Syria ‘general amnesty’ fails to free hundreds detained after protests
A new “general amnesty” announced in Syria falls far short of the political reforms called for by protesters, Amnesty International said today. According to the state news agency SANA, the amnesty will apply to chronically ill prisoners as well as those held for some criminal offences committed before yesterday, including theft and smuggling. It will not affect hundreds of people being held for their involvement in peaceful political protests. Several hundred political prisoners were reportedly released following another “general amnesty” announced on 31 May. However, hundreds more remain detained, many of them held incommunicado and at risk of torture or other ill-treatment. “President al-Assad has once again failed dramatically to address the legitimate demands of people who’ve been risking their lives to make their voices heard,” said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme. “All those being held without charge for their perceived link to the ongoing protests must be put on trial or released.”The newest amnesty announcement came a day after President al-Assad addressed the nation in a televised speech, in which he said calls for reform were legitimate but also blamed armed “saboteurs” for causing the recent unrest. Since street protests demanding reform began in February, Syrian security forces have waged a campaign of violence against protesters. According to Amnesty International’s latest information, at least 1,200 people have been killed since mid-March. In recent weeks, around 20,000 people from northern Syria have fled to the Turkish border to escape violence by Syrian security forces. Half of them are in camps inside Turkey and the other half are in makeshift camps just inside Syria.