On March 5, 2015, the President of the Damascus Anti-terrorism Court setMarch 25, 2015 as the new date for the verdict hearing in the criminal caseagainst Messrs. Mazen Darwish, Hani Al-Zaitani and HussainGhrer, respectively President and members of the Syrian Centre for Media andFreedom of Expression (SCM). The same subpoena also ordered the transfer ofMr. Mazen Darwish from Hama central prison to Damascus Prison via Homs Centralprison, as well as the transfer of Mr Hani Zitani from Swedaa Central prison toDamascus prison.
The Observatory draws attention to the fact that the trial has beenmarred by excessive delays. The verdict hearing has already beenscheduled six times and since the trial was opened before the Anti-terrorismcourt in February 2013, it has been suspended 18 times.
“At minimum, the Syrian authorities shall guarantee Mazen Darwish, Hani Al-Zaitaniand Hussain Ghrer's right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial court,including the right to be tried within a reasonable delay”, said FIDH President, Karim Lahidji.
The Observatory further underlines that the UN General Assembly, inResolution 67/262 adopted on May 15, 2013 called for the release of the threedefenders. In January 2014, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD)also found that the three defenders had been arbitrarily deprived of theirliberty due to their human rights activities and called for their immediaterelease. UN Security Council Resolution 2139, adopted on February 22, 2014,also demanded the release of all arbitrarily detained people in Syria.
“Syrian authorities should heed UN calls andimmediately and unconditionally release Messrs Mazen Darwish, Hani Zitani andHussein Greer as their detention is arbitrary and only aims at preventing themfrom carrying out their legitimate and peaceful human rights activities inSyria”, concluded OMCT SecretaryGeneral Gerald Staberock.
Mazen Darwish, Hani Al-Zaitani and Hussain Ghrer are detained sinceFebruary 2012, for promoting freedom of expression and monitoring gross humanrights violations committed in the country through their work in the SyrianCentre for Media and Freedom. During nine months, they were held in conditionsamounting to enforced disappearance and subjected to acts of torture. There hasbeen no investigation into these abuses.
On February 26, 2015 Mazen Darwish was named “World Press Freedom Hero”by the International Press Institute in recognition of “his efforts to ensurethat the truth of what was happening in his country after conflict erupted in2011 was known beyond its borders, and in his willingness to continue speakingout in support of free media from prison, despite the obvious danger to him indoing so”.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OBS) wascreated in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture(OMCT). The objective ofthis programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy to situations of repressionagainst human rights defenders.
For more information, please contact :
FIDH: Arthur Manet/Lucie Kröning: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
OMCT: Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui: + 41 (0) 22 809 49 24