The ICJ is urging the Syrian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mazen Darwish, a prominent human rights lawyer and defender, and President of the Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM).
Mazen Darwish was arrested with 16 of his co-workers by Officers from the Air Force Intelligence (AFI) on 16 February 2012. While some of his colleagues have been prosecuted before the Military Court of Damascus for “possessing prohibited materials with the intent to disseminate them”, he has been subject to enforced disappearance. Since his arrest, the Syrian authorities have revealed nothing about his fate or whereabouts.
The ICJ has learned, however, that AIF informed the military judge presiding in the case of Mazen’s colleagues that since the SCM is an illegal organisation, Mazen Darwish would be prosecuted before a Military Field Court.
Military Field Courts are established under Legislative Decree number 109 of 1968. They are composed of military judges and have jurisdiction over crimes committed during wartime and military operations.
Accused persons before these courts have no right to defence and proceedings are conducted in secret. These courts do not apply existing laws or procedures and their decisions are final, not subject to any form of appeal or review. Under Legislative Decree 109, Mazen Darwish may face the death penalty.
The ICJ calls upon the Syrian authorities to comply with their obligations under international law and to ensure the rights of Mazen Darwish to life, liberty and security of person, including by restoring his contact with the outside world.
“The reports that Mazen Darwish will be prosecuted before a Military Field Court are very disturbing and highlight, once again, the unlawful and relentless attacks of the Syrian regime against human rights lawyers and defenders,” said Said Benarbia, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser for Middle East and North Africa. “Military Field Courts are exceptional courts that don’t meet international standards of independence or fair trial. Syrian authorities must refrain from referring Mazen Darwish to these courts and immediately and unconditionally release him.”
For more information:
Saïd Benarbia, Middle East & North Africa Senior Legal Adviser, ICJ, t +41 22 979 3817; e-mail: said.benarbia(at)icj.org