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Syria

    September 13, 2013

    By Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's Senior Crisis Researcher

    As the threat of military intervention looms over an alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus, in a far flung corner of Syria the town of Deir Ezzour offers an insight into the suffering of ordinary Syrians.

    September 10, 2013

    By Refugee and Migrants Campaigner Gloria Nafziger and Secretary General Alex Neve

    With over 2 million Syrian refugees having fled to neighbouring countries and well over 4 million Syrians internally displaced within the country, the crisis of displacement that has resulted from the massive human rights violations in Syria over the past 2 ½ years has been termed the gravest humanitarian emergency the world has faced in years. In the face of such a massive crisis, it is vital that Canada play a leadership role in ensuring a strong and effective global response to the pressing needs of displaced Syrians.

    September 06, 2013

    By Maha Abu Shama, Syria campaigner at Amnesty's International Secretariat

    “We have no women for marriage” is Khawlah’s usual response when Jordanian or other foreign men ask about marrying her 14-year-old daughter when they come looking for a bride.

    Like other Syrian women refugees I met during a recent visit to Jordan, Khawlah – who lives in the Jordanian capital Amman – complained how Jordanian men constantly bombard her with marriage proposals or requests to arrange marriages with refugee girls. 

    “I do not have work for you, but could marry you if you like,” is what ‘Aisha was told when she went looking for work. A 22-year-old student of English Literature, she complained that one of the reasons her job search in Amman has been futile so far is that she often receives marriage proposals instead of paid work.

    September 04, 2013

    By Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty's International Secretariat in London, England

    As the humanitarian and human rights crisis caused by Syria’s internal armed conflict shows no signs of abating, two important announcements made this week help us to take stock of the enormity of the suffering of those fleeing the fighting, and what can be done to help.

    In the space of 24 hours, the UN announced that the number of refugees from Syria had officially surpassed 2 million and Sweden’s Migration Board stated it would grant permanent residency status to persons from Syria seeking asylum on Swedish territory.

    September 03, 2013

    The number of Syrian refugees has now surpassed 2 million according to the United Nations. This figure has doubled in the last six months alone. The rising flow of refugees into neighbouring countries has sparked a desperate humanitarian crisis.

    “"The rising flow of refugees into neighbouring countries has sparked a desperate humanitarian crisis. In the context of the most severe forcible displacement crisis in recent history, it is paramount that the international community acts decisively to share the responsibility for Syria’s refugees,” said Sherif El-Sayed-Ali, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of Global Thematic Issues.

    “Humanitarian assistance to neighbouring countries must be significantly stepped up. Neighbouring countries must also keep their borders fully open to all persons fleeing the conflict."

    Amnesty International’s researchers have been monitoring the situation of Syrian refugees in Jordan, including at the Za’atari refugee camp, and elsewhere. They are available for interview on the human rights concerns of this crisis.

    Researchers available for interview:

    August 29, 2013

    In recent days, a number of governments have signalled their intention to take military action against the Syrian government, which they hold responsible for the alleged chemical weapons attacks of 21 August. Scores of civilians, including many children, were apparently killed in the attacks on the outskirts of Syria’s capital, Damascus.

    Amnesty International neither condemns nor condones such an armed international intervention. It also takes no position on the legality or moral basis for any such action. In situations of armed conflict, Amnesty International focuses on ensuring that warring parties respect international humanitarian law and human rights.

    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.

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