A year on, no information on Douma Four
The prominent Syrian human rights defenders Razan Zaitouneh, Samira Khalil, Wa’el Hamada and Nazem Hamadi – the Douma Four—remain missing a year after their abduction, 57 organizations said today. The four were abducted in Duma, a city near Damascus under the control of armed opposition groups. They should be released immediately, the groups said.
On 9 December 2013, at about 10:40 pm, a group of armed men stormed into the office of the Violations Documentation Center in Syria (VDC), a Syrian human rights monitoring group, in Duma and abducted Razan Zaitouneh, the head of the center, and her colleagues – Wa’el Hamada, who is also her husband, Samira Khalil and Nazem Hamadi. The four human rights defenders have not been heard of since.
The armed groups exercising de facto control over Duma include the Army of Islam, headed by Zahran Alloush, which is part of the Islamic Front, a coalition of armed groups. The groups should immediately release the four human rights defenders if they are in the groups’ custody, or work toward ensuring they are released unharmed and without delay. Countries that support these groups, as well as religious leaders and others who may have influence over them, should also press for the immediate release of the four activists and for an end to abductions of civilians.
Razan Zaitouneh has been one of the key lawyers defending political prisoners in Syria since 2001. Since the beginning of the crisis in 2011, Razan Zaitouneh has played a key role in efforts to defend human rights for all and protect independent groups and activists in Syria. Along with a number of other activists, she established the VDC, which monitors human rights violations and records casualties in Syria, and co-founded the Local Coordination Committees (LCCs), which coordinates the work of local committees in various cities and towns across Syria. She also established the Local Development and Small Projects Support Office (LDSPS), which assists non-governmental organizations in besieged Eastern Ghouta.