Assad ratifies law to end state of emergency

Syrians continue to hold demonstrations across the country demanding reforms; US says new law may not be any less restrictive.

By REUTERS
April 21, 2011 15:51
2 minute read.
Assad

Assad 311 reuters. (photo credit: reuters)

 
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BEIRUT - Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday ratified a law to end 48 years of emergency rule in an attempt to defuse angry protests against his 11-year rule by people demanding greater freedoms. State TV said Assad signed the legislation "to end the state of emergency in Syria."

Inspired by uprisings gripping the Arab world, thousands of Syrians have held demonstrations across the country demanding reforms, presenting Assad with the most serious challenge ever to his governance. Rights groups say more than 200 people have been killed.

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On Tuesday, the Syrian government approved a draft law to lift of emergency rule.

At the same time, however, it passed legislation to “regulate the right of peaceful protest,” indicating that permission from the Interior Ministry would be needed to organize any demonstrations.

Still, protests continued after the announcement that the emergency law would be lifted.

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Demonstrators took to the streets in the northern city of Banias, and opposition leaders said they would not stop until their other demands – including the release of political prisoners, freedom of speech and a multi-party system – were also met.

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The state news agency, SANA, said the cabinet ratified draft legislation, which must still be signed by President Bashar Assad, “to end the state of emergency in Syria.”

The cabinet, which has little power and rubber-stamps Assad’s orders, also passed a law to abolish a special security court, which human rights lawyers say violates the rule of law and the right to fair trial.

The United States is unsure that Syria’s draft law to lift emergency rule will be less restrictive, a State Department spokesman said on Tuesday.

“This new legislation may prove as restrictive as the emergency law it replaced,” Mark Toner said. “The Syrian government needs to urgently implement broader reforms and... to cease violence against peaceful protesters.”

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