Designed to grant security guarantees to individuals, reconciliation agreements have routinely failed to prevent the arrest, harassment, and detention of reconciled Syrians across the country.
Bashar al Assad’s regime has tortured 98 people in the last two years violating the 2018 Daraa agreement, according to local sources.
Anadolu Agency reported that the Syrian government tortured people who resided in Daraa and had applied for amnesty based on the agreement.
Those tortured included about 40 former soldiers who left the Syrian army when the civil war began in 2011.
According to the Syria TV news website, former police officer Muaz Ata El Samidi, who applied to the regime for amnesty, was executed on Saturday. Samidi left the regime forces in 2012.
Earlier this month, the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) reported that former soldier Muhammad Jawdah al Farwan who defected from the regime forces, was arrested and forcibly disappeared in November 2018 despite being amongst those who had agreed on a settlement previously.
On November 9, the regime informed his family of his death, likely due to torture in a regime detention centre in Damascus.
These are just the latest examples of how the national amnesty regarding military conscription issued in 2018 has made no tangible difference to Syrians.
In 2018, Russia along with the Assad regime signed a deal allowing thousands of rebels and civilians safe passage to other rebel-held regions while they launched an attack in Daraa, the ‘cradle’ of the Syrian revolution.
Decree No. 18, which was passed in October 2018, laid out a timeline for deserters and draft dodgers – both inside and outside Syria – to safely return without facing prosecution for violating laws related to military service.
However, the pardon does not include defectors – who are regarded as “terrorists” in the eyes of the Assad regime.
Many observers claim reconciliation agreements have been used by the Syrian regime as a tool of establishing control over areas formerly held by opposition forces following brutal sieges and devastating campaigns of force often directed against civilians.
Hadiya Abbas, former head of the Syrian People’s Assembly, described reconciliation agreements being offered by Assad’s regime as a method of bringing former opposition-held areas back under its control as a “means to consolidate the military victories of the Syrian regime’s army”.
A flawed process
It is not the first time that negotiated guarantees are not being honoured at the regional, local, or individual level, and there is evidence to suggest that reconciliations and local agreements between Russia, the Assad regime, and local communities are not being upheld in practice.
Nor have reconciliation agreements – designed to grant security guarantees to individuals – prevented the arrest, harassment, and detention of reconciled Syrians across the country.
Significant numbers of arrests and detentions have occurred across the country, among all categories of returnees: refugees returning from abroad, internally displaced persons (IDPs) returning from within the country, or through reconciliation.
As a result, it is impossible to advise any community group or individual, either inside or outside the country, that negotiations or agreements with any of these parties would be in any way maintained or upheld, now or in the future.
All Syrians returning to the jurisdiction of the state are forced to interact directly with the regime’s security apparatus, completing forms that force them to volunteer information that may incriminate them or their loved ones.
For Syrians living abroad or in areas outside of government control within the country itself, there is no pathway to return that does not involve volunteering extensive amounts of information. There are no guarantees in place that this information will not then be used against the individual or others in the future.
The regime’s security sector has exploited the return and reconciliation process to institutionalise its historic use of local informants to gather intelligence and control the population by building a large repository of information about anyone returning to or remaining in the country.
In its annual report last August, SNHR said that almost 100,000 Syrians who were arbitrarily arrested by different parties across the country remain missing. It found that more than 14,300 detainees have been tortured to death.
SNHR added that 1.2 million Syrians in the past decade have been arrested and tortured by the Assad government at some point.