Opposition calls Assad’s Amnesty offer: Too late

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad issued a general amnesty on Tuesday, state television said, after ten weeks of protests against his 11-year rule and a military crackdown which has drawn international condemnation.

The amnesty covers “all members of political movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood,” it said. Membership of the Brotherhood, which led an armed uprising against Assad’s father in 1982, is punishable by death in Syria.

Assad’s move was the latest in a series of reforms — including lifting a 48-year state of emergency and granting citizenship to stateless Kurds in eastern Syria — aimed at addressing the grievances of protesters.

But those steps have been accompanied by a ruthless military crackdown in which rights campaigners say 1,100 civilians have been killed and more than 10,000 people arrested.

Khalaf Ali Khalaf, an organizer of a Syrian opposition conference taking place in Turkey, said the amnesty “comes too late to appease the street, like vague and halfhearted promises for reform that preceded it.”

Asked about the promised amnesty, the United States said Assad needed to take concrete action.

“He has talked reform but we have seen very little in the way of action… he needs to take steps — concrete steps, not rhetoric — to address what is going on in the country,” U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

Activists said at least five people were killed on Tuesday when tanks shelled the central town of Rastan and security forces stormed Hirak, a town in the southern Hauran Plain where the uprising first broke out in mid-March.

Syria blames the violence on armed groups, Islamists and foreign agitators, saying more than 120 police and soldiers have been killed in the unrest nationwide.

The official SANA news agency said two soldiers were killed in an operation to arrest “armed terrorist groups” in Rastan. It quoted a military source saying army and security forces seized weapons and ammunition in Rastan and killed or injured “a number of armed terrorists.”

The United States, which has called Assad’s repression of protests “barbaric, and the European Union, have announced sanctions against the president and senior Syrian officials.

CHINA OPPOSES RESOLUTION

Western nations have also been pushing for the United Nations Security Council to condemn the violent repression in Syria, but veto-wielding council members Russia and China have both expressed reservations over a draft resolution.

“The Chinese government supports Syria’s efforts to protect its sovereignty and stability and we hope that stability and order in Syria will be restored as soon as possible,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a news briefing.

“In the current circumstances, we believe that the adoption of the U.N. Security Council resolution would do no good for the easing of tensions and stability in Syria.”

The U.N. children’s agency UNICEF called on Syria to investigate reports of “horrific acts” of violence against children detained during the current wave of unrest.

In a statement, UNICEF said use of live ammunition against demonstrators had reportedly killed at least 30 children, although it said it could not independently confirm that figure or the circumstances of their death.

Syrian television said on Tuesday the Interior Minister Mohammad al-Shaar had launched an investigation into the killing of Hamza Khatib, a 13-year-old boy who activists say died after being tortured in detention. Footage of his bruised and bloodied body has been widely disseminated on the Internet.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the report showed a collapse of Assad’s will to listen to his people.

“President Assad has a choice, and every day that goes by the choice is made by default. He has not called an end to the violence against his own people, and he has not engaged seriously in any kind of reform efforts,” she said.

“Every day that goes by the position of the government becomes less tenable and the demands of the Syrian people for change only grow stronger.”

HOMS VIOLENCE

One of the main demands of protesters has been the release of political prisoners, as well as curbing the all-powerful security forces and ending corruption. The ruling Baath Party has banned opposition and curbed political freedoms since 1963.

Protests have spread across the country, although the two main cities of Damascus and Aleppo, where security forces are heavily deployed, have yet to witness major sustained protests.

The central province of Homs, north of Damascus, has seen some of the biggest demonstrations and is the latest focus of the military campaign to crush dissent.

Tuesday’s violence brings to 16 the number of civilians killed since troops and tanks surrounded towns and villages in the Homs region on Sunday, according to tallies by activists. Officials say six members of the security forces have been killed in the same operation.

Assad assumed power when his father, Hafez al-Assad, died in 2000 after three decades of rule. The elder Assad crushed an armed Muslim Brotherhood uprising in Hama in 1982, flattening part of the old city and killing many thousands.

The younger Assad has reinforced his father’s close ties with Iran and its support for militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, while holding intermittent peace talks with Israel which seized the Golan Heights from Syria in a 1967 war. Reuters

  • Patience2

    Odd how the chinese seem to be supporting the Hyena’s methodology for handling his own citizens!  Could it be because they(the chinese) do exactly the same thing to THEIR OWN people?  If they(the chinese) came out for human rights in Syria, how would they explain what they do to THEIR OWN people?  How can they(the chinese) occupy so important a position in a body such as the UN performing as they have done for so many years against THEIR OWN people!  Makes you wonder about the UN itself.  And Russia, they were mentioned, too.

  • Anonymous

    Odd how the chinese seem to be supporting the Hyena’s methodology for handling his own citizens!  Could it be because they(the chinese) do exactly the same thing to THEIR OWN people?  If they(the chinese) came out for human rights in Syria, how would they explain what they do to THEIR OWN people?  How can they(the chinese) occupy so important a position in a body such as the UN performing as they have done for so many years against THEIR OWN people!  Makes you wonder about the UN itself.  And Russia, they were mentioned, too.

  • 316909

    A general Amnesty is normally letting people off the hook without any sort of punishment. The Syrian regime is so stupid and so bad with human rights that they offer a general amnesty and on the amnesty order it says “execution sentenced are reduced to life in prison hard labor. Life in jail is reduced to 20 years hard labor” HOW IS THAT AMNESTY? MOST OF THE PEOPLE IN YOUR JAIL WILL END UP DEAD ANY WAY. Is Hamza AL Khateeb included in this Amnesty or the 1100 dead people?

    Do you think telling a person that risks his life to revolt to relax because youre not going to kill him any more just keep him in prison for the rest of his life working 12 hours a day and being beat a few times a day is going to make the people happy and just forget about the 1100 people you killed and the children. What a f-ing joke.
    IS THIS GUY A TOTAL IDIOT OR WHAT?  HOW CAN YOU OFFER AMNESTY THEN HAVE SENTENCE REDUCTIONS WRITTEN ON THE SAME ORDER? Do you even know what Amnesty means? youre a doctor and you went to college in england so you should speak a little english and should have an idea of the meaning. Do you think youre people are that stupid?

    If you care about Syria so much then do what the people want. If you think the Syrians would want you to remain as president THEN HAVE ELECTIONS AND ALLOW THE U.N TO MONITOR IT AND COUNT THE VOTES OR MONITOR THE COUNTING. But you know you would lose and you know you have no support other than your thugs.

  • 316909

    A general Amnesty is normally letting people off the hook without any sort of punishment. The Syrian regime is so stupid and so bad with human rights that they offer a general amnesty and on the amnesty order it says “execution sentenced are reduced to life in prison hard labor. Life in jail is reduced to 20 years hard labor” HOW IS THAT AMNESTY? MOST OF THE PEOPLE IN YOUR JAIL WILL END UP DEAD ANY WAY. Is Hamza AL Khateeb included in this Amnesty or the 1100 dead people?

    Do you think telling a person that risks his life to revolt to relax because youre not going to kill him any more just keep him in prison for the rest of his life working 12 hours a day and being beat a few times a day is going to make the people happy and just forget about the 1100 people you killed and the children. What a f-ing joke.
    IS THIS GUY A TOTAL IDIOT OR WHAT?  HOW CAN YOU OFFER AMNESTY THEN HAVE SENTENCE REDUCTIONS WRITTEN ON THE SAME ORDER? Do you even know what Amnesty means? youre a doctor and you went to college in england so you should speak a little english and should have an idea of the meaning. Do you think youre people are that stupid?

    If you care about Syria so much then do what the people want. If you think the Syrians would want you to remain as president THEN HAVE ELECTIONS AND ALLOW THE U.N TO MONITOR IT AND COUNT THE VOTES OR MONITOR THE COUNTING. But you know you would lose and you know you have no support other than your thugs.

  • Anonymous

    A general Amnesty is normally letting people off the hook without any sort of punishment. The Syrian regime is so stupid and so bad with human rights that they offer a general amnesty and on the amnesty order it says “execution sentenced are reduced to life in prison hard labor. Life in jail is reduced to 20 years hard labor” HOW IS THAT AMNESTY? MOST OF THE PEOPLE IN YOUR JAIL WILL END UP DEAD ANY WAY. Is Hamza AL Khateeb included in this Amnesty or the 1100 dead people?

    Do you think telling a person that risks his life to revolt to relax because youre not going to kill him any more just keep him in prison for the rest of his life working 12 hours a day and being beat a few times a day is going to make the people happy and just forget about the 1100 people you killed and the children. What a f-ing joke.
    IS THIS GUY A TOTAL IDIOT OR WHAT?  HOW CAN YOU OFFER AMNESTY THEN HAVE SENTENCE REDUCTIONS WRITTEN ON THE SAME ORDER? Do you even know what Amnesty means? youre a doctor and you went to college in england so you should speak a little english and should have an idea of the meaning. Do you think youre people are that stupid?

    If you care about Syria so much then do what the people want. If you think the Syrians would want you to remain as president THEN HAVE ELECTIONS AND ALLOW THE U.N TO MONITOR IT AND COUNT THE VOTES OR MONITOR THE COUNTING. But you know you would lose and you know you have no support other than your thugs.