Assad Forms Dialogue C'tee

Syrian President Assad forms a committee to set up bases for a national dialogue, releases political prisoners.

Elad Benari , | updated: 4:43 AM

Protesters burn car in Syria
Protesters burn car in Syria
Israel news photo: YouTube screenshot

In the wake of the ongoing anti-regime protests in the country, Syrian President Bashar Assad on Wednesday issued a presidential decision on forming a committee to set up bases for a national dialogue, the Syria-based SANA news agency reported.

According to the report, Assad later discussed with members of the committee the importance of the national dialogue as a way to overcome the current situation.

“The national dialogue Committee has to formulate the general bases of the intended dialogue to provide a proper environment for all national trends to express their ideas, present their suggestions and notions regarding the social, economic and political life future in Syria in order to achieve wide changes that contribute to expanding participation, particularly in regards to the laws of parties, elections and the media law,” SANA quoted Assad as saying.

The Members of the Committee reportedly said that launching the national dialogue during this important stage of Syria’s history is considered as a basic step on the way of overcoming the current conditions and dealing with their different reasons.

The report on the formation of the committee comes after on Tuesday Assad granted general amnesty for crimes committed before May 31, 2011.

The amnesty includes all members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other detainees belonging to political movements, and also pardons half penalties for felonies if there was no personal claim.

Syrian opposition leaders meeting in Turkey were quick to dismiss the amnesty announcement, saying it was “too little, too late” and calling on Assad to resign.

The Al-Jazeera network reported that on Wednesday, the Syrian government freed hundreds of political prisoners and promised to investigate the death of Hamza al-Khatib, the 13-year-old boy who was arrested during a protest in the Dara’a region on April 29 and whose mutilated body was returned to his family on May 24.

Meanwhile, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday that the nature and scale of human rights abuses by Syrian security forces in the brutal crackdown on anti-regime protesters could qualify as crimes against humanity.

HRW said in a statement that interviews conducted with victims and witnesses indicate “systematic killings, beatings, torture using electroshock devices, and detention of people seeking medical care.”

It is estimated that in the past two months, more than 1,000 civilians have been killed by security forces and 10,000 have been detained in Syria.

HRW’s Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said in the statement, “For more than two months now, Syrian security forces have been killing and torturing their own people with complete impunity. They need to stop and if they don’t, it is the UN Security Council’s responsibility to make sure that the people responsible face justice.”