[JURIST] Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [Al Jazeera profile] on Thursday ended the country’s 48-year-old state of emergency, following the legislature’s approval of the bill [JURIST report] earlier this week. In several decrees [text] issued Thursday, al-Assad also abolished the Supreme State Security Court (SSSC), developed in the wake of the state of emergency [HRW report] to prosecute those deemed a threat to security, and legalized peaceful protest demonstrations, although they must be approved the Ministry of the Interior. The National Organization for Human Rights in Syria [advocacy website, in Arabic] reported that the government is not enforcing the new laws [press release, in Arabic] and government violence continues:
With deep conviction and condemnation, the Syrian authorities continue to use excessive force and violence to disperse a number of peaceful assemblies to isolate the Syrian citizens on 20/04/2011, in a number of provinces and cities in Syria, which led to the occurrence of a number of victims, in addition to the arbitrary arrests by the Syrian authorities against some of the Syrian citizens who had gathered peacefully, despite the announcement of the decision to lift state of emergency and the law of peaceful assembly.
The government has warned citizens not to take to the street [Guardian report] in the wake of the announcement, and some forces have reportedly been taking aggressive action against student protesters. Protesters do not appear appeased, as more protests are scheduled to coincide with Friday prayers [Bloomberg report].
Last month, al-Assad ordered the formation of a committee [JURIST report] that evaluated possible elimination of the country’s 48-year-old state of emergency law. The panel was composed of legal experts and charged with examining potential legislative measures that would simultaneously preserve national security and allow the revocation of the law, which permitted arrest without charge and banned political protests. The announcement may have been an effort to appease demonstrators, whose activity had recently increased, while also conveying that any future reforms would proceed at a gradual pace. In March, al-Assad announced that the government would consider ending the state of emergency [JURIST report]. Also in March, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged the Syrian government [JURIST report] to ensure protesters’ rights to peaceful expression and to work toward addressing their concerns instead of responding with violence.