UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen on Sunday welcomed a general amnesty aimed at freeing thousands of Syrians convicted of terrorism.
Rights activists said President Bashar al-Assad has decreed several amnesty during the country’s devastating 11-year war, but the latest in April was the most widespread one related to terrorism charges since the conflict began.
Speaking to reporters in Damascus after a meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, Pedersen said he was briefed “in great detail” on the latest measure.
“I look forward to being informed of progress on the implementation of that apology,” Pedersen said before talks resumed in Geneva on a new constitution for Syria.
“There is potential in that apology, and we look forward to seeing how it develops,” Pedersen said.
The April decree granted a general amnesty to detainees convicted on terrorism charges except in cases that resulted in the death of one person.
Syria’s Justice Ministry has said hundreds of prisoners have been released, and a military official, Ahmed Touzan, told local media this week that the amnesty would cover thousands of people, including those wanted. But not in custody.
Touzan declined to disclose the number of prisoners released, saying “the numbers are changing by the hour.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights War Monitor, which relies on a large network of sources inside Syria, says around 1,142 prisoners have been released across the country so far, with hundreds more expected.
Syria’s warring parties are to hold the latest round of constitutional talks in Switzerland over the next few days as part of a process that began in 2019.
The hope is that the talks can pave the way for a broader political process.
Pedersen said he “hopes that this will be a positive meeting that can help us get ahead so that we can start looking at some confidence building measures,” Pedersen said.
The civil war in Syria broke out in 2011 after violent suppression of protests demanding a change of power.
This quickly turned into a complex conflict that drew many actors, including jihadist groups and foreign powers. About half a million people died in the war and millions were displaced.
During the war, the United Nations has been striving to nurture a political resolution.