Syria: Amnesty International Urges Syrian Authorities to Lift Repressive Laws Amid Violence

Press Release
March 28, 2011

Syria: Amnesty International Urges Syrian Authorities to Lift Repressive Laws Amid Violence

Amnesty International Media Release
For Immediate Release
Monday, March 28, 2011

Amnesty International Urges Syrian Authorities to Lift Repressive Laws Amid Violence

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, strimel@aiusa.org

(London) -- The Syrian government's pledge to lift the country's long-standing state of emergency must be swiftly backed up with concrete actions, Amnesty International said today amid reports of more killings of protesters over the weekend.

A government official on Sunday said the repressive emergency law in effect since 1963 would end but did not give a timetable. The Syrian authorities are under increasing pressure following the deaths of dozens of more protesters 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," said Smart.

Unconfirmed reports say that 37 people were killed in Damascus and other centers, 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 President 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, fueling their systematic abuse of human rights," said 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 evidence points to the government and its forces as the perpetrators.

"These claims about armed gangs would appear to undermine the credibility of any investigation the authorities have said they are carrying out," said 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."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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For more information, please visit: www.amnestyusa.org.