In this photo released on the official Facebook page of the Syrian Presidency, President Bashar Assad casts his vote as Syrian first lady Asma Assad, right, stands next to him at a polling station, in Damascus. Picture: Syrian Presidency via Facebook


Damascus - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday announced a “general amnesty” for all crimes committed to date, state television said, without giving further details.

The channel cited Justice Minister Najem al-Ahmad as saying the decree was issued in the context of “social forgiveness, national cohesion calls for coexistence, as the army secures several military victories.”

It was not immediately clear who would be included in the amnesty.

Rights groups say the Syrian government is holding tens of thousands of prisoners in jails where torture and other abuses are systematic.

Since the outbreak of an anti-Assad revolt in March 2011, the regime has branded all dissidents as “terrorists”, jailing thousands arbitrarily, according to human rights organisations.

The regime previously issued amnesties on May 31 and June 21, 2011. Two other amnesties were announced, on January 15 and April 16, 2013. - Sapa-AFP