More than 30 prominent international human rights and free speech groups are calling on the Syrian government to disclose the whereabouts of Bassel Khartabil, a software developer of Palestinian origin who has been detained since 2012.
The free speech advocate had been held in a central prison but his family believes that he may have been transferred to one of the security forces’ “torture-rife” facilities.
“Khartabil managed to inform his family on 3 October that security officers had ordered him to pack but did not reveal his destination,” the groups stated on Wednesday.
Khartabil was held incommunicado for eight months after his March 2012 arrest, on the first anniversary of the uprising in Syria, and was subjected to weeks of torture.
“International law defines a disappearance as an action by state authorities to deprive a person of their liberty and then refuse to provide information regarding the person’s fate or whereabouts,” the organizations said.
They added that before Khartabil’s arrest, “he used his technical expertise to help advance freedom of speech and access to information via the Internet. Among other projects, he founded Creative Commons Syria, a nonprofit organization that enables people to share artistic and other work using free legal tools.”
Khartabil faces Military Field Court proceedings “for his peaceful activities in support of freedom of expression,” the groups stated.
“Military Field Courts in Syria are exceptional courts that have secret closed-door proceedings and do not allow for the right to defense. According to accounts of released detainees who appeared before them, the proceedings of these courts were perfunctory, lasting minutes, and in absolute disregard of international standards of minimum fairness,” the groups added.
Hundreds of supporters have signed an online petition calling for Khartabil’s release.