The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) is gravely concerned about the continued illegal arrest and detention of at least 8 human rights defenders from the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM). On Thursday February 16 afternoon, Syrian authorities raided the office of the SCM in central Damascus and arrested at least 14 activists among whom are Mazen Darwish, the President of SCM and award winning journalist, Razan Ghazzawi, prominent Syrian-American blogger and iconic figure of the Syrian revolution, and another 12 journalists and activists present at the SCM.
CIHRS holds the Syrian authorities responsible for the safety and well being of the activists, considers them prisoners of conscious, and calls for their immediate release.
The crackdown comes as the UN Security Council continues to fail to come up with a resolution to protect civilians in Syria. Over 7,000 are believed to be killed in Syria since the revolution started in March 2011, in addition to several thousands in arbitrary or held incommunicado detention, most of which are believed to be subjected to torture. Cities in Syria continue to be subjected to ongoing shellings and complete military siege.
CIHRS learnt on Friday that all activists are held at the Air Force Intelligence detention facility, where systematic and severe torture is reportedly used against detainees. CIHRS fears for the physical safety of all activists currently in detention as there is an imminent risk that they be subjected to severe torture and degrading treatment or even extrajudicial killings.
Yara Badr (Darwish’s wife), Hussein Ghereir, Hany Zitani, Sanaa Zitani, Rita Deyoub, Juan Farso, Bassam AlAhmad, Hanadi Zaghlout, Mayada Khalil, Abdelrahman Hamada, Mansour Hamid, and Maha al Sablati are among those arrested. Al Sablati was released on the same day, while the rest of the female detainees were conditionally released two days later with rising fears for their safety and well being.
At least four of the activists were arrested in different occasions during the last year. Darwish, Zaghlout, Greir and Gazzawi, were previously arrested in March, August, October, and December respectively following the beginning of the revolution in Syria.
The SCM is among the few human rights organizations operating inside Syria and working on documenting ongoing violations against journalists. The Center is registered in France since 2004 and enjoys a consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council since 2011.
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