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Syria: Razan Zaitouneh spends another birthday in captivity with her colleagues

29-April-2017

On 29 April 2017, on the occasion of Syrian human rights defender Razan Zaitouneh’s birthday, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights reiterates calls for her immediate release. She is spending it in captivity for the fourth time since her abduction in 2013, along with her three colleagues, her husband Wael Hamada, Samira Khalil and Nazem Hamadi.

On 9 December 2013, the four human rights defenders – collectively known as the “Douma Four” - were abducted by a group of armed men who raided the offices of the Violations Documentation Centre (VDC) in Douma, near Damascus. There has been no news of their whereabouts in the past three and a half years but they are presumed to be held by armed groups in control of the area. The family is concerned for Zaitouneh’s health and well-being given the absence of any information.

Zaitouneh has been one of the most prominent lawyers and human rights activists defending political prisoners in Syria since 2001. She has played a key role in efforts to defend human rights for all people and protect independent groups and Syrian activists. Along with a number of other activists, Zaitouneh established the Violations Documentation Center (VDC) in Syria, and co-founded in April 2011 the Local Coordination Committees (LCCs), which co-ordinate the work of local committees in various cities and towns across Syria.

Zaitouneh was one of three finalists for the 2016 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, and was awarded the 2011 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and the 2011 Anna Politkovskaya Award of Reach All Women in War (RAW in WAR) among other accolades, for her human rights work.

On 9 December 2016, on the third anniversary of the disappearance of Zaitouneh and her colleagues, 56 human rights organisations called for their immediate release. For further information see http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1442

On 29 April 2016, on the occasion of Zaitouneh’s birthday last year, 31 human rights organisations called for the immediate release of Zaitouneh and her colleagues. For further information see http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1247

Despite these calls, there has been no news of her whereabouts nor that of her colleagues since their abduction.

In February 2016, a coalition of NGOs nominated Zaitouneh as the prisoner of the month as part of the “Their freedom is their right” campaign initiated by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) and Maharat Foundation.
See http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1178

Khalid Ibrahim, GCHR Executive Director, says, “Razan has now been disappeared for over three years, despite numerous calls for her release and that of her colleagues. As head of the VDC, she documented and reported on human rights violations in Syria. The ongoing disappearance of Razan and her colleagues demonstrates the grave risks that Syrian human rights defenders face and is part of a systematic pattern of harassment against human rights defenders carrying out their legitimate peaceful activities in defence of human rights.”

Thousands of people have been detained or disappeared since the beginning of the conflict in Syria in 2011. Many of them are peaceful activists, human rights defenders and journalists.

GCHR reiterates calls for the immediate release of Razan Zaitouneh, Wael Hamada, Samira Khalil and Nazem Hamadi.

What you can do?
1. Write to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders to the United Nations: urgent-action@ohchr.org.
2. Publish a picture of Razan Zaitouneh and information about her on your Facebook and/or Twitter account using the hashtag: #HappyBirthdayRazan
#FreeRazan #Douma4.
3. Send to your local newspapers in your country and your city information about Razan Zaitouneh demanding disclosure of her whereabouts, and call for her abductors to release her and her colleagues.