Targeting media activists in Syria: The case of Mus'ab al-Hamadi

Mus’ab al-Hamadi, aged 32, is a well-known media activist and member of the Local Coordination Committee (LCC) in Hama. He has been heavily involved in collating information and posting videos of abuses committed by Syrian government forces and has given interviews to a number of news outlets.

Despite being a supporter of the opposition movement, Mus’ab al-Hamadi told Amnesty International that he also reported abuses by armed groups affiliated with the opposition. For instance, on 11 January 2013, he posted an article on the Facebook page of an LCC-affiliated newspaper in which he criticized rebels for “obeying their leaders blindly… even if commanders ordered them to kill a man acquitted they did without hesitation”. Around this time, Mus’ab al-Hamadi said he posted an anonymous report on an online LCC forum that criticized an armed opposition group for taking over a civilian house as their base. He told Amnesty International:

“The battalion who had taken over a lawyer’s house is known as the Hawks of the Jungle Battalion. In the report I posted online I referred to them as shabiha, because they were acting in the same way as the government shabiha. Even though I posted this report anonymously, they found out it was me and on 13 January 2013 the battalion sent four men who said their colonel wanted to see me. I knew what this will be about because the men confronted me and told me: ‘You called us shabiha’.

“We drove to Karm al-Zaytoun to the battalion’s own prison. I told them to take me to the Military Council set up by the FSA in Hama, but they took me to their own prison.

“They initially put me in a cell with around seven other men who they said were shabiha, but that is untrue, maybe some of them were shabiha, but others were civilians. I recognized an 80-year-old Alawite man I knew from Hama, he was not a shabih. After around 10 minutes they took me out of the cell. They said they know I am with the opposition and not a member of the shabiha, and took me upstairs to have tea with them.

“Upstairs I met the captain. He is known in the area as he used to work in the Air Force Intelligence branch. He still had the mentality of the regime. He told me: ‘I haven’t gotten hold of you yet, wait and see what I will do to you’.

“I told them that I needed to use the bathroom, so one of the men escorted me out to the rubble outside the house. A little while later I told them I needed to use the bathroom again, this time another one of the men escorted me out. When we got outside, I began to run. He started shooting at me but I ran into the fields and kept going.”

It has been said many times before but it is crucial that Syria’s many armed opposition groups, which now control significant areas of the country, acknowledge the importance of upholding their obligations under international humanitarian law and undertake to respect human rights and take immediate action to halt grave abuses.

A link to the new Amnesty report is here - Shooting the Messenger: Journalists targeted by all sides in Syria  (PDF)

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