Syria: Incommunicado detention of Mr. Mazen Naji

18/02/2013
Urgent Appeal

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), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Syria.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention of Mr. Mazen Naji, a college student also known as Abu Hamza al-Shami, a member of the Syrian Network for Human Rights and an activist in the Syrian peace movement who has been monitoring human rights violations occurring within the country, as well as four of his relatives.

According to the information received, just after midnight on January 18, 2013, several official State security cars surrounded Al-Baramkeh District in Damascus where Mr. Naji was staying with his family after moving from the Qadam area because of security restrictions.

It is believed that the patrol cars had stopped away from the home to prevent Mr. Naji from escaping. The building was surrounded by a security squad, while four armed agents wearing civilian clothes broke down the door, entering without a warrant or court order authorising them to do so. Mr. Naji was then taken to the Air Force Intelligence (AFI) in Damascus, where detainees are often subjected to torture, whilst other agents remained at his family’s home for a total period of 48 hours to conduct a thorough search. During this process his personal computer and phone were seized as well as the phones of his family. The agents also put pressure on Mr. Naji’s family members, trying to get them to make contact with other activists. Mr. Naji’s father and sister Ms. Islam Naji were also arrested for questioning and have not since returned home.

On January 21, 2013, Ms. Naji’s husband and his father went to the security branch to find out what had happened to their relatives and have also not returned since then.

According to some sources, Mr. Naji would be held by the AFI in Damascus.

The Observatory is deeply concerned by the arrest of Mr. Naji and four of his family members and fears for their physical and psychological integrity, particularly in the current context of widespread resort to acts of torture and ill-treatment in detention centres in Syria.

The Observatory calls upon the Syrian authorities to take prompt action in order to disclose their fate and whereabouts and release them immediately as it believes that their arrest merely aimed at sanctioning Mr. Naji’s human rights activities.

Actions requested:

Please write to the Syrian authorities, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Mazen Naji, his relatives, as well as all human rights defenders in Syria;

ii. Take prompt action in order to disclose the fate and whereabouts of Mr. Mazen Naji and his relatives and to unconditionally release them, as their arrest seems to solely aim at impeding Mr. Naji from pursuing his human rights activities;

iii. Ensure in all circumstances that Syrian human rights defenders are able to carry out their work without unjustified hindrances;

iv. 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”;

v. 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, Imad al-Fraij, 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.

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