Syria: Syria: Human Rights Defender Ayham Mustafa Ghazzoul tortured to death while in custody at the Air Force Intelligence

06.02.13

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) very sadly received reports from reliable sources inside Syria confirming that on 09 November 2012 human rights defender, and member of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) Ayham Moustafa Ghazoul died after being severely tortured.

Ayham Ghazoul was first arrested and held incommunicado by Air Force Intelligence on 16 February 2012 together with 15 other persons including leading human rights defender, Mazen Darwish, head of the (SCM), during a raid on their Damascus offices.

On 22 April 2012 he was presented to the Military Prosecutor in Damascus, who informed him that he will be prosecuted by a military court for “possessing prohibited materials with the intent to disseminate them.” He was released after he spent 87 days in detention.

According to reliable sources, on 05 November 2012, some members of the pro-government National Students Union captured Ayham, together with two other students at the entrance of Damascus University.  They turned him in to the Air Force Intelligence in Mezze after brutally beating him. He suffered from internal bleeding after being tortured by members of the Air Force Intelligence, and died on his fourth day of the unlawful arrest.

He was born in 1987, a dentist and a MSc student from Deir Atteih city. He was well known for his peaceful human rights activities.

The GCHR believes that Ayham Moustafa Ghazoul has been solely targeted and killed as a result of his peaceful activities in the defense of human rights, in particular, his work to defend the freedom of expression in Syria.

The GCHR calls on the Russian government as well as other governments that have influence in Syria, the UN, the EU, and leading human rights organizations to:

1. Put pressure on the Syrian government to initiate an immediate, impartial and investigation into Ayham Moustafa Ghazoul killing and bring those responsible to justice;

2. To deliver his body to his family immediately - some reports suggest that it is being kept at hospital 601.  His family needs to begin the grieving process after this devastating loss;

3. Increase the pressure on the government of Syria to stop the ongoing daily human rights violations as well as escalating attacks on human rights defenders;

4.  Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Syria are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

The GCHR reminds the Syrian government that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 5 (b) “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels  (b)To form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups” and Article 12 (2) “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jureadverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.”