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Joint Statement - Syrian Authorities must release Mazen Darwish and other detained activists

    February 22, 2012

    The undersigned Organisations call on the Syrian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mazen Darwish, a prominent Syrian human rights defender and Director of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) – an organization that enjoys UN ECOSOC consultative status -, as well as seven of his colleagues and a visitor, who were arrested on 16 February 2012 during a raid on their Damascus offices.

    In total 16 people were arrested during the raid at SCM offices in Damascus, which  was carried out by officers from Air Force Intelligence (AFI) who were assisted by a group of plain-clothed armed men, according to a statement from the SCM. Seven people have been conditionally released and have to report to the detention centre every day for further interrogations.

    SCM has played a key role in getting out information about daily developments in Syria as international journalists have only limited access to the country. Mazen Darwish has previously been repeatedly subjected to interrogation by Syrian security services regarding his human rights related activities, including his work with SCM. The arrest of Mazen Darwish and his co-workers is apparently related to their peaceful activities as human right defenders, bloggers and journalists.

    “The raid on SCM offices and the detention of Mazen Darwish and his colleagues is a further attack by Syrian security services on Syrian human rights defenders and their rights to freedom of association and expression. This represents the latest attempt to silence those who have been witnessing, documenting and reporting on the ongoing gross human rights violations committed by the Syrian security forces in Syria,” said the Organisations.  “The Syrian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release these individuals”, the Organisations added.

    Individuals following the case inside Syria reported that they believed the detainees are being held incommunicado at an AFI detention facility in El Mezze, Damascus. The use of torture and other ill treatment has been widespread and systematic in Syrian detention facilities, including in the facilities of the AFI.  

    “It is the responsibility of the Syrian authorities to protect Mazen Darwish and his colleagues from any form of ill-treatment or torture and to ensure that, as long as they remain in detention, their rights of access to lawyers, family members and independent medical personnel are fully guaranteed”, said the Organisations.

    Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation
    Alkarama Foundation
    Amnesty International
    Arab Network for human rights information
    Arab Working Group for Media Monitoring
    ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression
    Association For Women’s Rights in Development
    Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
    Committee to Protect Journalists
    Community Media network
    Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies
    Doha Centre for Media Freedom
    Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network
    Free Press Unlimited
    Gulf Centre for Human Rights
    Human Rights Watch
    Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation - Hivos
    IKV Pax Christi
    Index on Censorship
    International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
    International Commission of Jurists
    International Media Support
    International Press Institute
    Iran Human Rights Documentation Center
    Iraqi Journalists' Rights' Defense association
    Justice for Iran
    Maharat Foundation
    Observatory for the protection of Human Rights Defenders, joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
    Reporters Without Borders
    Samir Kassir Foundation
    Syrian Organization for Human Rights - Swasiah


    John Tackaberry,
    Media Relations,
    Amnesty International Canada
    613-744-7667, ext 236