Syrian authorities urged to release detainees

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Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

The government of Syria has been urged by the UN human rights chief to release all the people who have been held by its forces and militias.

In a statement issued on Thursday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said perhaps hundreds of thousands of people have been detained since the first protests began in Daraa in March 2011.

He said people are being held without due process, in some cases for years on end.

Stephanie Castro reports.

The UN High Commissioner said that the indefinite detention of people in Syria is particularly worrying given reports of widespread and systematic torture and other ill-treatment.

He also cited terrible conditions in detention.

According to the UN official, activists, lawyers and human rights defenders who were already vulnerable prior to the outbreak of the conflict have been particularly targeted.

In what he called "one emblematic case" three prominent members of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression, have now been held for three years on terrorism charges.

He noted that they were unaccounted for during the first nine months after their detention by Government security forces in February 2012.

Last month, their trial was postponed for the sixth time with no new hearing date set.

Mr Al Hussein urged the Syrian Government to immediately release all those who have been jailed for peaceful expression of their views and to ensure that all those detained are accorded their full due process rights.

Stephanie Castro, United Nations

Duration: 1’01″

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