Worrying developments in the situation of SCM director Mazen Darwish

August 13, 2012

We have received following statement of our partner, the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), about their director Mazen Darwish , who will be transferred to a secret military tribunal.

“On August 6, 2012, the Air Force Intelligence (AFI) sent a letter to the Military Justice in Damascus, informing them that the SCM was conducting its activities without any license and that they were preparing for Mazen Darwish to be transferred to the Field Court, a secret military tribunal which does not allow anybody to attend it, not even the detainee’s lawyers.

Previously, the fourth military judge in Damascus had requested the AFI to provide information to the court about the SCM’s license and Mazen Darwish’s whereabouts, in view of his appearance as a general witness in another case involving eight other people arrested at the SCM on February 16, 2012. However, their trial had been postponed on several occasions, most recently to August 6, 2012, because the AFI had failed to answer the requests of the military judge. Following the above-mentioned letter he received from the AFI, the judge then decided to suspend Mazen Darwish as a witness in that trial until the next defense session, which was scheduled to August 29, 2012. In other terms, Mazen Darwish’s fate is now left at the discretion of the Field Court.

This was not the first time that the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) to face a raid and closure by the Syrian authorities. Also, Mazen Darwish, the journalist and human rights defender, had been arrested several times before his last arrest on 16 February 2012. Mr. Darwish is banned from traveling outside Syria since 2007. However, it is the first time that the escalation of oppressive practices of the brutality against Mr. Darwish and SCM’s staff, as well as about his ongoing detention, together with four of his colleagues, blogger Mr. Hussein Ghrer, and Messrs. Abdelrahman Hamada, Mansour Al Omari and Hani Zetani.

SCM expresses its deepest concern about Mr. Mazen Darwish’s upcoming transfer to a secret Field Court military tribunal, with nobody allowed to attend it, which amounts to a trial staged in violation of the most basic international standards related to fair trial and due process.

The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression calls on the Syrian authorities to immediately and unconditionally put an end to the judicial harassment against Mr. Darwish, as well as against his four colleagues, as it seems to merely aim at disrupting and sanctioning their human rights activities, and to release them immediately and unconditionally. And we stress on the fact that the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of expression is a non-profit organization, non-governmental organization in Syrian, and the only Syrian NGO that gained the consultative status at the United Nations in July of 2010.

We appeal to all media organizations, human rights, humanitarian intervention for the immediate and urgent support in order to ensure the safety of Mazen Darwish’s life, who worked in Syria and throughout the years of commitment to the full and unconditional for the free and independent press. It would not be prejudice to the life or safety of Mazen Darwish only, but, also our four colleagues who are still ongoing detention, together with Mazen Darwish.

We are the workers of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) are commitment to the principle: the free word is a right, and defending it is a duty.”