Statement on IPN member abducted in Syria

First published 13th Dec 2013

Razan Zaitouneh, co-founder of Violation Documentation Center and the Local Coordination Committee (LCC) and prominent Syrian human rights lawyer and activist, was abducted with her husband, activist Wael Hamada, along with two other activists, Samira Khalil and Nazim Hamadi in Syria on December 10th. All four were abducted at gun point from the joint office of VDC and the Local Development and Small Projects Support (LDSPS) in in the area of Eastern Ghouta, Damascus - an area under the control of a number of armed opposition groups and under continuous seige by government forces. VDC staff reported that the kidnapping was committed by unknown armed individuals.

Staff at the VDC attributed the abduction of Razan, her husband, and their colleagues to Razan's role as the co-founder of VDC, a civil society organisation which documents conflict deaths and human rights violations caused mainly by government forces but increasingly by opposition forces as well. Razan was forced into hiding in the early part of the Syrian uprising following continued threats from the Syrian government. In recent months, however, her colleagues at VDC reported that she has been receiving threats from armed opposition groups as well.

Data provided by VDC was essential in the compiling of Every Casualty's recent report on child casualty figures in Syria, and our staff worked closely with VDC throughout the report's production.

The situation for casualty recorders in Syria, as well as others who carry out documentation work including journalists and human rights activists, has been, and remains, extremely dangerous. Staff at VDC, as well as those working with fellow IPN member, the Syrian Network for Human Rights, have reported harassment and threats when undertaking their work. Others have lost their lives.

Every Casualty recognises the immense bravery and courage required for casualty recorders in Syria - and elsewhere - to carry on with their work and demands the immediate release of Razan Zaitouneh and her colleagues.

We also urge armed groups within Syria to allow casualty recorders to carry out their work unhindered and to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, which prohibits the abduction or capturing of civilians.

Co-signing organisations:

Oxford Research Group (UK)

Syria Tracker

Syrian  Network Human Rights (SNHR)

Guatemala Forensic Anthropology Foundation (FAFG)

Conflict Monitor Center (Pakistan)

INSAN

Documenta (Croatia)

Conflict Analysis Ressource Center Colombia (CERAC)

Humanitarian Law Center Serbia

Humanitarian Law Center Kosovo

Iraq Body Count

INSEC (Nepal)

The Resolve (LRA Crisis Tracker)

Colombian Campaign to Ban Landmines (CCCM)

Action on Armed Violence (UK)

Somali Human Rights Association (SOHRA)

Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team (EPAF)

Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC)

Organisation for Somalis' Protection and Development

Iniskoy for Peace and Democracy Organisation (IPDO)

Nigeria Watch

Elman Peace ( somalia)

Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies  (PIPS)

Pakistan Body Count