Shalom Prize 2018

This year’s Shalom Award goes to the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM). The work focuses on freedom of opinion and media. The SCM highlights human rights violations in Syria and makes a significant contribution to civil society change. The prize will be awarded to Yara Bader and Mazen Darwish on 23 June 2018, at 7.00 pm in Eichstätt. The award ceremony will take place in the summer residence of the Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt.

Mazen Darwish is a renowned human rights lawyer and journalist. He founded the SCM in 2004 after returning from exile in France. At the beginning of the Syrian crisis and the peaceful uprising against the dictatorship in 2011, the Assad government indiscriminately imprisoned, tortured and killed people. The SCM reports on these human rights violations. In February 2012, the office of the press freedom organisation in Damascus was raided. Darwish and other staff, including his wife, Yara Bader, were imprisoned. Some of them were released after a few days, Yara Bader after three months. Mazen Darwish was held and tortured without charge for three and a half years in various military prisons and underground secret service detention centres.

Yara Bader, a theatre scientist and journalist, first fought from exile in Lebanon and later from Europe for the release of her husband and numerous other political prisoners. She was supported by celebrities such as the writer Salman Rushdie. Nevertheless, Darwish was not released until mid-2015 after an amnesty – the charge of ‚terrorism‘ was not dropped. Despite his terrible experiences, Mazen Darwish continues to report on the regime’s war crimes and human rights violations in Syria. It quickly became clear that work on site was no longer possible. Yara Bader convinced her husband to go into exile: Since 2015 he and his wife live in Berlin and continue the work of the SCM from there.

According to the principle of Universal Jurisdiction, national criminal law is also applicable to matters which have no specific relation to the country concerned, even if neither the perpetrator nor the victim are nationals of the country involved. The offence must be directed against internationally protected legal rights. In March 2017, the SCM (with the help of the lawyer Anwar al-Bunni) filed a first charge with the Attorney General of Germany against six high-ranking employees of the Syrian secret service. The German judiciary has started its work.

At a glance:

  • The Syrian Centre for Freedom of the Media and Opinion is committed to a democratic Syria in which human rights are respected.
  • The SCM makes human rights violations and war crimes in Syria public and brings them to justice.
  • Perpetrators must be brought to justice, so the SCM documents crimes and listens to witnesses and victims.
  • The organisation works closely with the International Impartial and Independent Mechanism (IIIM), founded in December 2016, the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria and Reporters Without Borders.