s Press Release of July 24, 2015.

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