The Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad is reportedly "blackmailing" the relatives of recently-released detainees by demanding huge amounts of money in return for the guarantee that their cases will be closed.
Earlier this month, the Assad regime issued a wide-ranging amnesty for detainees, which allegedly guaranteed the release of prisoners detained on charges of "terrorism" – generally meaning anyone suspected of protesting or criticising the authorities. It was the first amnesty of its kind throughout the ongoing decade-long civil war, and was even recently praised by the United Nations.
It was later revealed that the regime is still extorting moneyfrom families for the release of detainees who were meant to be freed under the amnesty. If that violation of the amnesty was not enough, it is again reportedly being violated through the regime's demanding of money from the relatives of even those who have already been released under that decree.
According to the UK-based organisation, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), regime security officers are approaching families of the released detainees with the demand to hand over up to 30 million Syrian pounds ($57,291) in return for the closure of their cases.
Quoting local sources in Syria, SOHR revealed that "The officers threatened … that the release of [the prisoners] came without closing their security cases and that they are still subject to arrest later."
Speaking to the UK-based news organisation, the New Arab, SOHR's Director, Fadel Abdul Ghany, told it that, so far, only 523 detainees have been released under the amnesty while around 132,000 others on 'terrorism' charges are still being held in Syria's prison network.
"Those who Assad arrested or disappeared are his hostages, he is acting like a mafia," Abdul Ghany said. Adding that,around 87,000 forcibly disappeared people are still thought to be detained by Damascus, "only 6 or 7 forcibly disappeared people had been released as part of the amnesty decree."
Under the current rate of release, he stated, the amnesty cannot be fulfilled. "If Assad continues to release an amnesty decree every year, and releases one thousand [each time], then we need 132 years until all detainees are released, [that is] if he was to stop arresting [people] … and he never stops."