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Syria: Access to Facebook a significant change or mere face saving
While allowing access to Facebook is a positive first step there is still a long way to go to improve the situation of human rights defenders in Syria. The general official climate towards human rights defenders is hostile which fact is reflected in a range of repressive measures including:
* Denial of registration of ngo's and human rights organisations. * Prosecution of human rights defenders on the basis of spurious charges linked to vaguely worded laws. * Travel Bans
Front Line is particularly concerned about the cases of Anwar Al Bunni, Winner of the Front Line Award in 2008 http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/1890
He is currently still in prison though expected to be released in a number of months.
We are also deeply concerned at the imprisonment and deteriorating health of HRD Haitham Al Maleh. It is an indication of the conditions he is being held in that the fact of his being given a bed recently was seen as a concession. He is a very elderly man and in bad health. http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/2593
Muhannad Al Hassani, winner of the Martin Ennals Award is also still in prison and in fact was beaten up in prison in an orchestrated attack shortly after the award was announced. http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/13726
So it is from these cases that a symbolic gesture such as giving access to Facebook is no substitute for removing those more general restrictions which prevent human rights defenders from going about their legitimate work freely and safely.
A more significant and credible concession would the release of all Syrian human rights defenders currently in prison.