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    August 21, 2013

    In response to the publication of a series of videos apparently showing that chemical weapons have killed scores of civilians, including many children, on the outskirts of Syria’s capital Damascus, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:

    “The allegations of use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, which Amnesty International has not been able to verify independently, underscore the urgent need for the United Nations team currently in Syria to have a full mandate and unimpeded access to all locations to investigate these and any other incidents of alleged use of chemical weapons.”

    “What would be the point of having a UN team of experts in the country if they are not allowed to access the sites of the alleged attacks, collect samples and investigate?”

    “The Syrian authorities who claim no responsibility should immediately facilitate the visit of the UN team to Eastern Ghouta and other locations”.

    August 20, 2013

    The trial of five peaceful activists in Syria on “terrorism” charges tomorrow is further evidence of the increasing and systematic repression against anyone speaking out against human rights violations in the country, Amnesty International said.

    Mazen Darwish, Hussein Gharir, Hani al-Zitani, Mansour al-Omari and Abd al-Rahman Hamada from the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), are scheduled to appear before the Anti-Terrorism Court in Damascus tomorrow.

    “The Syrian government should not use its overbroad terrorism law to punish peaceful human rights activists for their legitimate work. The authorities must drop all charges against these five activists and release Mazen Darwish, Hussein Gharir and Hani al-Zitani immediately and unconditionally,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    Mazen Darwish, Hussein Gharir and Hani al-Zitani are still in detention while Mansour al-Omari and Abd al-Rahman Hamada were conditionally released in February this year but continue to be on trial.

    August 07, 2013

    “All my extended family lived here, we had 10 houses. My mother was badly injured and is now in hospital in Turkey. She does not know that her sons are dead. My uncle, Mohamed Ali, lost 27 members of his family. He has lost his mind; he doesn’t know anything anymore. He is in the countryside; everyone who survived has gone to stay with relatives or friends somewhere. Here, there is only rubble left. ” - Hussein al-Saghir, 15-year-old boy telling Amnesty International about his 16 relatives killed in a ballistic missile strike in the Jabal Badro district of Aleppo on February 18, 2013.

    “Yousef, 7, Mohammed, 5, Ali, 2, Hamza, 12, Zahra, 10, Husna, 8, Fatima, 10, Ahmad, 7, Abdel Karim, 2, Hassan, 18 months…..Why did they bomb here? … There were only civilians here.  Our quarter was full of life, children playing everywhere.  Now we are all dead, even those of us who are alive are dead inside, we have all been buried under this rubble.” - Sara al-Wawi, who lost some 20 relatives in an air strike in the al-Marje’s area of Aleppo on   March 18, 2013 telling Amnesty International about some of the children killed in the attack.

    July 26, 2013

    Civilians in the vicinity of opposition fighters’ bases in the governorate of Tartous are at risk of summary execution by pro-government forces, Amnesty International said. Following the deliberate killing of 13 members of the same family in the village of al-Baydah, the organization urges the Syrian government to immediately end all extrajudicial executions.

    “The killing of 13 civilians from the same family, including women and children in one village is deplorable,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program Director.

    The bodies of three brothers were found with bullet wounds just outside their home in the western Syrian village last weekend. Four female relatives and six children between the ages of two and 13 were found dead inside the house. The killings took place shortly after pro-government forces clashed with opposition fighters close to the family home.

    The incident came three months after mass killings of more than 250 civilians last May in the same village and the nearby city of Banias.

    June 26, 2013

    The Syrian authorities must drop charges against five human rights activists whose "patently unfair" terror trial was today put on hold for another two months, said Amnesty International.

    The five men from the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), all of whom have been allegedly tortured or otherwise ill-treated in custody, were due to appear at the Anti-Terrorism Court in Damascus today.

    The trial has been postponed until 21 August, meaning the three activists still detained will remain in custody.

    “This trial is patently unfair. The only ‘crime’ committed by these activists was to carry out their legitimate human rights work. The Syrian authorities must drop the spurious charges against them,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    "The three activists who remain behind bars are prisoners of conscience - jailed for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression - and they must be released immediately."

    June 04, 2013

    Today’s International Commission of Inquiry report on Syria’s grave human rights situation is yet further evidence to prompt the UN Security Council to refer the situation to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Amnesty International said.

    The report, released at the UN in Geneva today, confirmed there are reasonable grounds to believe that “limited quantities of toxic chemicals” were used during four separate attacks last March and April, although it affirms it has not been possible to “determine the precise chemical agents used, their delivery systems or the perpetrators.”

    It also calls on the Syrian authorities to allow full access to experts in order to reach conclusive findings on the issue.

    “How many more reports need to be published on Syria for the world to wake up and take action to stop the bloodshed of civilians?” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    May 21, 2013

    A prominent Syrian human rights lawyer who went missing this weekend after an apparent abduction is at grave risk of abuse, Amnesty International has said. 

    Abdullah al-Khalil, who became head of the local council for al-Raqqa Governorate after armed opposition groups took control in March 2013,  was reportedly taken away by unidentified armed individuals as he left his office in the north-eastern city of al-Raqqa late on Saturday night. 

    Sources close to Abdullah al-Khalil say he and another man were taken away in two cars. Their whereabouts since is unknown. Local armed opposition groups have reportedly denied responsibility for the abduction.

    "Whether the Syrian authorities or local armed groups are behind the incident, the two men are at grave risk of abuse,” said Ann Harrison, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “Whoever has information on their fate and whereabouts must inform the men's families."

    May 15, 2013

    Today’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on Syria is a positive step but it does little to address the immense ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis in the country, Amnesty International said.

    The non-binding resolution – which 107 states voted to adopt – encourages, among other things, the UN Security Council to “consider appropriate measures” that would ensure accountability for the ongoing violence and human rights violations in Syria. Russia was among the 12 countries who voted against the measure, while 59 abstained.

    The resolution contains the UNGA’s strongest call yet for independent and impartial investigations of all suspected violations of human rights and international humanitarian law since the outbreak of the Syrian uprising in March 2011. Russia and China have three times vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on the situation in Syria.

    May 02, 2013

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 3 May 2013

    Scores of journalists reporting on human rights abuses in Syria have been killed, arbitrarily arrested, detained, subjected to enforced disappearances and tortured over the last two years, Amnesty International said in a report released today, World Press Freedom Day.

    These abuses have been carried out by the Syrian authorities and armed opposition groups, turning Syria into a highly dangerous country for journalists to work in.

    The Amnesty International report, entitled Shooting the Messenger: Journalists targeted by all sides in Syria, details dozens of cases of journalists and media workers attacked or held since the 2011 uprising began, in an attempt to prevent them from reporting on the situation in Syria, including human rights abuses.

    It also details the crucial role played by citizen journalists, many of whom risk their lives to make sure information about what’s going on inside the country is released to the outside world. Like their professional colleagues, this group has faced reprisals to prevent them carrying out their work.

    April 29, 2013

    The Syrian authorities must immediately reveal the whereabouts of a 16-year-old boy who has been missing since November, Amnesty International has urged.

    Ahmed Ismael al-‘Akkad’s family have not been told anything about his fate or whereabouts since his arrest on 20 November 2012.

    His family received a smuggled note from the teenager 40 days later, in which he said his health was deteriorating due to cramped and humid prison conditions and a lack of medication for his asthma.

    "The Syrian authorities must reveal Ahmed Ismael al-Akkad’s whereabouts and fate.  He must be granted immediate access to his family and lawyer, and receive any medication he needs to control his asthma,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director.

    “They must also ensure he is protected from the systematic torture or other ill-treatment we know occurs in Syrian prisons.  More than 1,000 detainees are reported to have died in custody since March 2011, most apparently from the effects of torture or other ill-treatment. This tidal wave of death must be stopped."

    April 25, 2013

    It is vital that the international community does more to help the increasing number of refugees pouring across borders as they flee the violence in Syria, said Amnesty International in a briefing published today.

    To escape the ongoing bloodshed and violence at home, those fleeing have sought safety in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq. Many live in extremely difficult conditions.

    “The responsibility to protect and assist refugees from Syria needs to be shouldered by both the international community and neighbouring countries,” said Charlotte Phillips, refugee researcher at Amnesty International.

    All these countries say that the long-term hosting of refugees is putting a strain on resources, as increasing numbers of Syrians and others try to reach the relative safety of refugee camps and elsewhere in neighbouring countries.

    “In the face of this mounting crisis, the international community must act now to provide badly needed financial and technical assistance in order to support the efforts made by Syria’s neighbouring countries,” said Phillips.

    March 28, 2013

    A Syrian university located in a government-controlled area has been hit with mortar rockets, reportedly killing up to 15 and injuring many more in what Amnesty International branded a serious violation of the laws of war.

    The attack on the Architecture Faculty of Damascus University came amid escalating fighting in the area in recent days.

    “Those who endure the worst atrocities in this brutal conflict are civilians. All sides must abide by international humanitarian law and avoid attacks which indiscriminately kill and injure civilians,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    “It’s not yet clear who was responsible for firing the mortars in this attack, which landed in a government-controlled area, but one thing is obvious, they are being fired into areas with a large civilian population. Mortars are completely inappropriate for use in civilian areas. Even if the intended target was a military objective, the choice of mortars to attack a target in proximity to civilians displays a callous disregard for their fate and the rules of international humanitarian law.”

    March 28, 2013

    Up to 600 Syrian refugees have reportedly been deported by the Turkish authorities in a move that would show a shocking disregard for their safety, Amnesty International said.

    Reports state that those forcibly returned had been accommodated in the Akcakale refugee camp in the Sanliurfa province that borders Syria. Others run the risk of the same treatment.

    "Any forcible return of Syrian refugees would represent a deplorable act in clear violation of international law and Turkey's own laws," said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International's researcher on Turkey.

    Reports indicate that the returns occurred following violent protests at the camp.

    ”The Turkish authorities need to ensure that from now on no forcible returns occur and they must effectively investigate forced returns that are alleged to have taken place.

    ”In no circumstances whatsoever should the authorities forcibly return Syrians putting them at risk of persecution and serious human rights violations."

     

    March 26, 2013

    Global pressure must be applied to all parties in the Syrian conflict to abide by international humanitarian and human rights law, Amnesty International said as the League of Arab States gathered in Qatar for a summit and BRICS nations met at a separate event in South Africa.

    The Arab League gathering – where the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces has been given Syria’s seat after the suspension of the Syrian government in November 2011 – should see a tough message emerge against abuses perpetrated by armed groups.

    “The opposition must not waver - it has both a duty and an opportunity to denounce abuses carried out by armed opposition groups and stand in line with international humanitarian law - paying lip service to it is not enough” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director.

    March 22, 2013

    Amnesty International called on all parties to the Syrian armed conflict to abide by international humanitarian law and end attacks which target or indiscriminately kill and injure civilians after dozens were killed and injured in an explosion in a Damascus mosque on 21 March 2013.

    Among those reported killed in the mosque was a prominent Sunni Muslim cleric Mohammad al-Bouti, a supporter of President Bashar al-Assad. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

    The official state news agency, SANA, stated that 49 people were killed when “a suicide terrorist…blew himself up while scholar Dr. Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Bouti was giving a religious lesson at al-Iman Mosque in al-Mazraa area”.

    The head of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, Moaz al-Khatib, told the AFP news agency that “we categorically condemn the assassination”.

    Amnesty International condemned the bombing and reminded the parties to the conflict that targeting civilians and places of worship are war crimes.

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