Assad issues new general amnesty
for all crimes till nowSyrian President’s decree stipulates death penalty will be
replaced with life sentence of hard labour.The
amnesty is applicable to just one crime classified under the Terrorism
ActMiddle East Online DAMASCUS:
President Bashar al-Assad declared a
general amnesty on Tuesday as the conflict ravaging Syria showed no signs of
abating, with Western and Russian differences proving unbridgeable.
Under the latest decree, troops who deserted but
did not fight against the regime may be pardoned if they surrender within a
month, state news agency SANA reported.
President Assad has issued decree number 23,
granting a general amnesty for crimes committed before April 16, 2013," said the
But there were important exceptions to the types
of crime it covers.
The amnesty is applicable to just one crime
classified under the Terrorism Act, namely failing to inform the authorities
about rebel activity.
Other acts such as possessing leaflets that
encourage "terrorism" and taking up arms against the regime are not
Army deserters may be pardoned, if those still in
Syria hand themselves in within 30 days, and those outside Syria hand themselves
in within 90 days," said the decree.
Under the decree, "the death penalty will be
replaced with a life sentence of hard labour," said SANA, stipulating that
"those who financed terrorist groups or who committed terrorist acts that led to
death and destruction are not covered".
Those who conspired to carry out a terrorist act
have their sentence reduced by a quarter, and those who knew about such an act
and did not inform the authorities are covered by the amnesty," said the
It will not apply to those who smuggled weapons or
drugs, though smugglers of other goods will be amnestied as long as they pay
Deserters "who stole weapons from the army's
warehouses and refused to obey orders" are not covered by the amnesty, the text
Armed civilians who hand their weapons in within
30 days can also benefit, although those who incited sectarian strife or
published false news are exempted.
The regime describes Assad's opponents
and rebels fighting his troops as "terrorists".
On the eve of Syria's independence day, Justice
Minister Najem al-Ahmad said the amnesty "will reinforce social reconciliation,
national cohesion, and (cater to) the need to live together on the occasion of
this public holiday".
The amnesty covers the majority of crimes, on
different levels," SANA quoted Ahmadi as saying, though it excludes "a small
number of crimes, mainly those linked to terrorism, espionage and
State television said the decree would lead to the
release of 7,000 detainees.
But Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director
Rami Abdel Rahman was sceptical, saying: "It is not the first time Assad passes
an amnesty, and this will not lead to the release of tens of thousands of
A real amnesty would involve the liberation of
all prisoners of conscience and the revolutionaries. An amnesty would mean
putting an end to detention."
Assad's latest declaration comes a day before
pro-regime television channel Al-Ikhbariya is to broadcast an interview with
In an interview with the Guardian newspaper,
Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad said "there will be no Syria if President
Assad steps down.
If he leaves now before we agree on a political
plan among all Syrians, Syria will no longer be on the map."
Assad's regime has been fighting an insurgency
that erupted after his forces unleashed a brutal crackdown on peaceful, Arab
Spring-inspired democracy protests that broke out in March 2011.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands of
people and driven more than five million from their homes, including more than
one million refugees.
At least 87 people were killed in violence on Monday
alone, said the Britain-based Observatory.
With no signs of a breakthrough, the international
community remains divided over Syria, with several Western and Arab countries
supporting the anti-Assad uprising and Russia, China and Iran backing the