Several human rights groups express their grave concerns for the safety of Mazen Darwish, Head of the Damascus based Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) and seven of his colleagues.
They were arrested by Air Force Intelligence members on February 16, 2012 during a raid on their Damascus offices.
According to a trustworthy source within Syria, Mazen Darwish has been subjected to torture and other ill- treatment during his interrogation and imprisonment in the same premises. We have reasons to believe that his life is in danger, especially as Mazen Darwish faces serious previous health issues that require medical treatment and worsen his condition.
Mazen Darwish was arrested along with 15 other persons during the February 16 raid. Seven women detained were conditionally released in the following 48 hours, but have to report to the detention center every day for further interrogations. Shady Yazbek, a visitor to the SCM arrested along with the staff during the raid, was released on March 12, 2012. No charges have been pressed against them so far.
Since their detention almost a month ago, Mazen Darwish and eight other men have been held in incommunicado detention at the Air Force Intelligence detention center located in El Mezzeh, Damascus. They have no access to any of their colleagues, family members or their lawyers and so far no official charges have been pressed against them.
The undersigned organizations are gravely concerned about the fate of the persons who remain in detention following the raid on SCM office and repeat their call to Syrian authorities to unconditionally release those detained as the detention is apparently related to their peaceful activities as human right defenders, bloggers and journalists.
Besides Mazen Darwish, detained SCM staff members include Hani Zitani, Abdel Rahman Hamada, Hussein Gharir, Mansour Al-Omarei, Joan Fersso, Ayham Ghazoul and Bassam Al-Ahmed.
The undersigned groups have documented systematic and widespread torture by Syria’s security services against detainees since the beginning of the unrest in the country. According to the Violations Documentation Center, a Syrian network of activists, at least 386 detainees died in custody since the start of the uprising on March 15, 2011.
The undersigned organizations reiterate that the Syrian authorities are responsible and accountable under international law for guaranteeing the physical and mental integrity of all detainees, including Mazen Darwish and his colleagues.
Furthermore, the Syrian authorities must put an immediate end to arbitrary arrests and harassment of human rights defenders, including those advocating for freedom of expression, journalists, and bloggers. The authorities must release all persons who remain arbitrarily detained.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies Euro-Mediterranean Network for Human Rights
Front Line – International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation
International Commission of Jurists
International Media Support
Kurdish Committee for Human Rights
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)
Reporters Without Borders
Syrian Organization for Human Rights – Swasiah
Syrian Organization for Human Rights – MAF
For more information:
Joint statement from the UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights defenders (Margaret Sekaggya), on freedom of expression (Frank La Rue), on torture (Juan Méndez) and the Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, El Hadji Malick Sow (21 February 2012):
Joint statement of more than 30 non-governmental human rights organizations (23 February 2012):
Statement from the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton (20 February 2012):AdvocacyNewsOpen lettersWeb stories