SOHR: Presidential pardon in Syria… between a horrific scene for the families of detainees and attempts to polish Assad’s image
Since Sunday, the Syrian authorities have released more than 60 detainees from their prisons, as part of a new presidential amnesty, which is considered the most comprehensive in the so-called “terrorism” crimes since the start of the conflict in the country, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Hundreds of families gathered in Damascus, waiting for the detainees to arrive, hoping that they would find their sons among them, or obtain any news or information about them, in scenes that spread photos and videos of them on social media and angered and saddened many of its pioneers.
The Syrian Observatory said that the Syrian regime’s security services released a new batch of detainees in Sednaya prison, based on the recent amnesty issued by President Bashar al-Assad, following the disclosure of the “Al-Tadamon neighborhood” massacre.
It is worth noting that the Syrian president issued previous amnesty decrees that included many exceptions, the last of which was last May, weeks before his re-election as president for the fourth time.
The new decree provides for “granting a general amnesty for terrorist crimes committed by Syrians” before April 30, 2022, “except for those that led to the death of a human being and stipulated in the Anti-Terrorism Law.”
Polishing the image of the president
Activists and human rights activists on social media denounced the Syrian President’s decision to release detainees in conjunction with the controversy surrounding the video recently revealed by the British Guardian newspaper of the Al-Tadamon neighborhood massacre, considering that the aim of this decision is to polish the image of Bashar al-Assad, which has long been associated with human rights violations.
Others warned that the aim of issuing this presidential decree is to “trap the Syrian opposition, and lure them to return to the country,” as they put it.
The Syrian poet and writer Maher Sharaf al-Din wrote in a tweet via his Twitter account that Assad’s goal was to “vent the congestion” caused by the video of the solidarity massacre.
The Syrian journalist Qutaiba Yassin published a picture of the families of the detainees waiting from the early hours of the dawn for the arrival of the batches of the released in the Damascus governorate, commenting, “It is Syria, the great prison.”
Muhammad al-Sheikh indicated in a tweet that the Syrian president wanted to “whitewash his page in international forums” after the leaked video of the massacre, which showed the regime’s methods of torture and killing.
A mysterious and provocative decision
The official Syrian news agency, SANA, quoted the Deputy Minister of Justice, Judge Nizar Sedkni, as saying that the decree “was dedicated to specific crimes with their subject matter, which are terrorist crimes, and it included various crimes, including working with terrorist groups, financing or training terrorism, manufacturing means of terrorism or disturbing security.”
In a post on Facebook, Michel Shammas, a lawyer for the Defense Authority for Prisoners of Conscience and Conscience in Syria, explained that the amnesty did not include all defendants and those convicted before the terrorism court, but rather limited to those accused of committing a terrorist act only. This means that activists sentenced on charges of a political nature will not be covered by the amnesty.
In turn, the Executive Director of the Syrian Center for Justice and Accountability, Muhammad Al-Abdullah, criticized the method of releasing the detainees, and wrote on his Facebook page, “The releases in secret, at night, in the dark, people gather in random release centers,” warning against “opening the door to rumors, brokering and manipulating people’s feelings.” About “blackmailing the people and not publishing information about the names of the released persons.
Human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch, also accuse the Syrian regime of exploiting anti-terror laws to “condemn peaceful activists.”
It is noteworthy that several accusations have been leveled against Bashar al-Assad’s regime of human rights violations, including torture in prisons, rape and sexual assault, as well as extrajudicial executions.
During the conflict years that exceeded ten years, half a million people entered the prisons and detention centers of the regime, more than 100,000 of them died under torture or as a result of horrific detention conditions, according to the Syrian Observatory.
Solidarity massacre in the context of accountability
A video clip of the Al-Tadamon neighborhood massacre sparked a wave of anger in Syria and abroad, in which a member of the regime forces appeared in military clothes asking people who were blindfolded and their hands tied to run before shooting them to fall into a pit where other bodies were piled up. After killing 41 men, the bodies were cremated in the pit.
The director of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, Fadel Abdul Ghani, revealed the most prominent feature of the investigation, which is the researchers’ ability to reach the identity of the first person responsible for the solidarity massacre, Amjad Youssef.
Abdul Ghani said that “there was a meeting with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of combating terrorism, and she spoke about the investigation and video recording, within the context of the need to characterize the actions of brutal regimes such as the Syrian regime as acts of Terrorist, if what Amjad and his gang did were not acts of terrorism under the auspices and complete immunity of Bashar al-Assad, then what is terrorism!”
For his part, the Director of the Syrian Center for Justice and Accountability, Muhammad Al-Abdullah, explained that it is possible to obtain an international arrest warrant, “but this does not mean that Amjad Youssef is handed over and brought to justice and brought to justice, knowing the details of this massacre and the identities of the victims, the motive behind it, and the people who ordered it. The information is not accessible.
According to the principle of universal human rights jurisdiction, national legislation or laws in European countries do not allow trials in absentia. Consequently, Amjad Youssef cannot be tried “in absentia” on European soil.