PEN International is seriously concerned that prominent journalist and freedom of expression activist Mazen Darwich is at risk of being brought before a secret military tribunal. Hearings before such a court are held in secret and even the defendant’s lawyers are prohibited from attending. PEN considers Mazen Darwich to be targeted solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Syria is a signatory, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

Background Information

On August 6, 2012, a letter was reportedly sent to the Military Court in Damascus from the Air Force Intelligence service stating that Mazen Darwich is soon to be transferred to a military tribunal.

According to PEN’s information, the Air Force Intelligence service arrested Darwich, a leading member of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) on February 16, 2012, and since then he has been held incommunicado and his whereabouts are still unknown. Other detained SCM members are Hussein Greir, Mansour Hamid Al-Omary,  Hani Z’itani  and Abdelrahman Hamadah. Details of their current status remain unclear but they are thought to be under heavy restriction. It is reported that all detainees have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment while in detention.

Mazin Darwich and 13 of his colleagues were arrested when security forces raided the offices of the Damascus-based SCM, of which he is the director. Those arrested with him are journalist and blogger Yara Badr (f), bloggers Razan Ghazzawi (f), Hanadi Zahlout (f), Sana Z’itani (f), Rita Dayoub (f), Mayada Al-Khalil (f), Hussein Greir, Hani Z’itani, Joan Farso, Bassam Al-Ahmad, Mansour Hamid and Abdelrahman Hamadah.  All but Darwich, Greir, Al-Omary, Z’itani and Hamadah were freed to face trial. The civilian court in Damascus trying their case demanded the presence of Darwich as a witness. The court sessions were held on May 29, 2012, June 25, 2012, and August 6, 2012. The August 6, 2012 letter sent to the Air Force Intelligence was the first news of Darwich since his arrest and advised that he would soon be transferred to a military tribunal, and noted that the SCM was practicing without a license. The judge presiding over the other cases has reportedly decided to suspend Darwich as a witness until the next session, which will be held on August 29, 2012.

For more information on recent events in Syria, read this PEN International statement.

Write A Letter

  • Expressing grave concern for the well-being and whereabouts of journalist and activist Mazen Darwich, as well as bloggers Hussein Greir, Mansour Hamid Al- Omary, Hani Z’itani and Abdelrahman Hamadah;
  • Calling on authorities to drop the charges against all of SMC’s members, including Yara Badr, bloggers Razan Ghazzawi, Hanadi Zahlout, Sana Z’itani, Rita Dayoub, Mayada Al-Khalil, Joan Farso, and Bassam Al-Ahmad;
  • Expressing concern for the safety of the detainees and seeking assurances that they are not being tortured or ill-treated in detention in violation of Article 5 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);
  • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Mazen Darwich and all those currently detained in violation of Article 19 the ICCPR, to which Syria is a state party.

Send Your Letter To

Given the present crisis in Syria, we suggest that letters are sent to the Syrian embassies in your country where they exist.