December 14, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) Syria — Bassel Khartabil Safadi is a Palestinian-Syrian software developer who was detained during a wave of arrests in Damascus in 2012. In October 2015, Bassel’s family and friends received the sinister news that the peaceful activist’s name was no longer on the register of the prison where he was supposedly being held.
His wife, human rights lawyer Noura Ghazi, was told that he had been moved to military police headquarters and sentenced to death by a military field court. These reports remain unconfirmed by the authorities, and his loved ones are in the dark as to his fate.
While not directly involved in political activism, Khartabil’s goal was to connect people globally and ensure a free and open internet for Syrians. The distinguished and respected entrepreneur was devoted to opening up the internet in a country infamous for censorship.
Heavily involved a number of the world’s largest, free software organizations, he was the Syrian lead for Creative Commons. He taught Syrian artists how to realize the full potential of the internet by allowing the public to share their work online as well as editing and translating articles in the English and Arabic-language versions of Wikipedia.
It is not known why Khartabil was arrested, but it is suspected to have been because of his activities as a peaceful advocate for the right to freedom of expression. The #FreeBassel campaign has urged his supporters to help spread word of his disappearance by using the #MISSINGBASSEL hashtag:
“We are not sure if they are hiding something or if they genuinely don’t know. Bassel is missing and in real danger because no one is admitting they have him,” the group said.
Khartabil is one of tens of thousands of Syrian victims of enforced disappearance. This term describes the arrest, detention, or abduction by a state or agents acting for the state, who then deny that the person is being held — or conceal their whereabouts — placing the victim outside the protection of international law.
Amnesty International’s November report, Between Prison and the Grave: Enforced Disappearances in Syria, examined information from U.N. agencies and NGOs, monitoring groups, activists, and family members of individuals who had been forcibly disappeared. The report revealed that tens of thousands of Syrians have been arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared by the Syrian authorities — since 2011 — in a widespread campaign of terror and collective punishment against the civilian population.
Cut off from the outside world, they are often packed into overcrowded, secret cells where torture is routine, disease is rampant, and death is commonplace. Many spend months or years in pretrial detention and will often resurface at trials at Anti-Terrorism Courts or Military Field Courts, with no legal representation.
Enforced disappearance does not just affect those who have been vanished, and thousands of relatives throughout Syria await news of loved ones. Human Rights organization Amnesty International claims it has attempted to engage with the Syrian authorities since 2011 on enforced disappearance, but has never received a response.
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