SDF ends rioting by Daesh men in Syrian jail

Prisoners play volleyball on April 3, 2018 in a Kurdish-run prison housing former Daesh militants in Qamishli, northern Syria. (Reuters)
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Updated 01 April 2020

SDF ends rioting by Daesh men in Syrian jail

  • Kurdish authorities run more than two dozen detention facilities, scattered around northeastern Syria

BEIRUT: Kurdish-led forces have successfully put down riots by Daesh militants in a prison in northeast Syria with none of the prisoners escaping the facility, the top commander of the US-backed forces said.
Mazloum Abdi of the Syrian Democratic Forces tweeted shortly before midnight on Monday that “we were able to avoid catastrophe” in the prison in the northeastern city of Hassakeh.
Kurdish authorities run more than two dozen detention facilities, scattered around northeastern Syria, holding about 10,000 Daesh fighters. Among the detainees are some 2,000 foreigners, including about 800 Europeans.
Abdi urged that home countries of the foreign fighters find a solution for the prisoners. “Our allies must find a quick radical solution to this international problem,” he said.
The prison riots first broke out Sunday night when former Daesh members held there began knocking down doors and digging holes in walls between cells. It was one of the most serious uprisings by the prisoners since the Daesh group’s defeat a year ago.
The riots were brought under control on Monday morning but resumed in the afternoon, with gunfire heard inside the prison and ambulances rushing to help the wounded, activists in the area said.
The US-led coalition said it assisted the Syrian Kurdish-led forces with aerial surveillance as they quelled the riot.
“Due to great efforts made by our forces & swift intervention against the insubordination of Daesh detainees inside one prison, we were able to avoid catastrophe & take control,” Abdi tweeted in English.
“No prisoners escaped,” Abdi added, without saying if there were any casualties among the prisoners or the Syrian Kurdish forces.
It was not immediately clear if the riots were triggered by concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus.
Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the forces, said late Sunday there was no connection between the riot and fears of the fast-spreading virus. There have been no official reports of infection in Kurdish-administered northeastern Syria or in any detention facilities there.
A video posted by activists said to be taken during Sunday’s riots, showed two inmates carrying a banner with writing in Arabic that reads: “We call upon the coalition and international organizations that human rights be respected.”
The US-backed Kurdish-led forces declared a military victory against Daesh in March last year, after seizing control of the last sliver of land the militants had controlled in southeast Syria.
The Hassakeh prison, in the city’s southern neighborhood of Ghoeiran, is believed to house foreign Daesh militants though the prisoners’ nationalities were not immediately known.

Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

Updated 29 May 2020

Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

  • The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Parliament on Thursday failed to approve a draft law on general amnesty, after tensions rose during a vote and the Future Movement, led by former prime minister Saad Hariri, walked out of the legislative session.

“They want to bring us back to square one,” he said. “Every party has its own arguments, as if they want to score points.”

The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty. Minister of Justice Marie Claude Najm, who is affiliated with the FPM, asked for “amendments to the draft law so that it does not include those accused of tax evasion and violating maritime property.”

The draft law was referred to the parliament despite disagreements between parliamentary committees over the basic issue of who should and should not be included in the amnesty. The former government, led by Hariri, proposed a general amnesty law before it resigned last October in the face of mounting pressure resulting from public protests.

There were a number of protests during the legislative session, some opposing the adoption of the law entirely, while others were directed at specific provisions within it.

The draft law includes an amnesty for about 1,200 Sunni convicts, 700 of whom are Lebanese. Some are accused of killing soldiers in the Lebanese Army, possessing, transporting or using explosives, kidnap and participating in bombings.

It was also covers about 6,000 Lebanese Christians, most of whom fled to Israel following the withdrawal of occupying Israeli soldiers from southern Lebanon in 2000, as well as nearly 30,000 people from the Bekaa region, the majority of whom are from the Shiite community and wanted for drug trafficking, drug abuse, murder, kidnap, robbery and other crimes.

Hezbollah appeared to agree to a pardon for entering Israel, but object to a pardon for anyone who worked or communicated with the enemy or acquired Israeli citizenship.

Before the session, the Lebanese Order of Physicians highlighted overcrowding in Lebanese prisons, and this health risk this poses during COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are 20 prisons for men, four for women and one juvenile prison holding a total of 8,300 inmates, 57 percent of whom are in the Roumieh Central Prison,” the LOP said. It added that 57 percent of prisoners are Lebanese and 23 percent are Syrian, one third have been convicted while the rest are awaiting trial, and the overcrowding is so bad each prisoner has the equivalent of only one square meter of space. The organization described the situation as “a time bomb that must be avoided.”

In other business during the session, as part of anticorruption reforms required as a condition for receiving international economic aid, the Parliament approved a law to increase transparency in the banking sector, with responsibility for this resting with the Investigation Authority of the Lebanese Central Bank and the Anti-Corruption Commission.

It also endorsed a draft law to create a mechanism for top-level appointments in public administrations, centers and institutions. An amendment was added to prevent ministers from changing or adding candidates for the position of director general. The FPM opposed this, while Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces voted in favor. Hariri accused the FPM of having a “desire to possess the entire country.”

MPs rejected a draft law to allow Lebanon to join the International Organization for Migration because, said MP Gebran Bassil, “it’s unconstitutional and facilitates the accession, integration and settlement process.” Lebanon hosts about 200,000 Palestinian and a million Syrian refugees.

The session sparked a wave of street protests. Some of them, led by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Lebanese Communist Party, opposed the approval of a general amnesty that includes those who fled to Israel.

Protesters burned the Israeli flag in Sidon in protest against a law that “affects Israeli agents who sold their land, fought their people, and plotted against them.” They set up a symbolic gallows on which they wrote: “This is the fate of Zionist agents who fled execution.”

Others, including the families of Muslim detainees, staged demonstrations in support of the amnesty.