Annual Report 2013
The state of the world's human rights
28 March 2011
The Syrian government's pledge to lift the country's long-standing state of emergency must be swiftly backed up with concrete steps, Amnesty International said today amid reports of more killings of protesters over the weekend.
A government official yesterday said the repressive emergency law in effect since 1963 would end but did not give a timescale.
The Syrian authorities are under increasing pressure following the deaths of dozens more protesters in several towns across the country.
"The authorities' pledge to lift the state of emergency must be backed up with immediate concrete action if it is to have any credibility," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa director.
“The government must specify exactly what the changes will entail and when they will take effect.”
“In the meantime, President al-Assad must call an immediate end to the killings of protestors on Syria’s streets and hold his security chiefs and their abusive forces to account.”
Unconfirmed reports say that 37 people were killed in Damascus and other centres, including al-Tall, Latakia, al-Samamayn, Dera’a and Homs since Friday.
This is in addition to the deaths in the Dera’a area last week of at least 55 people, according to credible sources.
Amnesty International is demanding that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad make several key reforms as part of the lifting of emergency law.
“Reforms must include the abolition of the special security courts that have been such an affront to justice for so many years, and end the immunity against prosecution that the security forces continue to enjoy, fuelling their systematic abuse of human rights,” said Malcolm Smart.
"Also urgently needed is a new media law and a new political parties law to ensure that people in Syria are allowed to express ideas that may be critical of the Ba’thist government, which has maintained its sole grip on power for almost half a century.”
Although the authorities have blamed armed gangs for many of the killings of protestors the available evidence points to the government and its forces as responsible.
"These claims about armed gangs would appear to undermine the credibility of any investigation the authorities have said they are carrying out," said Malcolm Smart.
"The continued reports of killings highlight the urgent need to stop the shootings and ensure that there is an immediate, thorough and independent investigation which leads to those responsible being brought to justice."
Syria death toll climbs as protests spread (News, 25 March 2011)
Protesters killed in Syria mosque attack amid wave of detentions (News, 23 March 2011)
Independent investigation urged into Syria protest deaths (News, 22 March 2011)
Demanding Change in the Middle East and North Africa (multimedia microsite)