Assad's legislative decrees ignore political detainees- DIA ISKANDAR

Assad's legislative decrees ignore political detainees- DIA ISKANDAR
18 November 2023   13:56

Bashar al-Assad issued a lot of amnesty decrees during the period between the years 2011 and 2023, the most recent of which was on November 16, 2023, most of which granted amnesty for various crimes mainly committed before November 16, with exceptions crimes that caused the death of people and weapons smuggling.

The decree coincided with the issuance of a ruling by the International Court of Justice requiring Syria to act “immediately” against the practices of torture and the brutal treatment of prisoners.

Likewise, France issued international arrest warrants against Bashar al-Assad, his brother, and two brigadier generals in the Syrian army on charges of complicity in committing crimes against humanity through chemical attacks that took place in the summer of 2013 near Damascus.

The new decree stipulated that the sentence of those sentenced to death be commuted to life imprisonment, while the sentence of those sentenced to life imprisonment would be commuted to 20 years in prison.

 These decrees were never a peace initiative or pardon for prisoners of conscience and political detainees, but rather they often included specific categories of those convicted of crimes, such as drug smugglers, murderers, or military service evaders.

According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, the Syrian regime still has approximately 135,000 detained people.  However, regime did not issue any statistics or official lists of the names of the people who were released, nor the number and names of its detainees.

Lawyer Michel Shammas, the member of the detainees’ defense committee and a member of the Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research considered that the most important point in the decree is it excluded those accused of Terrorism Law No. 19 of 2012 (issued following popular protests).

He pointed out that most, if not all, of those detained for opposing the Syrian regime were charged with terrorism. So that no amnesty decree would affect them.

It is known that all the decrees issued by the President of the Republic, who heads the executive authority, in order to appear strong and in control of the Syrian people, who alone can pardon whomever he wants, when he wants, and however he wants. And also to improve his image before the international community by showing a humanitarian side, especially since he recently issued a law “criminalizing torture” and stopping the work of military field courts, which enables him to open the way for the normalization of diplomatic relations with him.

It also aims to make countries hosting Syrian refugees believe that Syria is indeed a safe country, and there is no fear for migrant dissidents to return to their homes and lands.

It is worth noting that the People’s Assembly - which is the legislative body authorized to study and approve general amnesty decrees - has never issued any amnesty law, and this is one of the manifestations of the executive authority’s hegemony over the legislative authority.

Can the Syrian people be optimistic about issuing such decrees?

The truth is that the Syrian regime has not made any serious change regarding issues of political democracy, human rights, and so on. The unlimited powers granted to the regime’s security services make it difficult, if not impossible, for the regime’s judiciary to apply this decree to tens of thousands of detainees and forcibly disappeared persons who are in the prisons of the security services (such as the Military Intelligence Service, Military Security, and the General Intelligence Department, State Security, the Air Force Intelligence Service, and the Political Security Division). It is immune from prosecution and no judicial body has authority over it.

Finally, if the Syrian regime has a good intention to implement the decree, then detainees and forcibly disappeared persons must be included in it.

There is no way to achieve what the Syrian people aspire to except by changing this regime and implementing of International Resolution (2254).