Bashar Ali Ahmad Najla, former producer with the al-Mayadeen TV Channel and a current government employee at the Banyas Oil Refinery in northern Banyas city in rural Tartus governorate, from Mazra’et al-Hanifa village in rural Tartus governorate, was arrested on November 2, 2023, by personnel from the Syrian regime’s Criminal Security branch who lured him from his workplace in the oil refinery. Bashar’s arrest was carried out in a manner that was closer to an abduction. He was arrested for voicing criticism of the living situation and corruption in regime held areas on his Facebook page. He was taken to an undisclosed location.
The arrest was carried out without any court-issued legal warrant being presented. Ahmad’s family was not informed of his arrest, while his phone was seized, and he has not been allowed to contact his family or a lawyer. It should be noted that Ahmad has several medical conditions and requires constant medical supervision. His family is concerned for his wellbeing.
We believe that Bashar’s arrest is related to the Counter-Cybercrime Law (Law No. 20 of 2022), which is used by the Syrian regime to justify the arrest of state employees and other citizens for expressing criticism of the poor living conditions in regime-controlled areas on social media.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) notes that these charges rely on the use of deliberately vague phrasing to enable the Syrian regime to level them against anyone it wishes to arrest, torture, and prosecute due to their extremely broad nature that can be interpreted in any number of ways. In reality, these laws, which contradict the spirit of the law and of justice, are closer to being instruments of oppression for the regime’s security authorities than to legitimate legislation. The overwhelming majority of laws issued by the Syrian regime (whether decrees, or laws promulgated through the People’s Assembly which is completely subservient to the regime) explicitly violate international human rights law and alarmingly restrict freedom of expression.
It must be stressed that there is no such thing as freedom of expression for those living under the rule of the Syrian regime’s security apparatus which infiltrates every aspect of life. The aim of the Syrian regime and its policies is to silence the Syrian people and prevent any criticism and any reporting of developments on the ground, leading to violations that even affect pro-regime individuals, in tandem with the killing, arrest, and eventual permanent disappearance of the vast majority of its opponents in areas under its control. No Syrian will be able to enjoy their most basic rights without a political transition towards democracy and human rights.