Tue, Jan 17, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Stop the killings in Syria: Ban

‘FREED’:Bashar al-Assad’s offer of amnesty was meaningless because most detainees were held without charge and thousands remain behind bars, the opposition said

Reuters, BEIRUT

An Arab League observers mission delegate speaks with some of the prisoners who were freed from the Adra Prison on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria, on Sunday.

Photo: EPA

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has told Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to “stop killing your people,” and the Syrian leader offered an amnesty for “crimes” committed during a 10-month-old revolt against him.

Arab League foreign ministers will meet on Sunday to discuss the future of a monitoring mission sent last month to check if Syria is respecting an Arab peace plan.

Assad’s violent response to the uprising has killed more than 5,000 people, by a UN count. Syrian authorities say 2,000 members of the security forces have also been killed. At least 25 civilians and soldiers were reported killed on Sunday.

“Today, I say again to President Assad of Syria: Stop the violence, stop killing your people. The path of repression is a dead end,” Ban told a conference in Lebanon on democratic transitions in the Arab world on Sunday.

Assad’s amnesty will run to the end of this month, covering army deserters and people who possessed illegal arms or had violated laws on peaceful protest, the state news agency SANA said.

Syria’s Addounia TV said Arab monitors discussed the amnesty with Damascus police on Sunday.

Opponents of Assad said the amnesty was meaningless because most detainees were held without charge in secret police or military facilities with no due process or legal documentation.

“The problem is not those who have reached trial or have been sentenced to terms in civic jails, but those who are imprisoned and we don’t know where they are or anything about them,” said Kamal Labwani, who was freed last month after six years as a political prisoner and is now in Jordan.

Anti-Assad protests began in March, inspired by a wave of popular anger against autocratic rulers sweeping the Arab world.

Assad has issued several amnesties since the start of protests, but opposition groups say thousands of people remain behind bars and many have been tortured or abused.

The Avaaz campaign group said on Dec. 22 at least 69,000 people had been detained since the start of the uprising, of whom 32,000 had been released.

Freeing detainees was one of the terms of an Arab League peace plan, which also called for an end to bloodshed, the withdrawal of troops and tanks from the streets and a political dialogue.

An opposition group said five textile workers were killed when a bomb hit their bus in the northern province of Idlib on Sunday. SANA blamed the attack on an “armed terrorist group.”

SANA also said six soldiers killed by such groups were buried in the rebellious central city of Homs.

Sunday’s civilian death toll in Homs rose to 11, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. It said three people were also killed in random shooting by security forces in the town of Qarqas in Quneitra Province.

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