DAMASCUS – Human rights organizations stated that the Syrian regime has delayed the release of detainees and prisoners granted amnesty by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. International concerns over the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak in Syria’s crowded prisons have grown as the virus seems to have spread throughout Syria to a much greater extent than Damascus has admitted. With the war-torn country’s health system already near total collapse even before COVID-19 came onto the global scene, the virus has the potential to cause catastrophic human loss.
Despite the presidential amnesty, only a few hundred detainees have been released. Human rights organizations described this as a symbolic gesture to divert international attention that demands Damascus to do what other countries had done, such as its ally, Iran.
Head of the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), Fadel Abdul-Ghany, stated that the Syrian regime seeks to evade the pressures of organizations and countries that fear the outbreak of COVID-19 among prisoners. Abdul-Ghany added that no civilian activists or political prisoners had been released from the Syrian prisons within the process of releasing prisoners under the amnesty.