Al-Assad’s “pardon” | A new attempt by Syrian regime to polish its image in front of the international opinion and cover up “scandal” of Al-Tadamon massacre
In light of violations of human rights and corrupt judiciary in Syria, general amnesty excludes detainees belonging to terrorist organisations and having ties with foreign countries
Dictatorial regimes do nothing to hush and eliminate opponents but arresting them. While Syrian people have suffered from detention and enforced disappearances the most by the ruling authorities and armed groups, where thousands of Syrians are detained in prisons and detention centres, while others have been forcibly disappeared and their fate remains unknown.
We, at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), confirm that the use of violence has never been a good solution for settling disputes, and we have been all along expressing our belief that dialogue and negotiations among the warring powers are the only way to a peaceful settlement. This belief is based on our concern about defending human rights and dignity of Syrians and our commitment to all international conventions.
SOHR sees that the “farcical show” of the presidential pardon, according to which only tens of detainees were released, is to cover up the “scandal” of the horrific massacre in Al-Tadamon, especially since the pardon was issued a few days after a video footage displayed by the Guardian newspaper. The video footage, which the Guardian said that it was leaked by a soldier of a regime-backed militias, shows the forces of the 227th Branch of the regime military intelligence service executing nearly 41 people and cremating their bodies in Al-Tadamon neighbourhood in the capital Damascus on April 16, 2013.
In an exclusive interview with the human rights activist, Jihan Khalaf sees that the activities of the “International Commission on Missing Prisoners” (ICMP), which are based on an international treaty among the parties that signed it, are considerable and effective. She also clarifies that the work of this commission is not entrusted to holding violators accountable, as its work is confined to report on missing people and archive their names and databases. The activist has noted that the commission does not deal with the Syrian regime, and it is prevented from entering Syria. In addition, there are no safe environment and stability enabling the commission to do its work, especially with the lack of laws or political decision bounding the Syrian regime to cooperate with the commission regarding the issue of the detainees and missing prisoners, according to Mrs. Jihan.
Jihan Khalaf says, “there is a team operating on the cases of arbitrary arrests and which seeks to obtain a mandate to investigate the cases of persons who arbitrarily robbed of their freedom, which do not meet the international standards mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or any other relevant international laws in the countries in question. This team investigates the reported arbitrary arrests through directing urgent appeals and letters to governments of these countries to provide clarifications on these cases or pay attention to them. Meanwhile, the team which is entrusted with checking individual complaints and confirm the features of the arbitrary detention. Moreover, this team pays country-specific visits in order to be able to evaluate the state of deprivation of freedom throughout the countryside.”
“The regime government must not cite the conflict in Syria as an excuse for persecuting and arresting human rights defenders and assaulting the revolutionary and free voices. The power and mandate of this commission are manifested, according to its commitments, in demanding the Syrian regime clarify, explain and disclose the fate of people arrested arbitrarily or disappeared after being arrested and revealing the authority committed such violations. However, regime authorities expressed indifference to this issue as if they are not responsible for and involved in these blatant violations.”
Mrs. Jihan has called for referring the situation in Syria to the general prosecutor of the “International Criminal Court,” noting that such decision may be obstructed by the fact that some countries of the UN Security Council do not comply with the International Criminal Court’s decisions, such as the USA and Russia which has recently withdrawn from the International Criminal Court. She also stressed on the importance to allow non-governmental organisations concerned with defending human rights to enter Syria without obstacles or tight monitoring by the country’s government, and to accelerate imposition of sanctions on officials and individuals responsible for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, which violate the UN Security Council’s decision No. 2139, including enforced disappearances.
“In the case that the UN Security Council failed to bring the Syrian conflict to an end, as always, then we appeal to the UN general assembly, under the term of union for peace, to undertake its responsibilities regarding this issue and exert pressure on the regime government’s allies in order not to use veto against attempts to disclose the fate of forcibly disappeared individuals. This is a moral point that must not be open to negotiations, especially since parties involved in this issue, such as private security services of Russian security company of Wagner, Iranian and Afghan militias, ISIS, Hayyaat Tahrir Al-Sham and others, are mainly responsible for the disappearance of these individuals and these practices are categorised under war crimes and crimes against humanity,” added the human rights activist.
Jihan Khalaf has also pointed out to the importance of exerting pressure on all players, particularly the regime government’s allies, Russian and Iran, to encourage the regime to revoke and cancel all problematic laws which place obstacles contributing to spreading the cases of enforced disappearances through activating the role of the constitutional court, which basically violates the Syrian constitution, or through passing new laws. Jihan Khalaf has appealed to the international community and effective human rights organisations to highlight the plight of all Syrians, especially detainees, and exert extra efforts to disclose their fate and situation, as the Syrian regime is attempting to cover up its practices which violate the international laws and considered as war crimes.
On the other hand, the regime dissident officer, Khaled Taha told SOHR that cooperation reached between human rights institutions and international commissions under UN frames and supervision to disclose the fate of detainees, kidnapped and forcibly disappeared people. He stressed the importance of forming an international team under supervision of the international community, the friends of Syrian people and human rights international organisations in order to set a plan and strategy to uncover this suspicious file and disclose tricks by regime and its allies to cover up atrocities, noting that this humanitarian file is tragic and it badly impacted most of the Syrian people.
The dissident officer also talked about the importance of teamwork between human rights organisations and the international community to stop all conferences headed by the UN Special Envoy for Syria until prioritising the issue of detainees to solve the complicated Syrian crisis. He has also remarked that there is financial and sexual extortion practiced against the families of detainees, missing and forcibly disappeared people, where these families are forced to do anything in order to be informed of any details about their relatives. He describes such practices as “immoral” and that regime officers and official “tamper with the civilians’ emotions and exploit their sufferings.”
Officer Khaled Taha wonders “where are the forcibly disappeared people and the people arrested since the first spark of Syrian Revolution and where are the effective revolutionary figures, including Dr. Rania Al-Abbasi, her five children and her husband, Abdualziz Al-Khair, lieutenant colonel Hasan Al-Harmoush, captain Yamen Taha? A long list of detainees and missing people whose fate remains unknown, and we hope that their destiny will not be tragic.”
Meanwhile, the regime opponent politician and member of the Syrian National Conference for the Restoration of Syria’s Sovereignty, Younis Kanhoush told SOHR, “the legislative decree No. 7 included granting general amnesty to individuals involved in terror-related crimes committed before April 30, 2022. The decree excluded perpetrators of crimes which led to the death of civilians and those belonging to terrorist organisations and having ties with foreign countries. If we focused on the last two clauses, in light of the corrupt judiciary and human rights violations, we find out that it is easy for that regime to criminalise everyone opposing them under these two clauses. In that case civilians detained and accused later of one of these accusations cannot defend themselves or prove their innocence. Accordingly, we can come up with the fact that this pardon was symbolic.”
We, at the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), confirm that there are tens of thousands of innocent detainees still held in regime prisons waiting for being release. When can they enjoy freedom?! And will there be any honourable stance to defend the rights and sacrifices of these victims who are suffering horrors in the regime’s basements?!