Thousands of political prisoners, including prisoners of conscience, continue to be held in Syria, most of them in total secrecy. Some have been held in this condition for nearly 20 years, without any recourse to justice. Prison sentences have been imposed after grossly unfair trials. In some cases, the security forces, using special emergency powers, have refused to release prisoners who have served their terms in full. Such special powers to arrest and detain political suspects, beyond any judicial control, have made torture, deaths in custody and “disappearances” common in Syria. Imposition of the death penalty after unfair trials continues to take place. AI acknowledges that some positive steps have been taken to redress Syria’s appalling human rights record, including the release of several thousand political prisoners. However, AI believes that far more radical measures need to be taken to end the violations committed over many years and to prevent their reoccurrence.