As the world watches the humanitarian tragedy unfold in Syria, another crisis is taking place behind closed doors.
Civil society activists (including human rights defenders and political activists), media workers (including citizen journalists) and medical and humanitarian workers are being specifically targeted by government forces and pro-government militias and increasingly by non-state armed groups.
Many have been arrested and detained arbitrarily, tortured or otherwise ill-treated, or subjected to enforced disappearances and abductions as a result of their peaceful activism or their work, which has in some cases simply involved caring for others. They have been denied the basic human rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.
All parties to the Syrian conflict have the obligation to comply with international humanitarian law (the laws of war). The Syrian authorities and non-state armed groups should release all those detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association or solely for treating the sick and wounded or providing humanitarian assistance.
Impunity for these violations needs to end and those reasonably suspected of being responsible should be brought to justice in fair trials and without recourse to the death penalty.
Today, a number of prominent human rights organizations have come together to campaign for these civil society activists, media and medical workers, some of who represent a critical part of Syria’s civil society.
Free Syria’s Silenced Voices sheds light on their plight and calls for their release.