Al-Assad attempts to win back defectors with general amnesty
Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – The official Syrian Arab News Agency [SANA] announced that President Bashar al-Assad had on Wednesday granted a “general amnesty” for all those who had broken “some articles of the Military Service Law and Military Penal Code.”
The announcement stressed that those who have avoided military service but remained in Syria must surrender themselves within the next 90 days, whilst those who have abandoned their military service and fled the country must surrender themselves to Syrian authorities within the next 120 days.
Director of the Syrian National Council [SNC] Legal Office, Hisham Marwah, informed Asharq Al-Awsat about the legal aspects of this “general amnesty”, which is legislative decree No. 30 for 2012. He revealed that this represents an amnesty for all those who have avoided military service or abandoned the Syrian military, as well as those who failed to participate in their mandatory military service.
Marwah stressed that this legislative decree “is a step by the regime to entice the youth in the Free Syrian Army [FSA] to return to the regime’s fold by claiming that they will not be brought to trial for abandoning their service, but this does not mean that they will not be tried for other crimes like incitement or attacking military apparatus etc.”
The SNC spokesman added that “the regime, via this legislation, seeks to dampen the revolution, particularly with regards to the youth activists who have failed to attend their mandatory national military service.” As for why the al-Assad regime has taken this decision at this time, Marwah claimed that “the regime is experiencing a real crisis, and it is therefore seeking to recover the youth who have abandoned their military service and joined the uprising.”
Marwah also warned Syrian defectors of responding to Bashar al-Assad’s general amnesty, stressing that “whoever responds to this call will be subject to other legal charges…therefore the regime’s move is nothing more than a new form of deception and trickery to convince the revolution’s youth that if they return to the al-Assad regime, they will be forgiven.”
He added that the regime has also begun to distribute lists of the names of Syrian youth wanted for defecting from the Syrian army or failing to attend their mandatory military service, adding “they are arrested and transferred to military barracks where they are brainwashed.”
For his part, Free Syrian Army [FSA] Colonel Khalid al-Hammoud also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that it would be impossible for FSA members to take up this amnesty. He said “we, as defectors from this regime, are well aware of the fate awaiting anybody who returns to this regime, namely elimination.”
He added that al-Assad announcing this amnesty at this time confirms FSA claims that the al-Assad regime is suffering from a severe shortage of soldiers, particularly due to an increase in the number of defections. He said “al-Assad confirmed yesterday that the [Syrian] military apparatus is suffering what it is suffering due to the Syrian youth’s refusal to join and volunteer for military service, despite the fact that the Syrian army has opened the door to volunteers from all areas across the country.”