Syrian Activists Remain Detained Despite Amnesty

July 18, 2014

Scores of civil society activists, human rights defenders, media and humanitarian workers remain in arbitrary detention in Syria more than a month after the government declared a general amnesty, Hivos and 11 other nongovernmental organisations said today. We insist that Syrian officials immediately release all activists arbitrarily held for their legitimate activities and allow independent international monitors inside Syria’s detention facilities to monitor the releases and conditions of confinement.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad decreed an amnesty no. 22, enacted on June 9, 2014, for many of the charges peaceful activists are facing, including “weakening national sentiment” and some offenses under the Anti-Terrorism Law that are being used to muzzle dissent. However, many peaceful activists who should have benefitted from the amnesty remain in detention.

Family members, detainees and lawyers have complained repeatedly about the implementation of the amnesty and its lack of transparency, such as providing information about who would be released.

A lawyer working with political detainees in Damascus who is monitoring the implementation of the amnesty to identify which individuals have been released told the organisations that the confirmed number of releases has not exceeded 1,300 individuals, including regular criminal detainees.

On July 21, the Anti-Terrorism court will resume the trial of Mazen Darwish and four of his colleagues from the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression on accusations of “publicising terrorist acts” – a charge that is included in the legislative decree. Darwish is on trial along with Hussein Gharir, Hani Zaitani, Mansour Omari, and Abdel Rahman Hamada. Omari and Hamada were conditionally released on February 6, 2013 pending trial, but the other three men remain in detention.