20 March 2012
On 15 and 17 March 2012, human rights defenders Mr Rudy Uthman and Mr Salah Shamiyya were arrested. Rudy Uthman is a journalist and human rights activist. Salah Shamiyya is a prominent lawyer and member of the management board of the National Human Rights Organisation and head of its legal office. He has been involved in providing free legal services to victims of human rights violations in the city of Idlb and its suburbs and has produced publications focusing on penal reform and prison conditions in Syria.
On 17 March, Salah Shamiyya was arrested in the city of Idlib while he was observing a peaceful assembly in the city centre. His arrest was reportedly part of a military attack on the city carried out by heavily-armed Syrian security forces. Following his arrest he was taken to an unknown location where he remains held incommunicado.
On 15 March, Rudy Uthman was arrested by members of the Syrian Air Force Intelligence on Al Hamra Street in Damascus as he was taking part in a protest marking the first anniversary of the Syrian uprising. Rudy Uthman has been detained on two previous occasions in April and May 2011. Since his arrest he has been held incommunicado in an unknown location. There are concerns for his physical and psychological integrity while in detention particularly as the Air Force Intelligence and other Syrian security services are known to have been involved in the torture and ill-treatment of detainees in their custody.
Human rights defenders, Mazen Darwish, head of the Damascus based Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) and his colleagues Hani Zitani, Abdel Rahman Hamada, Hussein Gharir, Mansour Al-Omarei, Joan Fersso, Ayham Ghazoul and Bassam Al-Ahmed, were arrested by Air Force Intelligence members on 16 February 2012 during a raid on their Damascus offices and remain in incommunicado detention. It has been reported that they have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment during their interrogation and imprisonment at an Air Force Intelligence detention centre. (See joint statement dated 14 March 2012, http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/17739.) Human rights defender and lawyer Abdulla Al Khalil who was arrested in Al Riqqa on 3 February 2012 also remains held in incommunicado detention. (See Front Line Defenders urgent appeal dated 8 February 2012 http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/17321.)
Front Line Defenders expresses concern about the arrest and ongoing incommunicado detention of human rights defenders Salah Shamiyya and Rudy Uthman, and believes that their arrest and detention are directly related to their legitimate human rights work. Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned for their physical and psychological integrity and security as they remain held in incommunicado detention.
Front Line urges the authorities in Syria to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release Salah Shamiyya, Rudy Uthman, Mazen Darwish, Hani Zitani, Abdel Rahman Hamada, Hussein Gharir, Mansour Al-Omarei, Joan Fersso, Ayham Ghazoul, Bassam Al-Ahmed and Abdulla Al Khalil as it is believed that their arrest and ongoing incommunicado detention are related to their peaceful human rights work;
- Immediately disclose the whereabouts of Salah Shamiyya and Rudy Uthman and allow Salah Shamiyya, Rudy Uthman, Mazen Darwish, Hani Zitani, Abdel Rahman Hamada, Hussein Gharir, Mansour Al-Omarei, Joan Fersso, Ayham Ghazoul, Bassam Al-Ahmed and Abdulla Al Khalil immediate and unfettered access to their families and lawyers;
- Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Salah Shamiyya, Rudy Uthman, Mazen Darwish, Hani Zitani, Abdel Rahman Hamada, Hussein Gharir, Mansour Al-Omarei, Joan Fersso, Ayham Ghazoul, Bassam Al-Ahmed and Abdulla Al Khalil in all circumstances and guarantee that their treatment while in detention adheres to international standards, particularly the Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment adopted by UN General Assembly resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988;
- Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Syria are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.