With the Geneva 2 Peace talks on Syria planned for 22 January 2014, the international community must not forget Syrian prisoners of conscience.
Hivos, together with forty-two human rights organisations, is therefore making an urgent appeal to all parties involved to release all Syrian prisoners of conscience and those arbitrarily detained, including Hivos partner Mazen Darwish and four of his colleagues from the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM).
The five activists were arrested on 16 February 2012 during a raid of the SCM premises. Since then, some of them have been kept mostly in solitary detention, denied access to their relatives and lawyers, and subjected to torture and ill-treatment. Mazen Darwish and his SCM colleagues have always peacefully promoted human rights and freedoms, especially freedom of expression, but they are charged with ‘promoting terrorism acts’ under article 149 of the Syrian Penal Code and article 8 of the Counter Terrorism Law of 2012.
For more than 2 and a half years, the Syrian government has been carrying out large-scale campaigns of arbitrary arrests and has jailed tens of thousands of civilians including peaceful protestors, civil society and political activists, aid workers and journalists, physicians and lawyers. All this without sparing women, children, elderly people or those with disabilities and serious medical conditions.
Corroborative reports issued by Syrian human rights groups, such as the Violation Documentation Center in Syria, indicate that thousands of detainees have died inside governmental detention centres, where detention conditions fall far short of the minimum international humanitarian standards.
At a time of renewed attempts for a political compromise that would end violence in Syria, the undersigned organisations (see Joint Statement in documents box, right sidebar) urge all parties involved directly and indirectly in the conflict in Syria to grant absolute priority to the release of all persons arbitrarily detained.