Rights group warns Syrian journalists may face torture and ill-treatment

DAMASCUS (BNO NEWS) — Syrian journalists and activists who have passed on information about the country’s unrest to regional and international media may risk torture and other ill-treatment, rights group Amnesty International reported on Wednesday.

The rights group warning comes as journalist Adel Walid Kharsa faces his second week in solitary confinement after being arrested by security forces in his hometown of Hama on August 18. Kharsa was seemingly detained for his news reports on the protests and the government’s violent crackdown despite being cautious by making his reports anonymously by phone.

“If this is the case then he is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“He, like many detained during the regime’s crackdown, is now at risk of acts of brutality while in the hands of the authorities,” said Luther while recommending that Kharsa should be protected from torture and other ill-treatment, allowed immediate contact with his family and a lawyer, as well as given any necessary medical attention.

Amnesty International said it has information indicating that other detainees have been tortured to find out whether they have given news about events in Syria to regional and international media.

One such case is 28-year-old “Wael”, who was detained in May and held for three weeks accused of filming demonstrations with his cell phone in his hometown of Tell Kalakh, south of the western city of Homs.

“I was taken to an interrogator… He accused me of being a correspondent for Al Jazeera, the BBC and [Gulf-based] Wesal channels. It was true that I filmed events with my cell phone but I did not send them to any channel,” Wael, which is not his real name, told Amnesty International.

Wael said he was forced into a stress position known as the shabah (ghost) by being tied by the wrists to a bar high enough off the ground that he was forced to stand on tiptoes for six hours. He said he was also splashed with water and electrocuted.

At least 2,200 people have been killed and tens of thousands have been arrested since pro-democracy demonstrations began in Syria in mid-March as part of a broader uprising across North Africa and the Middle East that has led to the toppling of entrenched regimes in Tunisia and Egypt and conflict in Libya.

Syrian security forces have been carrying out widespread arrests targeting people perceived to have organized or openly supported protests, whether in public gatherings, in the media or on the internet.

The Syrian government has repeatedly claimed that the violent acts have been instigated by terrorists who use military uniforms and weaponry to pose as soldiers while attacking citizens, but these claims have been rejected by residents, human rights groups, and the international community.

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Source: WireUpdate.
Link: http://wireupdate.com/wires/19660/rights-group-warns-syrian-journalists-may-face-torture-and-ill-treatment/.

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