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Human rights defenders (HRDs) in Syria face direct targeting and persecution. The authorities resort to arbitrary arrest and detention, malicious prosecution, death threats, travel bans and other forms of harassment and intimidation to punish human rights defenders for monitoring and reporting human rights abuses. A number of HRDs had their homes raided, their families intimidated, and were forced to leave the country or go into hiding. Human rights defenders have remained active under a highly repressive regime, but their situation has deteriorated rapidly since the violent government crackdown against the initially peaceful uprising.
Torture and ill-treatment of detainees are widespread and committed with impunity by the security forces with the aims of obtaining information, coercing “confessions” and punishing and terrorizing those suspected of opposing the government. Some victims feared that they would face reprisals if their identities were disclosed and do not report the abuses suffered. Thousands of people are victims of enforced disappearance and are often held incommunicado at undisclosed detention centres.
Freedom of opinion and expression are guaranteed under Syrian law but in reality there are extensive limitations to these rights, with reports of scores of arrests and detentions of human rights defenders campaigning for human rights and of democracy activists calling for democratic reforms. Online monitoring and censorship of the internet is commonplace, and the government regularly blocks access to internet sites used by human rights defenders. There have also been reports of human rights defenders being detained for their online activity. In a number of cases where HRDs have denounced alleged human rights violations, the authorities have pressed charges of “disseminating false reports”.
Freedom of assembly is virtually non-existent, since those wishing to hold a meeting or demonstration are required to submit a written request to the authorities, outlining the objectives of the gathering and the names of those in charge. There have been numerous reports of human rights defenders being arbitrarily arrested and detained in connection with peaceful demonstrations.
Government forces repeatedly use lethal and other excessive force against peaceful and other protesters. Many people were shot by snipers while participating in mass protests or attending funerals of people killed during these protests.
NGOs face difficulties in registering their associations with the authorities and their everyday running is hampered by the constant threat of closure for “spreading false or exaggerated information”.
Despite several legislative reforms which had improved respect for women’s rights, discrimination against women remained entrenched in Syrian national legislation. Discrimination against women exists in matters related to marriage, divorce, inheritance and other forms of personal status law and in the Penal Code which contains discriminatory provisions. Women HRDs suffer a double layer of discrimination and are targeted for their activism for equality.
17 May 2013
03 April 2013
08 February 2013
11 July 2012
21 June 2012
Syria: Arrest and ongoing incommunicado detention of human rights defenders Mr Salah Shamiyya and Mr Rudy Uthman
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