In a statement at a conference on democracy in the Arab world Sunday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] demanded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [BBC backgrounder] end the violence against the Syrian people. In his speech, Ban indicated that it is time for Assad to usher in democracy [SkyNews report] and recognize that the days of one-man rule and perpetual family dynasties are ending. Ban encouraged all Arab nations to embrace real reform [AP report] and democracy, including respecting the role of women and the youth in society. In his statement Ban acknowledged that the path to democracy may be difficult, but indicated that Arab nations must move forward in their democratic efforts. Ban's remarks addressing the situation in Syria came as Assad released a statement [SANA report] granting amnesty for crimes including peaceful demonstration, carrying or possessing unlicensed firearms, and evasion of military service, which occurred between March 15, 2011 and January 15, 2012.
Earlier this month, as part of an agreement with the Arab League [official website, in Arabic], Syria released [JURIST report] more than 500 prisoners. Last month, Ban condemned [JURIST report] leaders of the Syrian government and violent protesters for the continuous bloodshed within the country. Also last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] issued a report [JURIST report] alleging that Syrian army commanders and officials have ordered troops to attack unarmed protesters as part of an effort to stop public demonstrations. The violence in Syria has also been condemned by the UN Human Rights Council, the UN General Assembly's Human Rights Committee and the Arab League [JURIST reports]. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] reports that more than 5,000 people have died since anti-government protests began last March.