VDC: Human rights organizations mark birthday of Razan Zaitouneh with renewed call for release of ‘Duma Four’

Violations Documentation Center in Syria – VDC


Syria: Human rights organizations mark birthday of Razan Zaitouneh with renewed call for release of ‘Duma Four’

(Geneva, 28 April 2015) – To mark the 38th birthday (on April 29) of missing human rights defender and lawyer Razan Zaitouneh, head of the Violations Documentation Centre in Syria (VDC), winner of the 2011 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and the 2011 Anna Politkovskaya Award of RAW in WAR (Reach All Women In War), the undersigned human rights organizations today reiterate their call for her immediate release, as well as that of her missing colleagues Samira KhalilNazem Hamadi and Wa’el Hamada.

On December 9, 2013, the four human rights defenders, collectively known as the “Duma Four”, were abducted during a raid by a group of armed men on the offices of the VDC in Duma, near Damascus. There has been no news of their whereabouts or health since.

The VDC is active in monitoring and reporting on human rights violations in Syria and the undersigned organizations believe that the abduction of the four activists was a direct result of their peaceful human rights work. Their ongoing detention forms part of a wider pattern of threats and harassment by both government forces and non-state actors seeking to prevent human rights defenders exposing abuses.

In the months prior to her abduction Razan Zaitouneh wrote about threats she had been receiving and informed human rights activists outside Syria that they originated from local armed groups in Duma.The most powerful armed group operating in Duma at the time of the abductions is the Army of Islam headed by Zahran Alloush. In April 2014, Razan Zaitouneh’s family issued a statement saying they held Zahran Alloush responsible for her and her colleagues’ wellbeing given the large presence his group maintained in the area.

The undersigned organizations, as well as other activists, have been calling for the release of the “Duma Four” since their abductions. Today they again urge the Army of Islam and other armed groups operating in the area to take immediate steps to release the abducted VDC staff, or investigate their abduction and work for their release. They further urge governments that support these groups, as well as religious leaders and others who may have influence over them, to press for such action, in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2139, which “strongly condemns” the abduction of civilians and demands and immediate end to this practice.

Razan Zaitouneh has been one of the key lawyers defending political prisoners in Syria since 2001. She has played a key role in efforts to defend the universality of human rights and support independent groups and activists in Syria. Along with a number of other activists, she established the VDC and co-founded the Local Coordination Committees (LCCs), which co-ordinate the work of local committees in various cities and towns across Syria. She also established the Local Development and Small Projects Support Office, which assists non-governmental organizations in besieged Eastern Ghouta.

Samira Khalil has been a long-time political activist in Syria and had been detained on several occasions by the Syrian authorities as a result of her peaceful activism. Before her abduction, she was working to help women in Duma support themselves by initiating small income-generating projects. Wa’el Hamada, an active member of the VDC and co-founder of the LCC network had also been detained by the Syrian authorities. Before his abduction he was working, together with Nazim Hamadi, to provide humanitarian assistance to the residents of besieged Eastern Ghouta.



1- Alkarama Foundation (in Geneva)

2- Amman Center for Human Rights Studies

3- Amnesty International

4- Arab Foundation for Development and Citizenship

5- Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)

6-  Arab Organization for Human Rights in Syria

7-  Badael Foundation

8- Bahrain Centre for Human Right

9-  Defending  Prisoners of Conscience in Syria Organization

10-  Cairo Center for Development (CCD)

11-  Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHR)

12-  Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)

13-  Centre for Democracy and Civil Rights in Syria

14-  Committees for the Defending  Democratic Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria

15-  El-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence

16-  Enmaa Center for Democracy and Human Rights

17-  Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN)

18-  Fraternity Center for Democracy and Civil Society

19-  Front Line Defenders (FLDs)

20-  Freedom House

21-  Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR)

22-  Human Rights First Society , Saudi Arabia

23-  Human Rights Organization in Syria – MAF

24-  Human Rights Watch (HRW)

25-  Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries (HIVOS)

26-  Hand in Hand Organization , Syria

27-  Monitor for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

28-  Index on Censorship

29-  International Media Support (IMS)

30-  International Centre for Supporting Rights and Freedoms

31-  International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)

32-  International Service For Human Rights (ISHR)

33-  Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR)

34-  International  Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

35-  Iraqi Women Network

36-  Iraqi Journalists Rights Defense  Association(IJRDA)

37-  Iraqi Network  for Social Media (INSM)

38-  Kurdish Committee for Human Rights in Syria (observer)

39-  Kurdish Organization for Human Rights in Syria (DAD)

40-  Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation

41-  Lawyers for Lawyers

42-  Lulua Center for Human Rights

43-  Madad NGOs

44-  Maharat Foundation

45-  MENA Media Monitoring group

46-  Metro Centre to Defend Journalists in Iraqi Kurdistan

47-  National Organization for Human Rights in Syria

48-  Nazra for Feminist Studies

49-  No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ)

50-  One World Foundation (OWF)

51-  Omani Observatory for Human Rights

52-   World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

53-  Pax for Peace – Netherland

54-  Pen International

55-  Reach All Women in War (RAW)

56-  Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

57-  Sawt Al Niswa

58-  Sentiel Human Rights Defenders

59-  Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights (SAF)

60-  Syrian American Council (SAC)

61-  Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression  (SCM)

62-  Syrian Center for Legal Researches & Studies

63-  Syrian Journalists Association

64-  Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR)

65-  Syrian League for Citizenship

66-  The Regional Coalition for Women Human Rights Defenders In Middle East and North Africa

67-  Tunisian Initiative for Freedom of Expression

68-  Violations Documentation Center in Syria (VDC)

69-  Vivarta

70-   Yemeni Organization for Defending  Human Rights and Democratic  Freedom


VDC: Messages to Razan Zaitouneh

Violations Documentation Center in Syria – VDC


Messages to Razan Zaitouneh…

April 29 coincides with the birthday of Razan Zaitouneh, the prominent lawyer and human rights activist who was kidnapped in Douma city, Damascus (Eastern Ghouta). Razan disappeared on 9 December 2013, along with three other activists; Samira KhalilWael Hamadah (Razan’s husband) and lawyer Nazim Hammadi. To date, their fates remain un unknown, despite hundreds of calls for their immediate and unconditional release.

In her last article before she disappeared, Razan described the kidnapping of an activist in Ghouta, calling for an end to all campaigns of abduction and the release of captives. Razan wrote:

While initial attention to every abduction takes place through the  media and social networks, the case is soon forgotten in light of the almost complete inability to influence or intervene for the good of the abducted; their fate remain unknown…”

The Violation Documentation Center in Syria (VDC) calls on activists around the world to send messages of solidarity to Razan on her birthday, to be published on 29 April 2015. The VCD also reiterates its demands for the immediate and unconditional release of Razan, Samira, Wael and Nazim. Moreover, it calls on all relevant and active groups in Eastern Ghouta to shoulder their responsibilities towards the matter without delay.

Please include a name, job description and organization with each message to the following address:


Violence and Looting erupts In Baltimore after Funeral of Freddie Gray

By Kathryn Maureen Ryan
Impunity Watch, Managing Editor

WASHINGTON D.C., United States of America – Looting and violence erupted in the streets of Baltimore, the 26th most populous city in the United States, following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25 year-old unarmed African American man who died as a result of injuries allegedly suffered while he was in police custody. Despite the families call for peace and request that no demonstrations be held on the day their son was to be laid to rest riots broke out a few blacks away from the church where Mr. Gray’s funeral was held. Seven Seven Baltimore police officers were injured on Monday as rioters threw bricks, broke windows, looted businesses and burned police cars. One of the injured police officers is reportedly unresponsive. Maryland’s Governor declared a state of Emergency.

A man carried items from a looted CVS store in Baltimore as a police patrol car is set ablaze by rioters. (photo courtesy of CNN International)

The riots are the first major crisis faced by Loretta Lynch, who was sworn in as the nation’s first African American Attorney General earlier this morning. Following her swearing in, Lynch said improving relations between police and the communities they protect will be a high priority. “We can restore trust and faith both in our laws and in those of us who enforce them,” she said. Lynch met with President Obama this afternoon to discuss the riots unfolding in Baltimore, a city located just 40 miles from the White House in Washington D.C.. The Obama Administrator sent three delegates to Freddie Gray’s funeral including Broderick Johnson, a native of the city and the chairman of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force.

With the exception of clashes with police on Saturday the demonstrations against police brutality in Baltimore have largely been peaceful. Police initially showed restraint on Monday as high schoolers began protesting and rioting in the streets but then began arresting protesters who allegedly were engaged in looting and attacks on police and intrastate as the violence erupted. Police also prepared to use teargas and pepper spray in an attempt to disperse crowds and prevent further damage. Looters broke into several privately owned establishments and began steeling goods. A CVS Pharmacy was looted and set ablaze in a neighborhood that has no grocery stores.

Police called on local businesses to closer early and for people to stay away from the affected areas if possible. The Baltimore Orioles game at Camden Yards, located near the neighborhood where the riots are occurring, was postponed. Church leaders belonging to local Christian churches as well as the Nation of Islam have called for peace. Reverend Jamal Bryant, the Gray family pastor and one of the primary leaders of the peaceful protests calling for justice for the Gray family, has condemned the violence and called on all involved to stop and go home. He criticized looters for disrespecting the Gray family’s wishes for peace in the wake of their son’s horrific death. “It is disappointing just a few hours after putting Gray to rest,” Reverend Jamal Bryant said. “This is not what the family asked for today of all days. This was a day of sacred closure.”

For more information please:

CNN International – Baltimore Protests Turn Violent; Police Officers Injured – 27 April 2015

CNN International – Baltimore Protests Turn into Riots – 27 April 2015

CNN Politics – White House, Lynch Turn To Baltimore – 27 April 2015

Reuters – Violence Erupts After Funeral of Baltimore Man Who Died In Police Custody – 27 April 2015

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