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Trial of Mazen Darwish, Hussein Gharir and Hani Zitani

Syrian authorities postpone hearing for the 24th time since the arrest of the human rights activists over three years ago
Trial of Mazen Darwish, Hussein Gharir and Hani Zitani

Terrorism Court judge Rida Mousa has postponed the verdict of the case against Mazen Darwish, Hani Zitani and Hussein Gharir of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression without specifying a date for the next session. The three detainees have not yet appeared in court and remain subjected to enforced disappearance since they were transferred to an unknown location by Syrian authorities on May 6, 2015. The reasons behind the move was not made clear.

This is the 24th postponement in the trial of each of the three defendants. It is also the 11th postponement since being issued presidential amnesty in June 2014, which included the charge of "promoting terrorist acts" under which the members of the Center are charged. The amnesty includes the entire duration of the penalty.

Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression asks the Assad regime to cease deferring the verdict, calling for the release of the detainees immediately and without delay.

There is great fear regarding the safety of the three detainees, who were transferred from Adra prison to an unknown destination on May 6. There is still no available information on their current whereabouts.

The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression holds the Syrian authorities accountable for the lives and safety of Darwish and his colleagues, calling for the immediate disclosure of their fate. The Center also calls for their immediate and unconditional release, in accordance with the presidential decree and international resolutions.

The trial of Darwish, winner of the 2015 UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize, and his colleagues in the Center, contradicts the Bill of Human Rights, where Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him". Furthermore, the court in charge of the defendants’ case lacks all the conditions set by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1963), which states in Article 14, paragraph 1 that the conditions for a fair trial are: fairness, impartiality, independence and legitimacy.

Over two years and five months have passed since Darwish, Gharir and Zitani were charged on November 14, 2013, and more than three years have passed since their arrest. Their case has been postponed for unwarranted reasons, and usually without the allocation of a later hearing date. After three years of appeals from international human rights organizations, the Center calls on the Syrian government to fulfill its obligations to the resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly (Resolution 67/262, issued on 15 May 2013 and Resolution No. 2139 adopted by the Security Council on 22 February 2014). These UN resolutions call for the Syrian government to release Darwish and his colleagues immediately and unconditionally. The Syrian authorities continue to ignore these pleas.

Translated and edited by The Syrian Observer

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