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Syria offers amnesty to insurgents who surrender

Syria announced on Friday that insurgents who have revolted against the government of president Bashar al-Assad [Al Jazeera profile] may qualify for amnesty if they turn themselves into authorities by next Saturday, November 12. This plea follows what have been some of the deadliest clashes of a movement that began in Syria last March [JURIST report], and have left at least 13 people dead over the past few days. According to a statement [press release, in Arabic] issued by the Syrian Arab Republic's Ministry of Interior [official website, in Arabic], the government is calling on "citizens who carried weapons, sold them, delivered them, transported them or funded buying them, and did not commit crimes, to hand themselves into the nearest police station." Given the recent violent turn of the once peaceful protests, the ministry added that it "assures those who turns themselves in ... will then be freed immediately and it will be considered as a general amnesty."

The ministry's offer comes after Syrian protesters have long endured harsh treatment from authorities. In August, Amnesty International [advocacy website] reported that 88 Syrians were killed [JURIST report] while in custody as a result of their protest, and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] has reported on several occasions that Syrian forces may be committing crimes against humanity [JURIST report]. This is also not Syria's first attempt to quell the uprising with the promise of amnesty. Last June, al-Assad granted amnesty [JURIST report] for crimes committed during protests before June 20, but added that serious offenses and private prosecutions were not included in the pardon. Prior to that, the president also attempted to grant amnesty to political prisoners [JURIST report], including those of the previously banned Muslim Brotherhood [party website], but was overturned by opposition leaders.

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