Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Reform in Syria... but is it too Late?

Syria 'Lifts Emergency Law'

Government approves bill lifting emergency law, in place for 48 years, following demands by pro-democracy protesters.

Al Jazeera
19 April 2011

Syria's government has passed a bill lifting the country's emergency law, in place for 48 years, just hours after security forces fired on protesters.

Tuesday's move is a key demand of pro-reform demonstrators who have been holding protests across the country for weeks.

A senior lawyer said Bashar al-Assad, Syria's president, was yet to sign the legislation, but that his signature was a formality.

According to the country's official SANA news agency the government also abolished the state security court, which handled the trials of political prisoners, and approved a new law allowing the right to peaceful protests.

Syria's emergency law gave the government a free hand to arrest people without charge and extended the state's authority into virtually every aspect of citizens' lives.

Cal Perry, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Damascus, said the three steps were a major concession to protesters.

"The people on the ground here really wanted to see not only that court dissolved but also the state of emergency lifted because of these abitrary detentions, as they would put it.

"But the government is certainly going to draw a line between what they call peaceful protesting and an armed insurrection."

Hours before the decision, security forces had fired on protesters in the city of Hom, killing at least six people.

Rights groups say that more than 200 people have been killed in the protests which started in the southern city of Daraa one month ago, inspired by uprisings gripping Arab nations.

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