Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Questions (155)

Maureen O'Sullivan

Question:

155. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will support a letter of appeal to the UN, Navi Pillay, to ask the Syrian Government to release Mazen Darwish of the Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, noted for its humanitarian work and commitment to non-violence, who has been in prison for some 18 months at this stage. [31490/13]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

Mazen Darwish is a journalist and Director of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression. With two of his colleagues he was detained by individuals believed to be from Syrian Air Force Intelligence in February 2012. He has been charged with ‘promoting terrorism acts’ under Syrian counter-terrorism law. There have been allegations that the detainees have been kept mostly in solitary detention, denied access to their relatives and lawyers and subjected to torture and other ill-treatment. Mr. Darwish has been designated as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.Following the arrests, the EU High Representative, Catherine Ashton, released a statement calling on the Syrian authorities to release immediately Mr. Darwish and all other human rights defenders who have been arrested and to release all political prisoners in Syria. She stressed the need for the Syrian Government to respect freedom of expression and the freedom of human rights defenders to carry out their work, in line with Syria’s international obligations. I fully support the High Representative’s statement and join her in calling for Mr. Darwish’s immediate release. Ireland supports also a resolution on Syria which was passed by the United Nations General Assembly in May and which demanded that the Syrian authorities immediately release the imprisoned staff, publish a list of all detention facilities and immediately allow access by independent monitors to all detention facilities. On 17 May, nineteen human rights organisations released a joint public statement which also called for Mr. Darwish’s urgent release. Mr. Darwish’s case was originally due to go to trial on 19 May but, according to reports, it has now been postponed until 21 August.

I have not to date been approached regarding signing a letter of appeal to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, in relation to this case. I have made clear my own concern in relation to this case and I would support any efforts which Ms. Pillay is able to make in this regard.