No Word on Activist’s Whereabouts: Bassel Khartabil Transferred to Undisclosed Location on October 3

(Beirut,November 4, 2015) – Syria’sauthorities have yet to disclose the whereabouts of Bassel Khartabil, asoftware developer and defender of freedom of information, one month after his transferto an undisclosed location, 22 organizations said today. Syrian authorities shouldimmediately reveal his whereabouts and release him.

Military Intelligence detained Khartabil on March 15, 2012. On October 3, 2015,Khartabil managed to inform his family that security officers hadordered him to pack but did not reveal his destination. His family has receivedno further information. They suspect that he may have been transferred to themilitary-run Field Court inside the military police base in Qaboun.

“Each day without news feels like an eternity to his family,” a spokespersonfor the organizations said. “Syrian authorities should immediately reveal his whereaboutsand reunite him with them.”

The Syrian authorities should immediately reveal Khartabil’s whereabouts andrelease him immediately and unconditionally, the organizations said. He isfacing Military Field Court proceedings for his peaceful activities in supportof freedom of expression.

International law defines an enforced disappearance as an action by state authoritiesto deprive a person of their liberty and then refuse to provide informationregarding the person’s fate or whereabouts.

Military Field Courts in Syria are exceptional courts that havesecret closed-door proceedings and do not allow for the right to defense. Basedon accounts by people who have appeared before these courts, the proceedingswere perfunctory – lasting minutes – and did not meet minimum internationalstandards for a fair trial. During a Field Court proceeding on December 9,2012, a military judge interrogated Khartabil for a few minutes, but he hadheard nothing about his legal case since then.

A Syrian of Palestinian parents, Khartabil is a 34-year-old computerengineer who worked to build a career in software and web development. Beforehis arrest, he used his technical expertise to help advance freedom of speechand access to information via the Internet. Among other projects, he foundedCreative Commons Syria, a nonprofit organization that enables people to shareartistic and other work using free legal tools. Despite his imprisonment,Khartabil’s digital work is still advancing knowledge; last month, colleaguesproduced anew 3D model of the ancient Palmyra ruins using data collected by Khartabilbefore his detention. The UNESCO world heritage site is currently beingdestroyed by Islamic State, also known as ISIS, fighters, but the project wasable to reconstruct their earlier appearance based on Khartabil’s measurements.

Khartabil has received a number of awards, including the
2013 Index onCensorship Digital Freedom Award for usingtechnology to promote an open and free Internet. Foreign Policy magazine namedKhartabil one of its Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2012, “for insisting,against all odds, on a peaceful Syrian revolution.”

List of Signatories:

  1. Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT)
  2. Article 19
  3. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
  4. Euromed Rights (EMHRN)
  5. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) - in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
  6. Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR)
  7. Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (HIVOS)
  8. Index on Censorship
  9. Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)
  10. No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ)
  11. Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)
  12. Pax for Peace – Netherland
  13. Pen International
  14. Reporters without Borders (RSF)
  15. SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom.
  16. Social Media Exchange (SMEX)
  17. Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR)
  18. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR)
  19. The Day After
  20. Violations Documentation Center in Syria – VDC
  21. Vivarta
  22. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) - in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

For more information, please contact:
In Beirut,Nadim Houry (Arabic, French, English): +961-3-639-244 (mobile); or Twitter: @nadimhoury

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