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Syria

    August 10, 2015

    Today’s conditional release of Mazen Darwish, a human rights activist who had been jailed on trumped-up terrorism-related charges, ends the worst of a painful ordeal for him and his family over the past three and a half years, said Amnesty International.

    Mazen Darwish, Director of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), spent over three years in arbitrary detention after being arrested alongside a number of other colleagues during a raid on the office of the SCM by Air Force Intelligence personnel in Damascus in February 2012. Mazen Darwish is the last of the group to be released, two of his colleagues Hani al-Zitani and Hussein Gharir were conditionally released last month.

    August 07, 2015

    A UN Security Council resolution passed today, paving the way for establishing an independent team of experts to identify the perpetrators of chlorine and other chemical weapon attacks, offers hope for accountability for war crimes in Syria, said Amnesty International.

    “Chlorine and other chemical weapon attacks have brought death, anguish and terror to the civilian population in Syria. This resolution offers a much needed ray of hope in the darkness that presides over this conflict. If properly implemented, it could offer an opportunity to break the cycle of impunity for the countless war crimes being committed on a daily basis there,” said Said Boumedouha, Acting Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    Hundreds of civilians have been killed in chemical weapons attacks since the crisis in Syria began more than four years ago. The use of chemical weapons is prohibited by international humanitarian law.  

    August 07, 2015

    Around 230 people are reported to have been abducted in central Syria by the armed group that calls itself Islamic State (IS) after heavy fighting in the town of Al-Qaryatain last night.

    “The abhorrent abduction in Syria of more than 200 people by Islamic State highlights the dreadful plight of civilians caught up in the conflict in the country,” said Neil Sammonds, Amnesty International’s Syria researcher.  

    “Every effort must be made to identify the perpetrators of these crimes and bring them to justice. The group must respect the rules of war and immediately release these civilians unharmed.”

    A separate group of around 250 Syrian Christians were taken by IS in the Khabour river area in February. Nineteen have since been released whilst the fate of the rest remains unknown.

     

    For further information contact John Tackaberry, Media Relations
    (613)744-7667 #236   jtackaberry@amnesty.ca

    June 25, 2015

    Security Council members should use a meeting with NGOs at the United Nations on 26 June to agree upon steps they will take to enforce Security Council resolution 2139, which calls for an end to indiscriminate and direct attacks against civilians in Syria, said Amnesty International.  

    The organization is urging the Security Council to impose an arms embargo on the Syrian government and targeted sanctions against individuals on all sides responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Such measures could help end barrel bomb and hell-canon attacks against civilians as well as any use of chlorine and other toxic chemicals as weapons.

    “A year and a half ago the Security Council made a commitment to take further steps if resolution 2139 was violated by parties to the conflict. The fact that indiscriminate attacks and other violations have continued unabated across Syria since then shows that it has been consistently and flagrantly flouted,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International. 

    May 04, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs BST 5 May 2015

    Sheer terror and unbearable suffering has forced many civilians in Aleppo to eke out an existence underground to escape the relentless aerial bombardment of opposition-held areas by government forces, according to a new report published by Amnesty International today.

    April 08, 2015

    At least 18 civilians, including a 12-year-old girl and a humanitarian worker, have been killed in Yarmouk since the armed group which calls itself the Islamic State (IS) attacked and mostly seized the Palestinian refugee camp over the past week, said Amnesty International.

    Thousands more are at risk as Syrian government forces have intensified the shelling and aerial bombardment of the camp in response to the IS takeover of the area, including by dropping barrel bombs. Civilians have also come under sniper fire and been caught up in clashes between armed groups, notably IS and the mostly Palestinian Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis.

    “For civilians still trapped in Yarmouk life is an agonizing struggle for survival. After enduring a crippling two-year-long government-imposed siege, now they are pinned down by sniper fire fearing for their lives as shelling and aerial attacks escalate,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director.

    March 17, 2015

    Eyewitnesses to an alleged chlorine gas attack last night in Idlib, northern Syria, have told Amnesty International about the horrific death of an entire family, including three children younger than three years of age.

    Scores of other civilians were exposed to toxic chlorine gas in two apparent chemical weapons attacks allegedly carried out by government forces in and around the town of Sermine, Idlib, last night, eyewitnesses said.

    “These horrific attacks that resulted in civilians, including small children, suffering excruciating deaths, are yet more evidence that the Syrian government forces are committing war crimes with impunity. The situation in Syria must be referred to the International Criminal Court as a matter of urgency,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    March 16, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 17 March 2015

    A new report by Amnesty International provides damning evidence that Syrian government forces unlawfully killed scores of civilians in a series of aerial attacks on the city of al-Raqqa in November 2014 which violated international humanitarian law. Some of the attacks may amount to war crimes.

    Al-Raqqa under attack: Syrian air force strikes against civilians documents a series of airstrikes between 11 and 29 November that led to the deaths of up to 115 civilians, among them 14 children. They included attacks on a mosque and a busy market crammed full of civilians and other buildings not being used for military purposes.

    “Syrian government forces have shown flagrant disregard for the rules of war in these ruthless airstrikes. Some of these attacks give every indication of being war crimes,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program.

    March 11, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 12 March 2015

    Eighty-three percent of all the lights in Syria have gone out since the start of the conflict there, a global coalition of humanitarian and human rights organizations has revealed ahead of the fourth anniversary on March 15.

    Analyzing satellite images, scientists based at Wuhan University in China, in co-operation with the #withSyria coalition of 130 non-governmental organizations, have shown that the number of lights visible over Syria at night has fallen by 83% since March 2011.

    February 12, 2015

    The Free Syrian Voices (www.free-syrian-voices.org) coalition today announced its “Hearts in Our Hands” Campaign to call for the release of peaceful Syrian activists held both by the Syrian government and armed groups. The coalition was formed to coordinate the efforts of six international human rights organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Frontline Defenders detained Syrian human rights defenders and activists.

    The campaign’s timing, over the Valentine’s Day weekend and through 17 February 2015, marks the 3rd anniversary, on 16 February, of the arrest and detention of Mazen Darwish, director of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), and two staff members, Hussein Gharir and Hani al-Zitani. They remain in Syrian government jails solely for their human rights work, along with hundreds of other human rights, media, legal and humanitarian workers detained since the peaceful protest movement in Syria started in 2011.

    February 09, 2015

    By Geoffrey Mock, orginally published on Amnesty USA blog

    What happens when a crisis so prolongs that the world tires of it?

    You get 3.7 million Syrian refugees.

    You get stories like the one told by this woman living in a refugee camps. She has been in a Lebanese camp for three years with her two sons, one of whom is autistic. She has necessities, but little else; what she dreams of is that her children get an education.

    “We don’t go to anyone, we don’t visit anyone because dealing with him is so difficult,” the woman told Amnesty International researchers. “People stay away because they are afraid he will hurt their children. This little room is our bedroom, it is our living room, it is our everything. Our financial situation doesn’t allow us to register him in such [specialist] schools… That is why we need to resettle in another country, to get help for our child. This will make it better for him and for us.”

    February 04, 2015

    A new report from Amnesty International throws the spotlight on the human face of Syria’s refugee crisis, through the stories of eight people and families who have fled the conflict and are struggling to survive in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

    Hardship, Hope and Resettlement: Refugees from Syria tell their stories highlights the life-changing opportunity that international resettlement can offer to some of the most vulnerable refugees. Its publication marks the launch of Amnesty International’s #OpenToSyria campaign.

    The campaign aims to put pressure on wealthy countries, through public support, to accept a greater numbers of vulnerable refugees from Syria through resettlement and other humanitarian admission programmes. So far, the international response to the crisis has been pitiful and some of the richest countries have done very little.

    “With close to 4 million refugees, the scale of the crisis is overwhelming. This report tells the stories of the real people behind the numbers, in their own words,” said Sherif Elsayed-Ali, Amnesty International’s Head of Refugee and Migrants’ Rights.

    December 08, 2014

    Over 30 international organisations are calling on governments meeting in Geneva tomorrow to commit to offering sanctuary to at least 5 per cent of the most vulnerable refugees from Syria currently in neighbouring countries - 180,000 people - by the end of 2015.
    The governments convened by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will be making pledges to resettle or provide other forms of humanitarian admission to Syrian refugees. Up to 3.59 million people are projected to have fled the conflict into countries neighbouring Syria by the end of this year. To date the international community has pledged to resettle less than 2 per cent of this number over an unclear timeframe. 

    December 05, 2014

    World leaders are failing to offer protection to Syria’s most vulnerable refugees with catastrophic consequences, Amnesty International has warned in a new briefing ahead of a UN pledging conference in Geneva on 9 December.

    Left Out in the Cold: Syrian refugees abandoned by the international community  highlights the pitiful numbers of resettlement places offered by the international community. Around 3.8 million refugees from are being hosted in five main countries within the region: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Only 1.7 per cent of this number have been offered sanctuary by the rest of the world since the crisis began more than three years ago.

    November 09, 2014

    By Noor Al-Bazzaz of Amnesty International’s Syria team

    Five months to the day after being abducted and held hostage by the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS), a group of 25 students from Kobani were unexpectedly set free on 29 October.

    They were the last remaining captives from a group of around 150 schoolchildren from the embattled Kurdish-majority city in northern Syria who were returning from their final year examinations in Aleppo in May when IS members stopped their school bus at a checkpoint and abducted them all. In the months that followed, they were sporadically released. Those we spoke to had horror stories to tell about life in IS captivity.

    In Suruç, a town in Turkey merely 10km from Kobani, refugees from the besieged city told me how the students’ harrowing experience was typical of the many abductions by IS in the year and a half since the armed group besieged their city.

    One of the released students, a 15-year-old boy who chose to remain unnamed, described the four months he spent in the hands of IS, detailing the armed group’s use of torture against students who broke the rigid rules, or attempted to escape.

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