Document - Syria: Further information: Syrian activist faces secret military court: Mazen Darwish

URGENT ACTION

Further information on UA: 67/12 Index: MDE 24/071/2012 Syria Date: 10 August 2012

URGENT ACTION

SYRIAN ACTIVIST FACES SECRET MILITARY COURT

Syrian activist Mazen Darwish, director of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression in Damascus, is about to be referred to a secret military court, which does not allow for the presence of lawyers or trial observers and does not allow for appeals.

Mazen Darwish was arrested along with a group of other staff members and visitors of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (CMFE) on 16 February 2012 when it was raided by uniformed men believed to be members of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence. Since his arrest, he has been held in conditions amounting to enforced disappearance as the Syrian authorities are refusing to provide any information about his whereabouts or well-being to his family and lawyers despite repeated enquiries.

Eight of his colleagues arrested with him are currently on trial before a military court. During their trial sessions, the judge repeatedly called on the Air Force Intelligence to present Mazen Darwish as a witness but the security forces did not comply with these requests. During their last trial session on 6 August 2012, the judge received a letter from the Air Force Intelligence stating that Mazen Darwish will be unable to appear as a witness as he is in the process of being transferred to a secret military court.

According to information received by Amnesty International, these secret court sessions are conducted by military officers and no legal representation or witnesses are allowed to attend. The date of the session also remains secret. Verdicts decided by the court are not subject to appeal.

The letter received by the court stated that the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression operated without a licence but Amnesty International remains unclear about the charges faced by Mazen Darwish.. Amnesty International considers him to be a prisoner of conscience, detained solely on account of his peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and association in relation to his work with the CMFE.

Please write immediately in Arabic, English or your own language:

Urging the Syrian authorities to release Mazen Darwish immediately and unconditionally;

Immediately disclose the whereabouts of Mazen Darwish;

In the meantime, urging them to ensure that Mazen Darwish is protected from torture and other ill-treatment, allowed immediate contact with his families and lawyers of his choice, and provided with any medical attention he may require.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 21 SEPTEMBER 2012 TO:

President

Bashar al-Assad

Presidential Palace, al-Rashid Street

Damascus, �Syrian Arab Republic

Fax: +963 11 332 3410 (keep trying)

Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Defence

His Excellency ‘Imad al-Fraij

Ministry of Defence, Omayyad Square

Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic

Fax: +963 11 223 7842 (keep trying)

+963 11 666 2460 (keep trying)

Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Walid al-Mu’allim

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

al-Rashid Street

Damascus, Syrian Arab Republic

Fax: +963 11 214 6253 (keep trying)

Salutation: Your Excellence

Please send copies to diplomatic representatives of the Russian Federation accredited to your country.

Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the third update of UA 67/12. Further information: www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE24/065/2012/en

URGENT ACTION

SYRIAN ACTIVIST FACES SECRET MILITARY COURT

ADditional Information

The eight others on trial are Sanaa Mohsen, Mayada Khalil, Razan Ghazzawi, Yara Badr, Bassam Al-Ahmad, Joan Fersso, Ayham Ghazoul and visitor Hanadi Zahlout. If convicted and imprisoned, Amnesty International would consider them to be prisoners of conscience. The other staff members, Rita Dayoub and Maha Assabalani, along with visitor Shadi Yazbek, were released and are not known to be facing prosecution.

Four other persons arrested on the same day, Hussein Gharir, Hani al-Zitani, Mansour al-Omari and Abd al-Rahman Hamada are detained incommunicado at an unknown location in conditions amounting to enforce disappearance.

Thousands of suspected opponents of the government have been arrested since protests broke out in February 2012 and many, if not most, are believed to have been tortured and otherwise ill-treated. Amnesty International has the names of more than 470 people reported to have died in custody during this period and has documented many cases of torture or other ill-treatment. See “I wanted to die”: Syria’s torture survivors speak out http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE24/016/2012/en.

Amnesty International has also received many reports of people like Mazen Darwish and his four colleagues, apparently subjected to enforced disappearance, where state officials have provided their families with no information on their fate: most are believed to have been arrested by the security forces. Some have been released after months of secret, incommunicado detention, others remain missing.

Over the last decades, Amnesty International has documented the use of secret and unfair trials in which defendants were not given the opportunity to exercise their rights to have a proper public hearing or an adequate defence, or to appeal. Some of these defendants received the death penalty and were secretly executed. For more information, see for example: Repression and impunity: The forgotten victims, (AI Index: MDE 24/002/1995, April 1995) http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE24/002/1995/en

Although the vast majority of the human rights abuses documented by Amnesty International have been committed by the state’s armed forces and pro-government shabiha militias, abuses have also been committed by armed opposition groups, including the torture and killing of captured soldiers and shabiha as well as the kidnapping and killing of people known or suspected to support or work with the government and its forces. Amnesty International condemns without reservation such abuses and has called on the leadership of all armed opposition groups in Syria to state publicly that such acts are prohibited. and do all within their power to ensure that opposition forces put an immediate end to them.

In light of the systematic and widespread human rights abuses, crimes against humanity and possible war crimes documented by Amnesty International (see for example Deadly Reprisals: Deliberate killings and other abuses by Syria’s armed forces, Index MDE 24/041/2012, June 2012, https://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE24/041/2012/en), the organization is continuing to call for the situation in Syria to be referred to the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, as well as an international arms embargo aimed at halting the flow of weapons to the Syrian government, and an assets freeze on President Bashar al-Assad and his close associates. The organization is also calling on states considering supplying weapons to the armed opposition to have in place the necessary mechanisms to ensure the material supplied is not used to commit human rights abuses and/or war crimes.

Name: Mazen Darwish

Gender m/f: m

Further information on UA: 67/12 Index: MDE 24/071/2012 Issue Date: 10 August 2012

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