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Written by HRDs and Journalists
Syria- Human rights defender Mazen Darwish at risk of facing a secret military tribunal
Beirut, 06 August 2012- The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has received information that prominent human rights defender Mazen Darwish is at risk of being brought before a secret military Tribunal.
On 6 August 2012, a letter was reportedly sent to the Military Justice in Damascus by the Air Force Intelligence stating that Mazen Darwish is soon to be transferred to the Field Court, which is an exceptional military tribunal. Hearings before such a Court are in secret and even the defendant’s lawyers are prohibited from attending.
Mazen Darwish is a journalist and head of the Damascus based Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), which was instrumental in disseminating information regarding the situation in Syria to sources outside the country. He was arrested on 16 February 2012 along with 15 others when Air Force Intelligence conducted a raid on the offices of the SCM in Damascus.
Since his arrest he has been held in secret detention although it is rumoured that he is being detained in the headquarters of the Fourth Division in Mazzeh along with other human rights defenders Abdulrahman Al-Hamada, Hany Al-Zetany, and Mansoor Hamid Al-Omary. It is feared that they have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment while in detention. Another human rights defender arrested on 16 February Hosain Ghorair is reportedly being held at the Air Force Intelligence headquarters in Tahrer square and has been on hunger strike for the past two weeks.
It is reported that a fourth military judge in Damascus requested the Air Force Intelligence to provide the court with information in respect of the status of the SCM’s license and the whereabouts of Mazen Darwish as he is to appear as a witness in another case. A reply came on 6 August 2012 advising that Mazen Darwish should be prepared for being transferred to the Field Court, and that the SCM was practicing its activities without a license. The judge
has reportedly decided to suspend Mazen Darwish as a witness and adjourned the trial to 29 August 2012.
The GCHR expresses serious concern for the physical and psychological integrity of Mazen Darwish particularly given that his whereabouts are unconfirmed and that it is reported that he will be brought before a Field Court. The GCHR believes that his arrest and detention are directly related to his peaceful and legitimate human rights work and constitute a blatant violation of his basic human rights.
The GCHR urges the authorities in Syria to:
- Immediately ensure that Mazen Darwish is not brought before a Field Court and that all charges against him are dropped;
- Immediately disclose the whereabouts of Mazen Darwish, Abdulrahman Al-Hamada, Hany Al-Zetany, Mansoor Hamid Al-Omary and Hosain Ghorair;
- Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Mazen Darwish Abdulrahman Al-Hamada, Hany Al-Zetany, Mansoor Hamid Al-Omary and Hosain Ghorair;
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Syria are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.
The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters“, and to 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.”
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights is an independent centre and has been registered in Ireland. The Centre works to strengthen support for human rights defenders and independent journalists in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.