SOHR: UN special envoy Pedersen praises ‘potential’ of Syrian prisoner amnesty
UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen on Sunday welcomed a general amnesty aimed at the release of thousands of Syrians convicted of terrorism.
President Bashar al-Assad has announced several amnesty measures during the country’s devastating 11-year war, but the latest in April was the most extensive on terrorism charges since the conflict began, human rights activists said.
Pedersen, who spoke to reporters in Damascus after meeting Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, said he was briefed “in quite detail” about the latest measure.
“I am very much looking forward to being kept informed on the progress of the implementation of that amnesty,” Pedersen said before resuming talks on a new constitution for Syria in Geneva.
“That amnesty has potential and we look forward to seeing how it develops,” Pedersen said.
The April decree granted general amnesty to detainees convicted of terrorism, except in cases leading to the death of a person.
The Syrian Justice Ministry has said hundreds of detainees have been released, and a military official, Ahmad Touzan, told local media this week the amnesty would cover thousands, including those wanted but not detained.
Touzan declined to disclose the number of detainees released, saying that “the numbers are changing by the hour.”
The war monitor of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a large network of sources in Syria, says about 1,142 detainees have so far been released across the country under the amnesty, with hundreds more expected.
In the coming days, Syria’s warring factions will hold the latest round of constitutional talks in Switzerland, according to a process that began in 2019.
It is hoped that the talks could pave the way for a broader political process.
Pedersen said he is “hopeful that this will be a positive meeting that can move us forward so that we can start seeing… some confidence-building measures,” Pedersen said.
Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011 after the violent crackdown on protests demanding regime change.
It quickly developed into a complex conflict that attracted numerous actors, including jihadist groups and foreign powers. The war has killed about half a million people and displaced millions.
Throughout the war, the UN has been striving for a political resolution.