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Human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouneh and 3 colleagues abducted in Syria

An illustration of human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouneh who was abducted in Syria on 9 December 2013
An illustration of human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouneh who was abducted in Syria on 9 December 2013

Maharat News

The following is a joint public statement signed by 16 NGOs:

Abducted human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouneh and her three colleagues must be released unharmed

11 December 2013

Four Syrian activists abducted in the Damascus suburbs, apparently in relation to their human rights and humanitarian work, must be released immediately and unconditionally, 16 human rights organizations said today (11 December 2013).

Award-winning Syrian human rights defender and writer Razan Zaitouneh, along with her husband, Wa'el Hamada, and two colleagues, Nazem Hamadi and Samira Khalil, were abducted by unknown individuals on 9 December 2013 from a joint office for the Violations Documentation Center (VDC) and the Local Development and Small Projects Support (LDSPS) in the Damascus suburb of Douma, part of Eastern Ghouta, an area under the control of a number of armed opposition groups that is being besieged by government forces.

In a joint statement issued on 10 December 2013, the VDC and the LDSPS attributed the abduction of Razan Zaitouneh to her activities as a founding member of these organizations. The VDC is an independent non-governmental organization that has been mainly documenting human rights abuses committed by the Syrian government in the context of the conflict. The LDSPS provides humanitarian assistance, particularly to medical centres in areas like Eastern Ghouta.

Like many other human rights activists perceived by the government to be involved in pro-reform protests, Razan Zaitouneh was forced into hiding in 2011 after receiving threats from the Syrian authorities. In the last few months, she received threats from at least one armed opposition group in the Eastern Ghouta area.

Razan Zaitouneh was recently the recipient of the 2013 International Women of Courage Award. She also has received the Anna Politkovskaya Prize and, in 2011, the European Parliament's Sakhorov Prize for Freedom of Thought. [Click to watch video testimony of Razan Zaitouneh, a Syrian human rights lawyer (FIDH).]

Civil society activists, writers, journalists and lawyers have borne a heavy price during the ongoing conflict in Syria, falling victim to unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and torture and other ill-treatment at the hands of government security forces and, more recently, becoming targets for armed opposition groups that disapprove of their activities. All parties to the conflict should adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law, which prohibits the abduction of civilians, hostage-taking and torture.

Co-signing organizations:

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
PEN International
Reporters Without Borders

Alkarama Foundation
Amnesty International
Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network
Gulf Center for Human Rights
Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries (Hivos)
Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR)
International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) - in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
International Media Support (IMS)
SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom
Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM)
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) - in the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

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