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Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) is awarded with the Shalom Prize 2018

The working group “Shalom für Gerechtigkeit und Frieden” (Shalom for justice and peace) at the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt has awarded the SCM with the Shalom Prize 2018. The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression aims to promote freedom of expression and media and social change leading to a democracy in Syria. The reasons for the working group’s decision for the SCM were that the Center published reports on human rights’ violations and war crimes in Syria, brought the perpetrators to justice and stood up for imprisoned representatives of the media and writers. The Shalom Prize is one of the highest value human rights prizes in Germany and is funded exclusively from donations.

The award winners: Mazen Darwish and wife Yara Bader from the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression” (Foto: Daniel Weu).

For the festive awards ceremony on 23 June, which will take place at the Sommerresidenz in Eichstätt, the working group has invited SCM founder Mazen Darwish (43) and his wife Yara Bader (32). Darwish is a human rights lawyer and journalist. He founded the SCM in 2004 after having returned from exile in France and was subsequently arrested several times. “At the beginning of the Syria conflict and the peaceful insurrection against the dictatorship in 2011, the Assad administration had people imprisoned, tortured and killed randomly. The SCM reported on these human rights violations.” writes the working group Shalom. In February 2012, the Damaskus office of the organization fighting for freedom of press was raided. Darwish and several of his employees, among them also his wife Yara Bader disappeared behind prison walls. Some of them were released a few days later; Bader only after three months. Mazen Darwish was held in several military prisons and underground cells of the secret service and tortured for three and a half years without charge.

From her exile in Lebanon and later from Europe, the theater scientist and journalist Yara Bader started fighting for her husband’s and several other political prisoners’ release. In mid-2015 Darwish was released after having suffered amnesia. The charges of “terrorism”, however, were never dropped. As Darwish continued to report on human rights violations – both on the regime’s war crimes and those committed by radicals – it was impossible for him to work from Syria. Bader convinced her husband to go into exile. Since 2015, Yara Bader and Mazen Darwish live in Berlin and carry on working for the SCM from there.

The SCM closely cooperates with the UN agency IIIM (International Impartial and Independent Mechanism) founded in late 2016, with the International Impartial Investigation Commission for Syria and with “Reporters Without Borders”. When fighting for human rights, the SCM emphasizes that particular importance is placed on ensuring that perpetrators are brought to justice. This is why the Center keeps records of crimes committed and hears witnesses and victims.

In accordance with Universal Jurisdiction, national criminal law is also applicable to situations without a clear national reference, also in cases where neither perpetrator nor victim holds the nationality of the respective state. The crime has to go against internationally and legally protected interests. In March 2017, the SCM has filed its first suit to the Public Prosecutor General against six high-level executives of the Syrian secret service. The German judiciary has started to look into the matter.

The working group Shalom will introduce the SCM and its work on Sunday, February 25, 2018 at 10.45 a.m. within the framework of the opening service of this year’s Shalom event in the Salesianum Eichstätt.

The Shalom working group operates on a voluntary basis, its members are students and citizens of Eichstätt. Its aim is to contribute to the protection of human rights and global peace. Each year, the Shalom group focuses on a different country or region. The Shalom Prize is one of the highest value human rights prizes in Germany. The prize money is exclusively collected from donations – in previous years, it always amounted to more than 20,000 euros. Last year’s award winner, Father Shay Cullen with his project “Preda” from the Philippines, received the highest amount of donations to date with 30,500 euros.

For further information, including on the donation account of the working group Shalom, please visit