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Syria
14.03.12
Urgent Interventions

The Syrian authorities must reveal the fate of Mazen Darwish and SCM staff

The Syrian authorities must reveal thefate of Mazen Darwish and SCM staff


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 14, 2012


Theundersigning organizations express their grave concerns for the safety of Mr. MazenDarwish, Head of the Damascus based Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom ofExpression (SCM) and seven of his colleagues, arrested by Air ForceIntelligence members on February 16, 2012 during a raid on their Damascusoffices.

Accordingto a trustworthy source within Syria, Mr. Darwish has been subjected to tortureand other ill-treatment during his interrogation and imprisonment at an Air Force Intelligence detention center in Damascus.We have reasons to believe that his life is in danger, especially as MazenDarwish faces serious previous health issues that require medical treatment andworsen his condition.

Mazen Darwish was arrested along with 15 other persons during the February 16 raid. Seven women detained were conditionallyreleased in the following 48 hours, but have to report to the detentioncenter every day for further interrogations. Mr.Shady Yazbek, a visitor to the SCM arrestedalong with the staff during the raid, was released on March 12, 2012. No chargeshave been pressed against them so far.

Sincetheir detention almost a month ago, Mr. Mazen Darwish and eight other men havebeen held in incommunicado detention at the Air Force Intelligence detentioncenter located in El Mezzeh, Damascus. They have no access to any of theircolleagues, family members or their lawyers and so far no official charges havebeen pressed against them.

The undersigned organizations are gravely concerned about the fate of thepersons who remain in detention following the raid on SCM office and repeattheir call to Syrian authorities to unconditionally release those detained asthe detention is apparently related to their peaceful activities as human rightdefenders, bloggers and journalists.

BesidesMr. Mazen Darwish, detained SCM staff members include Mr. Hani Zitani,Mr. Abdel Rahman Hamada, Mr. Hussein Gharir, Mr. MansourAl-Omarei, Mr. Joan Fersso, Mr. Ayham Ghazoul and Mr. BassamAl-Ahmed.

Theundersigned groups have documented systematic and widespread torture by Syria’ssecurity services against detainees since the beginning of the unrest in thecountry. According to the Violations Documentation Center, a Syrian network ofactivists, at least 386 detainees died in custody since the start of theuprising on March 15, 2011.

Theundersigned organizations reiterate that the Syrian authorities are responsibleand accountable under international law for guaranteeing the physical andmental integrity of all detainees, including Mr. Mazen Darwish and hiscolleagues. Furthermore, the Syrian authorities must put an immediate end toarbitrary arrests and harassment of human rights defenders, including thoseadvocating for freedom of expression, journalists, and bloggers. Theauthorities must release all persons who remain arbitrarily detained.

AlkaramaFoundation

ARTICLE 19

CairoInstitute for Human Rights Studies

Committee to Protect Journalists

DamascusCenter for Human Rights Studies

Euro-MediterraneanHuman Rights Network

FrontLine - International Foundation for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders

Human Rights Watch

HumanistInstitute for Development Cooperation (Hivos)

InternationalCommission of Jurists

InternationalMedia Support

InternationalPress Institute

KurdishCommittee for Human Rights

MaharatFoundation

Observatoryfor the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of theInternational Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World OrganisationAgainst Torture (OMCT)

Reporters Without Borders

SyrianOrganization for Human Rights – Swasiah

SyrianOrganization for Human Rights – MAF

For more information:

Joint statement from the UN SpecialRapporteurs on human rights defenders (Margaret Sekaggya), on freedom ofexpression (Frank La Rue), on torture (Juan Méndez) and the Chair-Rapporteur ofthe Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, El Hadji Malick Sow (21 February2012):

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11848&LangID=E

Joint statement of more than 30non-governmental human rights organizations (23 February 2012):

http://www.euromedrights.org/en/news-en/emhrn-releases/statements-2012/11255.html

Statement from the High Representative ofthe European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Mrs CatherineAshton (20 February 2012):

http://www.enpi-info.eu/medportal/news/latest/28034/Ashton-condemns-arrest-of-Mazen-Darwish,-head-of-Syrian-Centre-for-Media-and-Freedom-of-Expression

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