Syrian reform pledges ring hollow as more protesters killed
Syria’s President must back up his pledge to introduce reforms with immediate, concrete action to end the continuing wave of killings of protesters by his security forces, Amnesty International said today. “We conditionally welcome reports that the government has agreed to lift the national state of emergency that has been in force continuously for the past 48 years, and abolish the notoriously unfair Supreme State Security Court that it spawned,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa. “These have been two key demands of the thousands of largely peaceful protesters that have braved the authorities’ bullets on Syria’s streets.”According to reports, at least 26 more protesters have died in recent days, bringing the total to some 220 over the past month. On Sunday, security forces reportedly killed 17 protesters in Homs and three mourners at a funeral in nearby Talbisah, with five more protesters reported killed in Latakia on Monday.A tribal leader, Muhammad al-‘Aliwi, also died in custody on Monday, possibly as a result of torture. “The concessions now being made by the government have been achieved at a very heavy cost in human lives,” said Malcolm Smart. “There must be no more slaughter. Syria’s President must take firm action now to stop the bloody crackdown by his security forces and ensure that those responsible for it are held to account.”“President Bashar al-Assad should match his action in lifting the emergency by establishing an immediate independent investigation into the unlawful killings and other violations committed by his forces, and by providing reparation to the victims.” Syria’s Interior Ministry on Monday blamed recent events on “an armed insurrection by armed groups belonging to Salafist organizations.” “Frankly, this looks like a self-serving claim intended to explain away or even justify the killing of peaceful protesters and mourners attending funerals of people previously killed,” said Malcolm Smart. Amnesty International has seen no credible evidence to support the Ministry’s claim and the nationwide pro-reform protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful.
However, the organisation would remain concened until the the details of the lifting of the state of emergency and any other new legislation are made public.