Human Rights Watch: President Bashar al-Assad should release all peaceful activists, media professionals, and humanitarian assistance providers as part of an amnesty announced on October 23, 2012, Human Rights Watch, Alkarama, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Index on Censorship, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Reporters Without Borders, and Samir Kassir Foundation – Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom said today. These persons have been detained purely for exercising their basic rights such as freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, or for assisting others and therefore should not have been detained or prosecuted in the first place, the groups said.
The president’s Legislative Decree No. 71 grants a general amnesty, reducing or eliminating prison terms for most crimes, but it excludes those who have been charged or convicted of terrorism offenses under the Anti-Terrorism Law enacted on July 2. Although Assad issued four amnesty decrees in 2011 and two others in January and May, security forces have kept many peaceful activists in detention. To ensure that the amnesty does not exclude them, the government should allow independent United Nations monitors inside Syria’s detention facilities, the groups said.
“If President Assad is serious about his amnesty, he should open the doors of all his prisons to independent monitors to check who is actually detained and why,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Otherwise, this amnesty will be yet another false promise, with released detainees soon replaced by other activists, humanitarians, and journalists locked up for peacefully doing their jobs.” [Continue reading…]