Syrian President Bashar al - Assad has issued a decree pardoning all army deserters and other military - related crimes. The decree grants amnesty to soldiers inside and outside of Syria as long as their crimes took place before February 17, 2016, and will not be applicable to those who were currently under investigation or have escaped arrest, the official SANA news agency reported on Wednesday. The soldiers will be granted absolution on condition that they turn themselves in to authorities for investigations. Those currently residing outside Syria have two months to present themselves and those inside the country have one month. Last year, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that some 70,000 men had avoided being drafted in to the military since the beginning of the conflict in Syria. Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. According to a new report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, injured 1.9 million others, and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders.