DAMASCUS — Twelve Syrian human rights organisations called on the government on Tuesday to scrap the state of emergency which has stifled civil society for almost 50 years.
"The state of emergency affects human rights and public freedoms which are the subject of continuous violations in Syria," said the human rights advocates, some of them from Syria's Kurdish minority.
As the regime entered its 48th year in power, the rights groups called for the release of political prisoners, a new law governing the formation of political parties, protection of Kurdish rights and reform of the judiciary.
"We call for the lifting of the state of emergency and the release of political prisoners," their joint statement said.
The state of emergency, was one of the first acts of the ruling Baath party when it seized power on March 8, 1963. It grants extraordinary powers to security forces and special tribunals while also banning all opposition groups.
Human rights advocates have repeatedly criticised the tight controls imposed on civil society through arbitrary detention, restrictions on freedom of expression and other forms of repression.
The group's statement called for the "amendment of all laws that prevent human rights organisations from working openly and freely, and civil society from playing its role effectively."
The organisations also called on the government to "enact a law on political parties to enable citizens to exercise their right to participate in managing the affairs of the country."
They also asked the authorities to "urgently take all necessary steps to cancel all forms of discrimination against the Kurdish people" who form nine percent of the Syrian population.
"The Kurds are entitled to enjoy their culture and use their language in accordance with their civil, political, cultural, social and economic rights," the statement said.
And it called for judicial reforms.
"It is necessary to carry out legal reforms with the participation of non-governmental organisations which would help strengthen judicial independence," the statement said.
Signatories of the statement included the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Syrian League for the Defence of Human Rights, the National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria and the Kurdish Committee for Human Rights in Syria.
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