“I do not go into the prisons, but I believe that there are not many prisoners any more,” President Hafez al-Asad said in an interview with the French television station TF-1 in Damascus on July 11, the week before his official state visit to France. Indeed, there were welcome releases during the year of 121 Lebanese political prisoners and an unconfirmed number of Syrians. But the underlying features of Syria’s bleak human rights landscape did not change. Emergency law remained in force, peaceful expression and association were criminalized, newspapers and other media were tightly controlled, and no political will was evidenced to encourage the development of independent institutions of civil society.
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