Observers in Damascus confirmed that the Central Committee of the ruling Baath Party in Syria would hold a conference in February to announce its agreement to pass the Parties’ Law and rescind Martial Law in the country, which a minister has described as currently "frozen."
AFP reported on Monday that the martial law in place in Syria since 1963 has been "frozen," even though it is still on the books, quoting Information Minister Adnan Omran as saying the same day.
"Martial law exists, but it is frozen and is not applied," Omran told reporters, who had asked him about the increasing number of political discussion groups that are calling for more freedom in Syria.
He did not say since when martial law has been frozen, but the interior ministry office concerned said that the decision to no longer carry out arbitrary arrests dates from April 1, 2000.
Omran justified the continuation of martial law by the situation with Israel, with which Damascus is technically still at war and which occupied the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967.
"Syria is facing occupation and aggression; it is in a state of war that could become active," he said. "For a country that is in a state of war, Syria enjoys a model situation as far as freedoms are concerned."
Citing Baath party members, the observers told Albawba.com that the Party’s Central Committee will endorse new steps towards openness including some of the demands mentioned in the statement issued by 99 Syrian intellectuals.
The key figures demanded the cancellation of the martial law, the abolition of emergency courts, reforming the judiciary system and passing the parties’ law, among other changes.
Reforms regarding the National Progressive Front are also on the way, according to the sources.
The front is a coalition of eight political parties, the only ones allowed to function in Syria where a one-party regime has prevailed for decades.
Recently, rifts within some of the Front’s parties have been noticed “because these parties have not been able to cope with the changes,” according to observers.
Among these is the Syrian Communist Party led by the widow of the late communist party leader Khaled Bakdash, and the Arab Socialist Union Party led by Safwan Al Kudsi.
Different factions of the Communist Party have issued statements and counter statements on the reform proposals. The most recent one was issued by opponennts of the party’s leadership under the title “We say it again: Neither breakup, nor surrender.”
On the other hand, a breakup occurred within the Arab Socialist Party led by Safwan Kudsi resulted in the resignation of 18 leaders.