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.
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
KurdishCommittee for Human Rights
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