27 April 2012

Syria: Continued incommunicado detention and deterioration of heath conditions of Messrs. Mazen Darwish, Hussein Ghareer, Abdelrahman Hamada, Mansour Al Omari and Hani Zetani

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the continued incommunicado detention and deterioration of heath conditions of Mr. Mazen Darwish, President of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), and his colleagues, blogger Mr. Hussein Ghareer, Mr. Abdelrahman Hamada, Mr. Mansour Al Omari and Mr. Hani Zetani, as well as the arbitrary detention of journalist Ms. Yara Bader, the wife of Mr. Darwish, blogger Ms. Razan Ghazzawi, Ms. Mayadah Khaleel, Ms. Sana Zetani and Messrs. Bassam Al-Ahmad, Joan Farso and Ayham Ghazzou, all also SCM members, and a visitor to the SCM, Ms. Hanadi Zahlout.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Syria.

New information:

According to the information received, on April 26, 2012, Messrs. Mazen Darwish and Hussein Ghareer were still held in solitary confinement in the headquarters of the Air Force Intelligence (AFI) located in El Mezzeh, Damascus, and their health condition had seriously deteriorated.

The Observatory recalls that both defenders were arrested on February 16, 2012, along with 14 other persons, including Messrs. Abdelrahman Hamada, Mansour Al Omari and Hani Zetani, who were transferred to detention facilities run by the fourth military division, placed under the authority of Maher Al Asad.

Since their arrest, they all have been denied access to their lawyers, in violation of due process. In addition, Mr. Darwish was reportedly subjected to torture and other ill-treatment during his detention and questioning, despite his already previous bad health condition.

Moreover, Messrs. Bassam Al-Ahmad, Joan Farso, Ayham Ghazzou, Ms. Yara Bader, Ms. Razan Ghazzawi, Ms. Mayadah Khaleel, Ms. Sana Zetani and Ms. Hanadi Zahlout remain in detention in Adra Central prison on charges of “possessing prohibited materials with the intent to disseminate them” according to Article 148 of the Criminal Code.

The Observatory denounces the ongoing incommunicado detention of Messrs. Mazen Darwish, Hussein Ghareer, Abdelrahman Hamada, Mansour Al Omari and Hani Zetani as well as the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Messrs. Bassam Al-Ahmad, Joan Farso, Ayham Ghazzou and Ms. Yara Bader, Razan Ghazzawi, Ms. Mayadah Khaleel, Ms. Sana Zetani and Ms. Hanadi Zahlout, and urges the Syrian authorities to grant observers from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to the detainees.

Background information[1]:

On February 16, 2012, the Air Force Intelligence (AFI) conducted a raid at SCM premises in Damascus during which they arrested 16 persons.

In the following 48 hours, seven women were conditionally released provided that they report to the detention center every day for further interrogation. Despite this, the Syrian authorities refused to reveal the whereabouts of eight of those arrested, namely Messrs. Bassam Al-Ahmad, Joan Farso, Ayham Ghazzoul, Abdelrahman Hamada, Mansour Al Omari, Hani Zitani, Mazen Darwish and Hussein Ghareer.

On April 22, 2012, Messrs. Bassam Al-Ahmad, Joan Farso and Ayham Ghazzoul were presented to the Military Prosecutor in Damascus, who informed them that they would be prosecuted by a military court for “possessing prohibited materials with the intent to disseminate them”, a criminal offense that is punishable by six months of imprisonment under Article 148 of the Criminal Code. The Military Prosecutor referred to “recorded material” that was in the possession of the detained activists with the allegedly intent to “call for protests” against the Government.

The same day, four of the SCM women members who had been released on bail, namely Ms. Yara Bader, Ms. Razan Ghazzawi, Ms. Mayadah Khaleel, Ms. Sana Zetani and a visitor to the SCM, Ms. Hanadi Zahlout, were informed that they will also be prosecuted on the same legal grounds.

The eight individuals prosecuted were thus transferred to the central prison of Adra in Damascus.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Syrian authorities, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Mazen Darwich, Bassam Al-Ahmad, Joan Farso, Ayham Ghazzoul, Abdel Rahman Hamada, Mansour Al Omari, Hani Zitani, Hussein Ghareer, Ms. Yara Bader, Ms. Razan Ghazzawi, Ms. Mayadah Khaleel, Ms. Sana Zetani and Ms. Hanadi Zahlout as well as of all human rights defenders in Syria;

ii. Grant an unhindered access to ICRC observers dispatched within the country in order to assess the defenders’ conditions of detention and health situation;

iii. Immediately and unconditionally release Messrs. Mazen Darwich, Bassam Al-Ahmad, Joan Farso, Ayham Ghazzoul, Abdel Rahman Hamada, Mansour Al Omari, Hani Zitani, Hussein Ghareer, Ms. Yara Bader, Ms. Razan Ghazzawi, Ms. Mayadah Khaleel, Ms. Sana Zetani and Ms. Hanadi Zahlout as well as all persons arbitrarily detained;

iv. Put an end to any act of harassment - including at the judicial level before both civil and military courts - against all above-mentioned human rights defenders, and more generally against all human rights defenders in Syria;

v. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with its Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as with Article 12.2 “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the Syrian Arab Republic.

Addresses:

· President, His Excellency Bashar al-Assad, Presidential Palace, al Rashid Street, Damascus, Syria Arab Republic, Fax: +963 11 332 3410;

· Minister of Defence, His Excellency General, Ali Habib Mahmud, Ministry of Defence, O mayyad Square, Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic, Fax: +963 11 223 7842;

· Minister of Justice, His Excellency Mr. Tayseer Qella Awad, Mazeh “Otstrad”, Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic, Fax: +963 11 666 2460;

· Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Wallid Mu’allim, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, al-Rashid Street, Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic, Fax: +963 11 332 7620;

· Ambassador Faysal Khabbaz Hamoui, Permanent Mission of the Syrian Arab Republic to UN in Geneva, 72 rue de Lausanne, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 738 42 75, Email: mission.syria@ties.itu.int;

· Embassy the Syrian Arab Republic in Brussels, 1 avenue F.D. Roosevelt, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Tel: +32 2 554 19 22; Fax: +32 2 648 14 85.

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of the Syrian Arabic Republic in your respective country.

***

Paris-Geneva, April 27, 2012

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org

Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

Tel and fax OMCT + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / + 41 22 809 49 29

[1] See Joint Press Releases, April 23, 2012, March 14, 2012, February 16, 2012 and February 22, 2012.
Last Update 27 April 2012
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