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Syria: Writers and thousands of other activists killed in the Syrian authorities’ detention centres

Friday 17 August 2018 - 2:43pm

Available in Arabic 

17 August 2018

PEN International remains gravely concerned by the ongoing massive human rights violations in Syrian prisons and detention centres, where political opponents and activists, among them writers, are subjected to enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, torture and inhuman treatment, and summary execution. Writer Abduhadi Kasheet is among those who was killed in custody. Unconfirmed reports of Kasheet’s death were initially received on 12 October 2013, but according to a recent report his name is included in official records of deaths in custody issued recently by the Syrian government. These death notices were delivered by the Syrian government to the relatives of those detainees killed in custody.

Syria has one of the highest death tolls for detainees in the world. Since the beginning of the Syrian uprising in March 2011, thousands of Syrians have been arrested by the Syrian government, subjected to enforced disappearance and death in the various government detention centres due to hanging, torture, inhuman treatment including the lack of medications, starvation and overcrowding in detention.

“The international community has failed to put an end to the massive human rights violations in Syria including crimes against humanity and war crimes. All necessary measures should be taken in order to release all those held in detention for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and association as well as to end the policy of torture, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings. The truth about the circumstances of death and the fate of the disappeared persons should be disclosed, the bodies of those killed in custody should be returned to their families, and those responsible for these atrocities should be held accountable.” – said Marjan Strojan, President of the Writers For Peace Committee of PEN International.

In its action on the occasion of the Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, PEN International expressed its deep concern at the enforced disappearance of many writers who are among the hundreds of thousands of Syrians to have been subjected to enforced disappearance or death at the hands of the security services since March 2011. These writers include lawyer Khalil Ma’touq (arrested on 2 October 2012), Abd al-Akram al-Sakka, an Islamic scholar and writer (arrested on 15 July 2011), Zaki Cordillo, playwright and leading figure of the Puppet Theatre (arrested on 13 August 2012), Hussein Essou, a Kurdish-Syrian writer (arrested on 3 September 2011), Adnan Zarra’ai, a playwright and script-writer (arrested on 26 February 2012), Ali al-Shihabi, a Syrian-Palestinian political analyst and blogger (arrested on 17 December 2012). The family of Bassel Khartabil, a Syrian-Palestinian software engineer and free speech activist, confirmed in August 2017 that he had been subjected to an extrajudicial execution in October 2015.

The Syrian authorities have an obligation to protect and ensure the right to freedom of expression et prevent torture and inhuman treatement, in accordance with the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention Against Torture to which it is a state party. Freedom of expression is the essential cornerstone to the dialogue necessary to secure accountability, justice and peace.

Click here to watch a video about enforced disappearances in Syria – available also in Arabic

For further information, please contact Cathy McCann at PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK, Tel.: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Email: