Syria’s Assad dismisses Amnesty report on mass hangings

The president expressed willingness for cooperation with the United States and said would “welcome” US troops in Syria

Reuters/afp February 10, 2017
Syrian President Bashar al Assad. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad dismissed a report by Amnesty International accusing the authorities of hanging up to 13,000 people over five years in a government prison, in an interview published Friday.

The human rights group on Tuesday alleged the gruesome mass executions amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity, saying they are probably still taking place at the Saydnaya prison near Damascus.

In an interview with Yahoo news, Assad said the report “put into question the credibility of Amnesty International.”

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“It’s always biased and politicised. And it’s shame for such organisation to publish a report without a shred of evidence.”

Amnesty said it had interviewed 84 witnesses, including guards, detainees and judges, and alleged a pattern of regular summary executions.

When asked about the report's contention that the hangings were authorised by officials at the highest levels of government, Assad replied: “It’s not true, definitely not true.”

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“We’re living in a fake news era,” he added. “Everybody knows this.”

Syria’s justice ministry dismissed the report as “completely false” earlier this week.

Reuters added that the president of the politically volatile country has also rejected the creation of safe zones for refugees and displaced people, an idea supported by US President Donald Trump; according to the transcript of an interview published on Friday he said they would not work.

He further expressed willingness for cooperation with the United States and would “welcome” US troops in Syria to fight Islamic State (IS) provided Washington coordinated with Damascus and recognised his government’s sovereignty.

More than 310,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began with anti-government protests in March 2011, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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