Issue 350: Syrian Inferno: Heroic Doctor Who Saved Lives to Give Eyewitness Account at Geneva Rights Summit


GENEVA, March 7 – A French surgeon who smuggled himself into Syria to save injured victims, using a makeshift hospital in the bombarded city of Homs, will be among the top newsmakers at a world summit of dissidents and human rights activists taking place place next to the UN rights council in Geneva on March 13, 2012.


Leading victim-activists from Egypt, Burma, Iran, China, Cuba, North Korea, Pakistan, Vietnam and Zimbabwe will address the 4th Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, organized by a cross-regional coaltion of 20 human rights NGOs.

Jacques Bérès, a veteran war surgeon and co-founder of Doctors without Borders, has just escaped from Syria after spending two weeks in Homs at the request of France-Syrie Democratie and the Union of Muslim Associations.

Entering furtively through Lebanon, he brought desperately-needed medical suplies into Homs, a city devastated by Assad’s artillery. Dr. Bérès treated the wounded in an apartment that was turned into a hospital. He is one the few eyewitnesses who can provide direct testimony on the atrocities in Homs.

20-year-old Syrian activist Hadeel Kouki was brutally attacked last week on eve of Geneva testimony

Also testifying at the Geneva summit will be Hadeel Kouki, a 20-year-old Christian woman from Syria who was arrested by the Assad regime three times, and brutally beaten, for her pro-democracy activities over the past year. Ms. Kouki fled to Egypt in December. She was attacked last week by suspected Syrian agents.


The widely acclaimed activists’ summit takes place in Geneva as diplomats of the UN Human Rights Council meet nearby until Mar. 26, 2012.

The parallel summit provides a one-stop opportunity to hear from key frontline human rights advocates—many of whom have personally suffered imprisonment and torture.

The speakers’ compelling and vivid testimonies will, as in past years, stand in sharp contrast to the Council’s diplomatic haggling over draft resolutions and reports on human rights situations around the world­.

With Burma, Syria, Iran and China making human rights headlines, the parallel conference will hear directly from Burma’s “Little Daughter” author Zoya Phan; World Famous Egyptian activist Maikel Nabil, Iranian torture victim Ebrahim Mehtari; and former political prisoner and Tiananmen Square hero Ren Wanding of China, known as one of the pioneers of the Chinese Democracy Movement.

French TV journalist Anne-Isabelle Tollet is set to reveal the latest developments in the campaign to win freedom for Asia Bibi, a mother-of-five who remains on death row in Pakistanfor blasphemy.

Other speakers will address human rights situations in Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam andZimbabwe, addressing themes of:

  • Discrimination against women
  • Freedom of speech
  • Internet freedom
  • Discrimination against religious minorities
  • Persecution of dissidents and human rights defenders
  • Honor killings

Click here for a full lineup of the parallel summit’s speakers.

As in other years, the parallel summit will produce alternative draft resolutions for the Council to consider.

Past parallel summits have enjoyed widespread coverage by major wire services and newspapers, as well as television and radio news outlets. Videos of past speaker testimonies are available at

Admission to this year’s March 13 summit is free to the public and media, but registration is mandatory. For accreditation, program and schedule information, visit

UN Watch