The following are highlights from HRW report 2000 in Syria:
Authorities still viewed human rights activists as criminals and subjected them to harsh punishment. Five associates of the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Freedoms and Human Rights in Syria (known by the acronym CDF) were serving eight to ten year prison terms imposed by the Supreme State Security Court in an unfair trial in 1992. They were the only human rights advocates in the Arab world serving such lengthy sentences for the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression and association.
Peaceful opposition politics or human rights monitoring was not tolerated inside Syria, and punishment for either activity was severe. The country continued to lack a law under which any political party could apply for legal status, and membership in the Muslim Brotherhood was punishable by the death penalty, pursuant to Law No. 49 of 1980. Infrequent calls for meaningful reform came only from organized Syrian political exiles. For example, after a secret meeting of its ruling council, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement in July urging the release of all political prisoners and “lifting the state of emergency, revoking martial law and the adoption of political pluralism.” The statement also criticized “economic and social corruption,” which it said “enlarged the circle of poverty and widened the gap [between various classes of] society.”
An undetermined number of Syrians who fled the country during the harsh repression of the 1980s continued to live abroad as political exiles under difficult circumstances. These men and women no longer had valid Syrian passports, placing them at risk of arrest or deportation. Exiles, and their wives and children, could not obtain passports at Syrian embassies if their names were recorded on black lists in Damascus. Entire families thus were left without documentation of Syrian nationality when their passports expired. Exiles also reported to Human Rights Watch that the names of children born to Syrian political exiles abroad could not be entered in Syria’s civil status register, making it impossible for them to obtain passports and in effect depriving them of legal recognition of their Syrian nationality.
The Full report can be accessed from the HRW web site