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Syria government releases 500 detained protesters

The Syrian government has released more than 500 prisoners [SANA report] detained during pro-democracy demonstrations in the last month, Syria's official news agency reported Thursday. The report indicated that the government released 265 prisoners on May 5 and another 250 on May 17, adding that only those prisoners who "did not commit murders" were freed. The announcement was made days after the massacre in Houla [JURIST report] threatened to halt peace negotiations between the Syrian government and anti-government forces. The release of "arbitrarily detained persons" was a key point in the Syrian peace plan [text, PDF], laid out by Kofi Annan [official profile], Joint Special Envoy of the UN and the League of Arab States. The plan was supposed to begin on April 12 but has not yet been successfully executed despite a resolution approved [JURIST report] by the UN Security Council [official website] to send 300 unarmed soldiers and other civilian aid for 90 days to supervise the implementation of the plan. The resolution which calls for an end of violence [JURIST report] was also the first legally binding resolution passed by the Security Council since the beginning of turmoil in Syria. The UN Human Rights Council [official website] is holding a special session [JURIST report] Friday to discuss the situation in Syria.

Violent clashes of government forces and rebel groups since last March have raised international concern. Last Thursday the UN's three-member Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria released a report [JURIST report] alleging Syrian security forces as well as anti-government groups are responsible for the continuing violence in Syria including torture of children. Syria has been urged to end the escalating conflict that has led to violence against civilians. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] released numerous reports alleging that Syrian government forces committed war crimes against civilians and thereby violated human rights within the last few months. In early May, HRW reported [JURIST report] such violation when government forces killed at least 95 civilians in the province of Idlib during ceasefire negotiations. In April, HRW released [JURIST report] a report showing that Syrian security forces have executed more than 100 civilians and opposition fighters.

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