'Assad's decade marked by repression'

Human Rights Watch says Syrians have "No freedom, no rights."

By JPOST.COM STAFF
July 17, 2010 11:11
1 minute read.
Syrian President Bashar Assad

bashar assad 311. (photo credit: AP)

 
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Syrian President Bashar Assad’s ten year’s in power have been marked by repression and breaches of human rights, NGO Human Rights Watch said in a report released Friday.

According to the 35-page report, Assad has failed to deliver on his promises to increase public freedoms and improve his government's human rights record in the past decade. It accused him of repressing political and human rights activism, restricting freedom of expression, using torture and badly treating Kurds.

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During his inauguration on July 17, 2000, Assad spoke of a need for "creative thinking," "transparency," and "democracy." But the report said such a period of tolerance was short-lived. Syrian criminal courts have sentenced lawyers to jail for criticizing Syria's human rights record. Syrian security agencies detain people without arrest warrants and torture with impunity. Censorship is prevalent and extends to popular websites such as Facebook, YouTube, and Blogger. The Kurdish minority, at about 10 percent of the population, is denied basic group rights, including the right to learn Kurdish in schools or celebrate Kurdish festivals, and hundreds of thousands of them do not possess citizenship.

"Whether [Assad] wanted to be a reformer but was hampered by an entrenched old guard or has been just another Arab ruler unwilling to listen to criticism, the outcome for Syria's people is the same: No freedom, no rights," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "He has done virtually nothing to improve his country's human rights record."

According to Human Rights Watch, Assad has justified the lack of political reforms either by arguing that his priority is economic reform or by contending that regional circumstances have interfered with his reform agenda. But it noted that a review of Syria's record showed a consistent policy of repressing dissent regardless of international or regional pressures on Syria.

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