OHCHR / SYRIA EGYPT

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20-Nov-2020 00:04:33
UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) has ‘been receiving disturbing reports of continued detention of civilians, including humanitarian workers, in Idlib, northwestern Syria,” in areas under the control armed groups, the Office’s spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said on Friday. UNTV CH

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STORY: OHCHR / SYRIA EGYPT
TRT: 04:33
SOURCE: UNTV CH
RESTRICTIONS: NONE
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH /NATS

DATELINE: 20 NOVEMBER 2020 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

SHOTLIST:

FILE

1. Exterior shot, Palais des nations

20 NOVEMBER 2020 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

2. SOUNDBITE (English) Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“We have been receiving disturbing reports of continued detention of civilians, including humanitarian workers, in Idlib, in northwestern Syria, in areas under the control of Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham and other armed groups. We have also been receiving deeply troubling reports of executions following the detentions and so-called trials by the de facto authorities.”

FILE

3. Exterior shot, Palais des nations

20 NOVEMBER 2020 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

4. SOUNDBITE (English) Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“Just this week, on Wednesday, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham confirmed that it was holding a 28-year-old woman, Noor al-Shallo, a humanitarian and media worker, allegedly on “moral” and “criminal” charges. Her family has not had any contact with her since she was detained by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham in September at their Sarmada court in Idlib while she was following up on issues relating to the custody of her three children. We have seen a number of reports suggesting that she may be at risk of execution. The de facto authorities must refrain from any harmful act, ensure her protection, and immediately release her.”

FILE

5. Exterior shot, Palais des nations

20 OVEMBER 2020 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

6. SOUNDBITE (English) Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“We have verified reports that several individuals were executed, for perceived affiliation with an opposing party, including Kurdish armed groups or the Syrian Government, or on allegations of blasphemy, adultery, theft or murder. International humanitarian law explicitly prohibits the sentencing and executions without previous judgment affording all necessary judicial guarantees. Under international law, executions carried out in violation of this prohibition may amount to a war crime.”

FILE

7. Exterior shot, Palais des nations

20 NOVEMBER 2020 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

8. SOUNDBITE (English) Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“We recall that non-State actors exercising Government-like functions and control over a territory are obliged to respect human rights norms when their conduct affects the human rights of the individuals under their control.”

FILE

9. Exterior shot, Palais des nations

20 NOVEMBER 2020 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

10. SOUNDBITE (English) Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“The arrest of three human rights defenders in Egypt this week is a very worrying development that underscores the extreme vulnerability of civil society activists in the country. Gasser Abdel Razek, the Executive Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, was arrested by security forces yesterday. Karim Ennarah, EIPR’s director of Criminal Justice, was arrested on Wednesday in Dahab, South Sinai, while he was on vacation.”

FILE

11. Exterior shot, Palais des nations

20 NOVEMBER 2020 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

12. SOUNDBITE (English) Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“Their arrests came days after Mohammad Basheer, administrative manager for the same organisation, was arrested at his home in Cairo on Sunday. We understand that Basheer was questioned about the organization’s legal support for victims of human rights violations. Basheer and Ennarah have been reportedly detained, pending investigation on terrorism-related charges, publishing false news, and using an internet account to spread false information that undermines public security.”

FILE

13. Exterior shot, Palais des nations

20 NOVEMBER 2020 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

14. SOUNDBITE (English) Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“We have received allegations that he was tortured during interrogation by the National Security investigators.”

FILE

15. Exterior shot, Palais des nations

20 NOVEMBER 2020 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

16. SOUNDBITE (English) Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“The founder of the organization, Hossam Bahgat, has been prevented from leaving Egypt and his assets have been frozen. In parallel, it appears that a smear campaign against the organization has been taking place in the media and the authorities have labelled EIPR as an “illegal organization”.

FILE

17. Exterior shot, Palais des nations

20 NOVEMBER 2020 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

18. SOUNDBITE (English) Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
\“We are worried that these recent arrests and detentions are part of a broader pattern of intimidating organizations defending human rights and of the use of counter-terrorism and national security legislation to silence dissent.”

FILE

19. Exterior shot, Palais des nations

20 NOVEMBER 2020 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

20. SOUNDBITE (English) Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“The use of sweeping counter-terrorism laws and vague charges such as “joining a terrorist organization” and “spreading false information” to harass and criminalize the work of human rights defenders is inconsistent with the rule of law and Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law.”

FILE

21. Exterior shot, Palais des nations

20 NOVEMBER 2020 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND

22. SOUNDBITE (English) Ravina Shamdasani, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“We are very concerned that the targeting of human rights defenders and other activists, as well as further restrictions on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly imposed in the country, are having a profound chilling effect on an already weakened Egyptian civil society.”

FILE

23. Exterior shot, Palais des nations

STORYLINE:

UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) has ‘been receiving disturbing reports of continued detention of civilians, including humanitarian workers, in Idlib, northwestern Syria,” in areas under the control armed groups, the Office’s spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said on Friday (20 Nov).

“We have also been receiving deeply troubling reports of executions following the detentions and so-called trials by the de facto authorities,” Shamdasani said.

She also said, “just this week, on Wednesday, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham confirmed that it was holding a 28-year-old woman, Noor al-Shallo, a humanitarian and media worker, allegedly on “moral” and “criminal” charges. Her family has not had any contact with her since she was detained by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham in September at their Sarmada “court” in Idlib while she was following up on issues relating to the custody of her three children. We have seen a number of reports suggesting that she may be at risk of execution. The de facto authorities must refrain from any harmful act, ensure her protection, and immediately release her.”

Noor al-Shallo’s case is among many others OHCHR reportedly has documented of individuals detained or abducted -and subsequently executed- by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and other armed groups in the northwest and other parts of Syria over the past year.

“We have verified reports that several individuals were executed, for perceived affiliation with an opposing party, including Kurdish armed groups or the Syrian Government, or on allegations of blasphemy, adultery, theft or murder. International humanitarian law explicitly prohibits sentencing executions without previous judgment affording all necessary judicial guarantees. Under international law, executions carried out in violation of this prohibition may amount to a war crime,” Shamdasani said.

Armed groups continue to impose on civilians rules and codes of conduct that fundamentally violate a range of human rights protected by international law, including the rights to life, liberty and security of person, and the rights to freedom of movement, expression, peaceful assembly, and association.

“We recall that non-State actors exercising Government-like functions and control over a territory are obliged to respect human rights norms when their conduct affects the human rights of the individuals under their control,” she said.

OHCHR spokesperson also reacted on the report of arrest of three human rights defenders in Egypt.

“The arrest of three human rights defenders in Egypt this week is a very worrying development that underscores the extreme vulnerability of civil society activists in the country. Gasser Abdel Razek, the Executive Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), was arrested by security forces yesterday. Karim Ennarah, EIPR’s director of Criminal Justice, was arrested on Wednesday in Dahab, South Sinai, while on vacation,” she said. “Their arrests came days after Mohammad Basheer, administrative manager for the same organisation, was arrested at his home in Cairo on Sunday. We understand that Basheer was questioned about the organization’s legal support for victims of human rights violations. Basheer and Ennarah have been reportedly detained, pending investigation on terrorism-related charges, publishing false news, and using an internet account to spread false information that undermines public security.”

Since the interrogation reportedly focused on a meeting that EIPR held earlier this month with 13 ambassadors and diplomats, these arrests appear to have been carried out as retaliation against the human rights defenders.

It is not the first time that this organization has been targeted by Egyptian security forces. Last February, EIPR gender rights researcher, Patrick George Zaki, was also arrested and charged with terrorism-related charges. Zaki has been in pre-trial detention since then.

“We have received allegations that he was tortured during interrogation by the National Security investigators,” she said. “The founder of the organization, Hossam Bahgat, has been prevented from leaving Egypt and his assets have been frozen. In parallel, it appears that a smear campaign against the organization has been taking place in the media and the authorities have labelled EIPR as an “illegal organization”.

Shamdasani said “we are worried that these recent arrests and detentions are part of a broader pattern of intimidating organizations defending human rights and of the use of counter-terrorism and national security legislation to silence dissent.”

She said “the use of sweeping counter-terrorism laws and vague charges such as “joining a terrorist organization” and “spreading false information” to harass and criminalize the work of human rights defenders is inconsistent with the rule of law and Egypt’s obligations under international human rights law.”

The spokesperson said “we are very concerned that the targeting of human rights defenders and other activists, as well as further restrictions on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly imposed in the country, are having a profound chilling effect on an already weakened Egyptian civil society.”

The OHCHR is also alarmed about reports of the execution of around 50 people last month and has received allegations of violations of due process and fair trial rights in some of these cases. We call on the Government to declare a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolition, and to take all steps to ensure strict adherence to due process guarantees and all possible safeguards to ensure a fair trial.
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