The UN special envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, welcomed the release by the Syrian government of more than a thousand political detainees, thanks to an unprecedented amnesty since the outbreak of the war eleven years ago and granted last month by the disputed President Bashar al Assad.
According to Syrian and pan-Arab media, Pedersen told reporters during his meeting in Damascus in the last hours with Syrian foreign minister Faysal Miqdad: “I have been informed in detail about President Assad’s latest amnesty and I can’t wait to be updated on its progress and implementation “.
Pedersen’s visit to Syria precedes by a few days the start of a new session in Geneva, between exiled opponents and government representatives, to discuss the new constitution of the country afflicted by a war that has so far caused the death of at least 500,000 people .
“This amnesty has its potential,” Pedersen said.
“We can’t wait to see how things develop,” he added.
President Assad had already announced several amnesties since the start of the war in 2011, but the latest decree from last April concerns detainees tried for crimes related to “terrorism”, a definition used by the Syrian government to refer to political prisoners. The amnesty excludes those guilty of blood crimes.
The Syrian ministry of justice said this month that hundreds of detainees were released, without specifying the exact number.
For its part, the National Observatory for Human Rights in Syria, which has been using a dense network of sources on the ground for years, has so far reported the release of 1,142 detainees under the amnesty. Hundreds of more prisoners are expected to be released in the next few days.
According to the Observatory, between 2011 and today half a million people have ended up in government prisons and around 100,000 have been killed under torture.