Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad said the country will enact legislation next week that will lift the emergency laws that have been in place for 48 years.
In a televised speech, Assad warned however that the government will not be lenient to what he described as acts of “sabotage.”
The emergency rule will reportedly be replaced by new anti-terrorism legislation.
The emergency laws, imposed in 1963 by Assad’s father Hafez, gives state security forces extraordinary powers to arrest and detain people without any charges.
Removal of these laws have been one of the principal demands of the protest movement that has swept across Syria over the past month.
Having just named a new cabinet last week, Assad emphasized that his main focus is on “stability,” but added that reforms were needed to strengthen the internal front.”
He noted the government has to keep up with the aspirations of the people. The world is rapidly changing around us and we have to keep up with developments. We have to focus on the demands and the aspirations of the people or there will be a sense of anger.”
Assad also pledged other reforms, including measures to tackle unemployment, which he described as one of the biggest problems in Syria.
However, given that Syria remains a one-party state (Baath) which is dominated by Assad’s family and the state security forces, the government does not have any independent authority.
It is unclear if lifting the emergency apparatus will appease protesters who have been demanding comprehensive democratic reforms. Syria’s security forces have responded to the anti-government unrest with brutality and mass arrests.
Reuters reported that protesters marched in Deraa on Saturday, chanting the people want to overthrow the regime.”