Geir Pedersen, the UN special envoy, has praised an universal amnesty aimed at releasing thousands of Syrians convicted of terrorism.
During the country’s tragic 11-year war, President Bashar Assad has issued multiple amnesties, but the most recent in April was the most comprehensive related to terrorism allegations since the conflict began, according to rights groups.
Pedersen said he had been told “in quite significant depth” on the latest move after meeting with the regime’s Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad in Damascus.
Before talks on a new constitution for Syria resume in Geneva, Pedersen said, “I am very much looking forward to being kept informed on the progress on the implementation for that amnesty.”
“That amnesty has promise, and we’re excited to see how it unfolds,” Pedersen added.
Hundreds of convicts have been released, according to the regime’s Justice Ministry, while a military official, Ahmad Touzan, told local media this week that the amnesty would encompass thousands of people, including those who are wanted but not jailed.
Touzan refused to tell how many inmates were released, adding that “statistics change by the hour.”
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which depends on a broad network of insider sources, the amnesty has resulted in the release of 1,142 convicts across Syria, with hundreds more expected.
Syria’s warring parties will meet in Switzerland in the coming days for the next round of constitutional talks, which began in 2019.
The negotiations are supposed to pave the door for a larger political process.
Pedersen expressed his optimism that “this will be a productive meeting that can help us move forward so that we can start to see… some confidence-building measures.”
Syria’s civil war broke out in 2011 following the harsh repression of anti-government rallies.
Around half a million people have died in the war, and millions have been displaced.
Throughout the war, the UN has worked to foster a political settlement.