Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Exasperated Media and Rights Organisations Appeal to Syrian Abductors



Bourgeoning violence in Syria saw two appeals with multiple signatories being addressed to the warring groups in that country. One letter asks the leadership of the armed opposition in Syria to desist from kidnapping journalists, while the other addressed to the abductors of four well-known human rights activists working near Damascus, demands their release.



Sixteen human rights organisations have asked that four human rights defenders – award-winning Razan Zaitouneh, her husband, Wa’el Hamada and colleagues Nazem Hamadi and Samira Khalil – be released “immediately and unconditionally,” said the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF).

They were kidnapped on December 9, from the joint offices of Violations Documentation Centre (VDC) and Local Development and Small Projects Support (LDSPS).

RSF says they were abducted in “Douma, part of Eastern Ghouta, an area under the control of a number of armed opposition groups that is being besieged by government forces.”

Zaitouneh received the International Woman of Courage Award in 2013 among other prizes for her outstanding work as a human rights defender and writer.

“All parties to the conflict should adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law, which prohibits the abduction of civilians, hostage-taking and torture,” says the RSF release.

Similar concerns – security of their staffs covering the war in Syria – have prompted 13 news media organisations to also write to the abductors of journalists: the leadership of the armed opposition in Syria. The letter addresses kidnapping of journalists and asks the abductors that they give an assurance that journalists could work in the future without fear of kidnapping and that the armed leadership assists in identifying those groups holding journalists hostage and in securing their release.

“We understand that as in any war zone, reporters face great risk of injury and death and accept those risks, but the risk of kidnapping is unacceptable, and the leadership is in a position to reduce and eliminate that risk,” concludes the letter.

“This unprecedented step comes in response to an unprecedented danger, with approximately 30 journalists currently missing in Syria. Even the Iraq War, the deadliest conflict for journalists since CPJ’s founding, did not reach such chilling numbers. And yet the numbers continue to grow, with at least seven abductions in the past two months,” writes Jason Stern, researcher for the Middle East and North Africa for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

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