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Syria: pre-election amnesty for crimes committed before May

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in Damascus, Syria on 11 February 2016 [JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images]
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in Damascus, Syria on 11 February 2016 [JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images]

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has signed a decree granting a general amnesty for certain crimes committed prior to 2 May, his office announced on Sunday.

The amnesty covers those who were convicted for crimes such as bribery, forgery, and drug trafficking, and covers all juvenile offenders and other petty criminals. It also reduces the sentences of some, replacing death penalties with hard labour for life and reducing hard labour to 20-year terms.

The decree does not apply, however, to those who took up arms to fight against the regime, cooperated with foreign nations, or are guilty of terrorism. The regime widely attributes such actions to those who have criticised it generally.

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It was not made clear in the decree how many prisoners would be released or have their sentences reduced, but it comes almost two years after the last general amnesty which was announced in September 2019.

The latest decree also comes just weeks before the Syrian presidential election scheduled to take place on 26 May. The Syrian opposition and many in the international community have condemned the process as a farce.

Analysts believe that the decree was released shortly before the election as a show of "reform" in an effort to boost Assad's legitimacy following a decade of conflict and years of economic crises. The regime has also accepted two loyalists as "electoral opponents" standing against Assad.

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