Posts Tagged ‘Mazen Darwish’

Profile of Yara Bader, Syrian human rights defender, and her NGO

January 18, 2016

In an article she wrote in Arabic for Global Voices on 15 March 2015, Yara Bader said: “Three years ago, in Damascus, we were surrounded by those whom we knew and loved. Today, so many of them are detained, lost, kidnapped, or fighting for their lives and for the chance to remain on faraway beaches around the world. Alone, all of us, with tired souls but with white hearts.” Read the rest of this entry »

Syria: Mazen Darwish free after 3 years, but still to be acquitted

August 12, 2015

Yesterday I reported on Human Rights Watch honoring Yara Bader as the representative of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression. Now I am catching up on the release of her husband and the founder of the Centre, Mazen Darwish, after more than three years in jail.  A verdict in his case is expected later this month. Darwish was arrested, along with two colleagues, in February 2012 during a raid. Hussein Ghreir and Hani al-Zaitani were freed last month (17 July and 18 July 2015, respectively) as part of an amnesty that was to have included Darwish, but his release was delayed.

Many NGOs (i.a. Frontline, the Observatory, AI and HRW) and Governments have welcomed the release but warn that Mazen Darwish, and his colleagues Hussein Ghrer and Hani al-Zaitani, have been charged with “publicising terrorist acts” and are still to be tried before the Syrian Anti-Terrorism Court. They invariably call for all charges against them to be dropped. “Mazen, Hussein and Hani are not terrorists, they are human rights defenders,” FIDH President Karim Lahidji said “All charges against them must be dropped immediately”. “We urge the Syrian Anti-Terrorism Court to acquit them during the verdict hearing on August 31, as their judicial harassment has only been aimed at sanctioning their human rights activities”, OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock concluded.

See also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/syrian-journalist-mazen-darwish-deserved-winner-of-unescoguillermo-cano-award/

[On May 15, 2013, in its Resolution 67/262, the UN General Assembly called for the release of the three defenders. In January 2014, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also found that the three defenders had been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty due to their human rights activities and called for their immediate release. Finally, UN Security Council Resolution 2139, adopted on February 22, 2014, also demanded the release of all arbitrarily detained people in Syria.]

Syria: Finally free, Mazen Darwish must now be acquitted.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/mazendarwish

http://tvnewsroom.org/newslines/world/syria-releases-award-winning-activist-mazen-darwish-79643/

4 Human Rights Defenders receiving the Alison des Forges Award 2015

August 11, 2015

2015 Alison Des Forges Award Honorees

2015 Alison Des Forges Award Honorees. Top: Khadija Ismayilova (Azerbaijan), Yara Bader (Syria), Father Bernard Kinvi (CAR – 2014 winner). Bottom: Nicholas Opiyo (Uganda), Nisha Ayub (Malaysia), Dr. M.R. Rajagopal (India – 2014 winner). © Jahangir Yusif, Francesca Leonardi (Internazionale), 2014 Human Rights Watch, 2015 Rebecca Vassie, 2015 Nisha Ayub, Paramount Color Lab, Ulloor, Trivandrum

Human Rights Watch just announced that its Alison Des Forges Award winners 2015 come from Uganda, Syria, Malaysia and Azerbaijan:

Nisha Ayub, Malaysia
For over a decade, Nisha Ayub has championed the rights of transgender people in Malaysia through support services, legal and policy analysis, and public outreach. Human Rights Watch honors Nisha Ayub for challenging the discriminatory laws that prevent transgender people in Malaysia from living free of violence, fear, and oppression.

Yara Bader, Syria
Yara Bader, a journalist and human rights activist, works to expose the detention and torture of activists – including her husband, Mazen Darwish recently released – in war-torn Syria. She has experienced first-hand how the Syrian government uses its security and intelligence agencies to brutally crack down on independent voices. Human Rights Watch honors Yara Bader for her tremendous courage in speaking out on behalf of Syrian detainees despite grave risks to her safety.

Khadija Ismayilova, Azerbaijan 
Khadija Ismayilova, a prominent investigative journalist in Azerbaijan, has dedicated her life to the fight against corruption, for human rights, and for freedom for political prisoners in a country under increasingly harsh authoritarian rule. Human Rights Watch honors Khadija Ismayilova for her extraordinary courage as a journalist and human rights activist in the face of an escalating crackdown on freedom of expression in Azerbaijan. She is currently behind bars. see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/khadija-ismayilova-azerbaijan-is-not-deterred/

Nicholas Opiyo, Uganda
Nicholas Opiyo is a leading human rights lawyer and founder of Chapter Four Uganda, a human rights organization. He has successfully argued several high-level constitutional challenges, including to the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2013, which was declared null and void in August 2014. Human Rights Watch honors Nicholas Opiyo for his unfaltering dedication to upholding the human rights of all Ugandans by promoting universal access to justice.

 

The award is named for Dr. Alison Des Forges, senior adviser at Human Rights Watch for almost two decades, who died in a plane crash in New York State on February 12, 2009. For more on the award, see: http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/alison-des-forges-award-extraordinary-activism. See also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/events-in-memory-of-alison-des-forges-at-buffalo-university/

The four 2015 honorees will be honored at the Voices for Justice Human Rights Watch Annual Dinners held in more than 20 cities worldwide in November 2015 and March-April 2016. Also two 2014 recipients of the award, Father Bernard Kinvi from the Central African Republic and Dr. M.R. Rajagopal from India will included in this series of events:

 

Father Bernard Kinvi, Central African Republic
Father Bernard Kinvi is a Catholic priest who directs the hospital at the Catholic mission in Bossemptele, Central African Republic. In early 2014, when sectarian violence devolved into coordinated violence targeting Muslim civilians, Kinvi saved the lives of hundreds of besieged Muslims, whom he gathered from their homes and sheltered in the Catholic church. Despite repeated death threats, Kinvi persisted in protecting those in his charge until they could be taken to safety. Human Rights Watch honors Father Bernard Kinvi for his unwavering courage and dedication to protecting civilians in the Central African Republic.

Dr. M. R. Rajagopal, India
Dr. M. R. Rajagopal is a leading palliative care physician from India who, for more than 20 years, has battled conditions that cause patients to suffer severe pain unnecessarily. As clinician, academic, and activist, Rajagopal is a global force behind efforts to promote and put into practice palliative care as a human right. He built the world’s most successful community-based palliative care program, and he and his organization, Pallium India, played a key role in convincing India’s government to make morphine accessible. Human Rights Watch honors Dr. M. R. Rajagopal for his efforts to defend the right of patients with severe pain to live and die with dignity.

Rights Activists Honored | Human Rights Watch.

New and updated information on Reprisals in the Arab World

May 20, 2015

On 14 May 2015, the Geneva-based NGO Alkarama provided the United Nations Secretary General with a report on the state of reprisals in the Arab world especially in Oman, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This topic – as argued in this blog many times [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/reprisals/] – is one of the most urgent facing the human rights movement. If  human rights defenders suffer from harassment and intimidation for their cooperation with the UN, it would completely undermine the work of UN experts, Special Rapporteurs, Treaty bodies and the UPR. The UN Human Rights Council has adopted several resolutions (e.g. Resolution 24/24) calling upon States to enact laws and policies to protect HRDs at the national level, to prohibit all forms of intimidation or reprisal against HRDs, and to appoint a UN focal point to whom people who have suffered from retaliation for their cooperation with the UN could turn to.

In its new report Alkarama raises cases of reprisals in:

Oman, where the retaliation against human rights defenders has become systematic. Said Jadad, a prominent activist and advocate for democracy in his country was arrested in December 2014, three months after meeting with the Special Rapporteur on the rights and freedom of peaceful assembly and association during his visit to the country in September 2014. After 12 days in secret detention, during which he was questioned about his “ties with international NGOs working for the protection of human rights”, Jadad was set free only to be arrested again on 21 January 2015. On 8 March 2015, he was sentenced to three years of imprisonment for “harming the State’s prestige”. In August 2014, Omani journalist and human rights activist Mohammad al Fazari was summoned by the Royal Police, for “reasons that concern him personally”. He was subsequently detained in secret for five days, before the authorities confiscated his identity documents and imposed a travel ban in December.

Syria, where two human rights defenders, Jadia Abdallah Nawfal, Director of the Syrian Centre for Democracy and Civil Rights, and Omar Al Shaar, Editor-in-chief of the Day Press News’ English section, were arrested on 31 October upon their return from Beirut where they attended human rights conferences and workshops. After numerous UN Special Procedures holders intervened with the Syrian authorities on their behalf in November, they were both set free on 18 December 2014. [Also in Syria, Alkarama informed Ban Ki-moon of the 23rd postponement of the hearing of Mazen Darwish, President of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression and his colleagues, Hussayn Gharir and Hani Zitani before the Anti-Terrorism Court, despite the call from both the UNSG and  UN Special Procedures for their release. What is more, on 9 June 2014, a presidential amnesty was issued pardoning all individuals charged with “promoting terrorist acts,” but Mazen Darwish and his colleagues were excluded from the pardon, as highlighted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in February. Finally, Alkarama reported the continuous secret detention of Khalil Matouk, a human rights lawyer – who defended, amongst others, Mazen Darwish and his colleagues – and Director of the Syrian Centre for Legal Studies and Research, whose case was raised by the UNSG in 2014. Arrested in October 2012, he has been, since March 2013, detained incommunicado at an Air Force Intelligence Branch, despite a UN call for his release.]

Egypt, where the case of Alkarama’s Country Representative Ahmed Mefreh, which was raised by the UNSG in his 2014 report, saw new developments. In September 2013, an arrest warrant was issued accusing him of “being a member of an armed organisation,” as a reprisal for his work as a human rights defender documenting then the killing of 985 peaceful demonstrators in Rabaa Adawiya and Nahda squares in Cairo. Today, Mefreh is being prosecuted in absentia with 49 other people on trumped-up charges including: “joining an illegal group aiming at impeding the enforcement of the Constitution and the law; disrupting institutions; hampering personal rights guaranteed by the Constitution; damaging national unity and social peace while pursuing terrorist goals to overthrow the authorities; assaulting police forces and public facilities; and disrupting the public order.”

Saudi Arabia, where the authorities continue to crackdown on human rights activists. Alkarama updated Ban Ki-moon on the cases of Fawzan Al Harbi, Abdullah Al Hamid and Mohammad Fahad Al Qahtani, all founding members of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Associations (ACPRA). ACPRA, an NGO founded in 2009 to document cases of human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, suffered from reprisals by the authorities for having provided the UN with information, often via Alkarama. On 19 November 2014, after having been accused of “spreading false information about the Saudi government,” Fawzan Al Harbi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and subjected to a 10-year travel ban. Abdullah Al Hamid and Mohammad Al Qahtani, who were sentenced in March 2013 respectively to 10 and 11 years of imprisonment by the Criminal Court of Riyadh for having provided “false information as evidence to official international apparatuses such as the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council,” continue to be detained despite a call from several UN Special Procedures for their release.  Fadhel Al Manasif, a Saudi human rights defender was sentenced by the Specialized Criminal Court to 15 years plus a travel ban of the same length after his prior sentence, and a fine of US$ 26,666 for charges that included “breaking allegiance with the king” and “being in contact with foreign news agencies in order to exaggerate news and harm the reputation of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its people”.

It is important to recall that, because not all victims are able to advocate their own case, or because they fear further reprisals, we should never forget that these cases are only the tip of the iceberg, as Ban Ki-moon highlighted in his last reprisals report,” says Inès Osman, Legal Coordinator at Alkarama. “The international community needs to stand by these women and men and fight against impunity for these unacceptable acts of reprisals. These individuals do not only ‘cooperate with the UN,’ they embody the fight for a world in which all people can demand their rights without fear.” T

For more information or an interview, please contact the media team at media@alkarama.org

FOCUS: Reprisals Continue in the Arab World as Civil Society Space Shrinks – Alkarama Foundation.

Syrian journalist Mazen Darwish deserved winner of UNESCO/Guillermo Cano award

April 8, 2015

 The winner of the 2015 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize is the Syrian journalist and human rights defender, Mazen Darwish, currently imprisoned. The Prize will be awarded during the celebration of World Press Freedom Day, 3 May, which will this year be hosted by Latvia (National Library, Riga, 6 p.m.).

An independent International Jury of media professionals recommended Mazen Darwish in recognition of the work that he has carried out in Syria for more than ten years at great personal sacrifice, enduring a travel ban, harassment, as well as repeated detention and torture. Darwish, a lawyer and press freedom advocate, is the president of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (CMFE), founded in 2004, and one of the founders of the Voice newspaper and syriaview.net, an independent news site, which has been banned by the Syrian authorities. In 2011, Darwish established Media Club, the first Syrian magazine about media affairs.

He has been detained since February 2012, when he was arrested with colleagues Hani Al-Zitani and Hussein Ghareer. Mazen won earlier awards from Roland Berger (2011), Reporters without Borders (2012) and Bruno Kreisky (2013).

The $25,000 Prize is named in honour of Guillermo Cano Isaza, a Colombian journalist who was assassinated in front of the offices of his newspaper, El Espectador, in Bogotá, on 17 December 1986. It is funded by the Cano Foundation (Colombia) and the Helsingin Sanomat Foundation (Finland).

Syrian journalist Mazen Darwish winner of UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize | United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.