Legal Briefing- October to December 2016

Government

  • In an interview with the Serbian newspaper Politika, President Bashar Al-Assad admitted that Syria is a socialist country but not the economically closed-type. He explained that Syria has an open economy but at the same time a strong public sector. Unrestricted socialism provides for the freedom of the public sector to play a vital role in building the country. The public sector in Syria for its part played a very important role in the resilience of society and the government during the war according to the President. He continued that without the public sector, the situation would have been much more difficult. Under the current circumstances, the private sector is under more pressure. Private companies may quit under the present circumstances due to insecurity but still play a noteworthy role nevertheless. In any case, there is more reliance on the part of the public sector. As he saw it, the war proved that the open-type socialist system is very important for any country. While the country remains socialist, the President conceded that he does not know how it will develop in the future.
  • Frustration over the government’s performance has been evident over the years. One news article called on the government to simply implement the laws according to their provisions. It stated that “what is requested is for the law to be implemented, only implemented”. What this statement highlights is that while the laws look good on paper, the drawbacks have been in the way they are implemented.
  • Following the return of Aleppo city to full government control in December 2016, the People’s Assembly held a special session devoted to the rehabilitation of public services.
  • The Council of Ministers approved a bill amending Legislative Decree 40/2005, which governs its own functions.

Commerce

  • According to President Bashar Al-Assad, the Syrian people will not accept any company coming from any state that took a hostile stance towards Syria to set up operations in the country in the future. He explained that the priority during the reconstruction phase will be given to friendly countries that supported Syria directly such as Russia, China, Iran and others.
  • Numerous foreign companies are refusing to renew agency contracts with Syrians due to the current crisis to the detriment of local agents. Agency agreements generally need to be legalized at the Syrian embassy or consulate in the relevant countries but due to their closures, agents are becoming victims.
  • Syria plans to activate current trade agreements with friendly countries and conclude new ones to provide other points of access for Syrian exports.
  • The Prime Minister explained that work is underway on legislation to enhance economic ties with friendly countries, develop ports, customs, exports, imports and investments.
  • The Damascus Chamber of Commerce plans to form a company worth SYP 1 billion for the purposes of exporting Syrian products. News subsequently followed that the Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection intends to establish a public joint stock company specialized in the export of Syrian products.
  • The Prime Minister confirmed that a mechanism is to be adopted to facilitate the granting of import licenses in an effort to combat the spread of monopolies. The new mechanism will restore the production processes of factories, develop the agricultural sector and provide basic needs.
  • The Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade expressed confidence in the performance of the production processes in Syria after the issuance of the Regulation that allows for the import of raw materials.
  • The Damascus Chamber of Commerce is calling for greater transparency by the Ministry of Economy and Foreign Trade when granting import licenses to traders. Meanwhile, the Council of Ministers is studying the mechanisms for granting import licenses.
  • The Aleppo Chamber of Commerce is calling for loans, liberalizing the imports market with easier access to licenses and revising the Customs Law.
  • Russia started importing fruits and vegetables from Syria after both countries signed the Green Channel Agreement.
  • The Council of Ministers approved imports of bananas from Lebanon in exchange for citrus exports from Syria. In this respect, Syria agreed to permit Lebanese banana exports for up to 24 hours. Lebanon’s decision to ban Syrian imports except for licensed items appears to have led to reciprocal measures by Damascus on bananas.
  • The People’s Assembly discussed the activities of the Ministry of Economy and Foreign Trade as MPs heard from the Minister and debated the issues. During the session, Khalil Tohmeh MP asserted that when ministers have a good working relationship, cooperation between their respective ministries runs smoothly or otherwise, this is not the case.
  • The Ministry of Economy and Foreign Trade is drawing up economic policies commensurate with the requirements of the current crisis and reconstruction with a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises.
  • The Council of Ministers has approved a bill granting companies a further nine months to comply with the provisions of the Companies Law enacted in 2011.
  • The Council of Ministers charged the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection with forming fieldwork teams in each province to monitor food and cleaning products and to impose sanctions against violators and counterfeiters.
  • There are calls for stricter food safety measures and laboratory testing before goods reach the markets.
  • The Minister of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection is determining a central pricing mechanism for basic goods and materials deemed essential to citizens on a daily basis.
  • The government is considering lifting subsidies on bread.

Industry

  • A French NGO filed a lawsuit against French cement company Lafarge and its Syrian subsidiary for alleged funding of ISIS and complicity in war crimes. Lafarge is being sued over allegations it paid ISIS to keep its factories operating while all other companies fled the war zone.
  • The Council of Ministers decided to reactivate the Sheikh Najjar Industrial City in Aleppo.
  • Factories operating without licenses and guilty of other numerous violations have been discovered in the industrial zone in Tartous.

Taxation

  • A uniform taxation code to replace various taxation laws is in the process of being studied but has been delayed due to the current crisis.
  • 302 professions are subject to a fixed lump-sum income tax with specified percentages as opposed to the application of tax brackets.
  • The Ministry of Finance has warned businessmen not to expect a tax exemption law this year.
  • The Prime Minister exempted public sector industrial imports from all taxes.
  • The Council of Ministers approved a bill exempting cattle and poultry farms from income tax liabilities for five years as of 2017.
  • There is speculation surrounding a potential new gold tax in 2017.
  • The lack of confidence between taxpayers and tax collectors in the performance of their duties is proving to be problematic for the collection of public revenues. Objections by taxpayers regarding collections and further appeals in this respect are heard by committees attached to the Ministry of Finance.
  • Fine exemptions have resulted in significant revenues for the Large Taxpayers Unit at the Ministry of Finance.

Finance

  • A new 28-article bill on the protection of the Syrian Pound has been prepared after 14 months following approvals from the State Planning Commission and the Central Bank.
  • The Central Bank raised the minimum capital requirements for foreign exchange offices and companies to SYP 400 million and SYP 2 billion respectively, which should be complied with within a period of two years.
  • The Central Bank issued Regulation 1514/a setting the conditions for the payment of US Dollars in hotels. Any violators may be prosecuted on charges of smuggling and money laundering.
  • The Damascus Securities Exchange is ready to admit the listing of mobile phone companies and a private insurance company. Mobile operator MTN Syria and the Arab Insurance Company await board decisions before completing the requirements for listing on the Damascus Securities Exchange.
  • Law 24/2016 gives effect to the 2017 national budget worth SYP 2.66 trillion after it was approved by the People’s Assembly. President Bashar Al-Assad had previously referred the draft to the Syrian Parliament. The Balance and Accounts Committee in the People’s Assembly had recently reviewed the provisions of the budget for each Ministry. The Minister of Finance had previously told MPs that the budget allocates large sums for health, education and utilities while reducing administrative spending to the lowest possible sum. The breakdown of the budget includes SYP 1.98 trillion for running expenditures and SYP 678 billion for investments. From this amount, SYP 423 billion is allocated for social support initiatives, SYP 50 billion is being allocated annually for limited reconstruction and repairs while investment allocations for the agricultural sector total SYP 25.3 billion. During the budget deliberations, the Minister of Finance told MPs that the budget deficit rose 244% over the past five years since the conflict began.
  • The Minister of Finance told MPs in the People’s Assembly that his Ministry is addressing tax evasion and working on a computerized tax administration and billing system.
  • The Speaker of the People’s Assembly has called for legislation to address tax evasion, corruption, squandering of public funds and rising unemployment rates.
  • The state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria recovered 25% of non-performing loans following debt settlements in accordance with the Public Banks Repayments Law.
  • The Minister of Finance formed a committee to amend the Public Banks Repayments Law to address non-performing loans. The public sector banks have been advised by the government to take direct, forceful and clear steps to address the issue of non-performing loans and to restore development loans.
  • Financial and monetary reform will be carried out by assessing shortcomings, looking at the administrative structure of banks, their laws and regulations, the shortage in staff and the collection of debts. There is a need to restore lending according to new regulations and conditions with an emphasis on having each bank provide loans that suit their clientele. The staff shortage in banks is problematic due to the need for qualified and experienced professionals. It is necessary to find a legal formula for rescheduling defaulted loans owed to public banks commensurate with the current circumstances. There is also a need for a legal formula to reschedule loans granted to businessmen whose facilities sustained damage. Other areas in need of attention include discussing possible increases in the capital requirements of banks and improving the performance of ATM machines.
  • The government is to consider proposals from the Ministry of Finance committees to resolve the problems of non-performing loans.
  • There are plans for a bill to revoke travel bans against defaulting debtors if banks fail to file a claim within 15 days of the issuance of the ban.
  • The government has called on the Ministry of Justice to activate the banking, insurance and customs courts in a bid to collect public funds.
  • The Ministry of Justice is preparing a bill to further facilitate the work of banking courts more than two years after the issuance of the original Banking Courts Law.
  • The Ministry of Justice is also preparing a bill to further facilitate the work of the customs courts.
  • As Bank Audi Syria winds down its presence in the country, its shareholders voted to rebrand as Ahli Trust Bank.
  • The Central Financial Supervisory Agency called on the Attorney-General in the province of Rural Damascus to pursue cases against the Ministry of Finance staff accused of embezzlement.
  • In accordance with Regulation 2285/2016, the Minister of Finance formed a committee to re-evaluate spending in the Ministry, and target wastage and corruption.
  • The Minister of Finance travelled to Aleppo to jumpstart reconstruction efforts in the city along with the Governor of Aleppo, businessmen and bankers. Businesses in Aleppo have called for revising laws related to taxes and fees and to support small and medium-sized enterprises.

Insurance

  • The Council of Ministers approved a bill establishing specialized insurance courts throughout the Syrian provinces to keep up with the growing number of disputes. The insurance courts will play a significant role in resolving disputes that have arisen in this sector.
  • A committee was formed by the Minister of Finance in mid-December 2016 to prepare the final touches to the new Insurance Bill, which was anticipated to be completed within one month. The bill is expected to guarantee the rights of insured persons and insurance companies to reconsider past shortcomings. The bill will regulate all players in the insurance market from providers to brokers.
  • Starting in 2017, compulsory motor vehicle insurance can only make up 30% of a company’s gross premiums following a decision by the Minister of Finance. The Syrian Insurance Supervisory Commission has issued the executive regulations to Decision 47/16/100, which reduces the maximum proportion allowed for insurance companies to provide compulsory motor vehicle insurance from 45% to 30% of all gross premiums.

Maritime

  • The Council of Ministers approved a bill setting up specialized maritime first instance and appellate courts throughout Syria to speed up the litigation of disputes.

Investments

  • MPs in the People’s Assembly discussed the Investment Law that has been under review for the last six years and called for a move from a public sector towards a private sector mentality. In addition, MPs alluded to necessary legislation as soon as possible to streamline the bureaucratic process.
  • The Council of Ministers plans to reactivate the operations of the Supreme Investment Council to draft policies to encourage investment and follow up on implementation. The new proposed investment policies and legislation will seek to cut through red tape, bureaucratic hurdles and provide new incentives.
  • There is continuous talk of passing the new Investment Bill and encouraging companies to go public to increase the capital available for potential investment projects. The Supreme Investment Council is expected to deliberate on the new Investment Bill at some point soon apparently.
  • At a conference in Lattakia, the Prime Minister announced that his government would support new investments by offering free land, tax and duty free imports of raw materials, and work towards combating smuggling. He also acknowledged that there is new legislation under discussion that seeks to enhance trade exchange and combat administrative corruption. The conference discussed reducing customs duties on imported goods and raw materials for the industrial sector, promoting public-private partnership projects and granting loans to small and medium-sized enterprises.
  • As part of efforts to encourage investments in Aleppo, local businesses called for loans to restart production and the amendment of laws and regulations to suit the current conditions.

Property

  • MPs in the People’s Assembly called for a review of the Landlord and Tenant Law especially in light of the estimated valuations of commercial properties.
  • The Damascus Cham Holding private joint stock company was launched with a capital of SYP 60 billion to undertake development of the Project 66 Al-Razi Development in southern Damascus sanctioned by Legislative Decree 66/2012. The Governorate of Damascus is a stakeholder in Damascus Cham Holding.
  • The Ministry of Local Administration and the Environment and the Ministry of Public Works have been tasked with following up on the implementation of Legislative Decree 66/2012. They will follow up on the rezoning of the area behind Al-Razi in terms of infrastructure, scheduling, funding and administration.
  • The Governorate of Damascus received a SYP 2 billion loan for the Project 66 Al-Razi Development in southern Damascus.
  • A land investment dispute has emerged in the Damascus district of Kiwan as the Ministry of Tourism claims ownership rights and criticizes the respective investment company for not implementing a court judgment.

Public Procurement

  • Contractors are complaining that the government is not abiding by the Public Procurement Law with respect to terminating public contracts and compensating for inflation. They clarified that no new law is necessary but rather abiding by the current one to terminate contracts and compensate accordingly due to force majeure. Contractors are not content to get held up in the Administrative Court, the Council of State, for years to resolve force majeure claims under public contracts with the state. The Minister of Public Works meanwhile finds it impractical to pass a law to terminate and address problems in public contracts all at once. The Minister claimed that problems faced by contractors gained a large share of attention from the government.
  • The Damascus Chamber of Commerce hears of numerous complaints by contractors on the poor application of the Public Procurement Law. The main items of concern remain the inflationary pressures arising during the crisis and the compensatory measures in the Law. The compensatory measures are expected to be part of the focus of legislative review.
  • The Administrative Court, the Council of State, has been flooded with such lawsuits over contractual price differences stemming from inflation.
  • According to an official in the Ministry of Public Works, the compensation for price differences in the implementation of public projects only covers a fraction of the costs.
  • Direct contracting by the public sector has been witnessed more recently during the conflict as opposed to the traditional bidding in public procurement.

Employment

  • Complaints emerged that foreign bankers are flouting labour regulations by relying on their necessary expertise while adding no real value. Syrian regulations permit the employment of foreign nationals as long as no Syrians are available to fill particular positions.
  • The delay in issuing work permits to foreign nationals in Syria is due to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour’s requirement to ensure that no Syrians can fill the relevant jobs.
  • The Prime Minister explained that new amendments will be included to facilitate the employment of the families of martyrs and wounded fighters in the public sector.
  • The Council of Ministers approved a bill permanently employing temporary workers in the public sector on an annual basis in accordance with Articles 146 and 147 of the Public Employment Law. The Minister of Social Affairs and Labour had hoped for the enactment of the bill before the end of 2016 but it was not achieved.
  • A Syrian newspaper contributor questioned the possibility of subjecting government ministers to the Public Employment Law to improve their performance.

Local Councils

  • The Council of Ministers has approved an amendment to the Local Administration Law. Following a proposal from the Minister of Local Administration, the Prime Minister may discharge the heads of local councils, whether they are provinces, cities, towns or municipalities, for infringements. The Syrian Law Journal is interested to learn why the Prime Minister is getting the authority to dismiss governors of provinces when the power to appoint and dismiss them has been hitherto reserved solely for the President of the Republic? In addition, criticism has mounted against this amendment since it gives the Prime Minister the authority to dismiss heads of local councils who are actually directly elected by residents. Local council elections are after all among the least regulated and less restrictive of elections held in Syria.
  • The Council of Ministers decided on a new mechanism to stimulate investments to the benefit of local councils.
  • President Bashar Al-Assad issued Decree 319/2016 appointing police chief Muhammad Ibrahim Samra as the new Governor of Deir Ez-Zor province.
  • President Bashar Al-Assad also appointed Muhammad Abdullah Al-Hazwari as the new Governor of Hama province replacing Ghassan Khalaf.

Telecommunications

  • The Ministry of Communications and Technology issued procedures for declaring the possession of unauthorized mobile phones. Regulation 30/2016 issued by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) requires the declaration of illegally-imported mobile phones. According to the TRA, there are approximately 10,000 declarations of illicit mobile phones each month.
  • The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Communications and Technology plan to combat the smuggling of mobile phones together by refusing to activate illegal devices.

Tourism

  • The Ministry of Tourism is preparing an overhaul of outdated legislation to fit in with the global developments in the touristic industry.
  • The Minister of Tourism has called for terminating the contracts of investors deemed not to be serious enough to complete their projects.
  • While addressing the Supreme Tourism Council, the Prime Minister has called for new mechanisms for the development of the touristic sector. The Supreme Tourism Council has tasked the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank with coordinating with investors wishing to resume work in Syria after their projects had been affected by the ongoing conflict.

Transport

  • Law 26/2016 raises fee collections for driver licenses in all categories as the Ministry of Interior is planning to issue automated tamper-proof licenses. The Law amends Article 34 of Legislative Decree 117/1961, which was also amended by Legislative Decree 66/2013.

Energy

  • The Minister of Electricity called for investments in renewable energy projects, including solar power. The Ministry is ready to provide the necessary facilities. The Electricity Law sanctions these types of projects.
  • The Minister of Electricity said that the increase in rationing hours of electric power is due to the embargo on Syria, which hindered the arrival of fuel tankers to Syrian ports.

Agriculture

  • The stricter Forestry Bill approved by the Council of Ministers should be enacted soon according to the Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform.
  • The People’s Assembly approved a bill on amending plant quarantine fines in Law 26/2007 with the aim to also protect plant resources from cross-border damage.

Health

  • According to the United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative in Syria, economic sanctions imposed on Syria’s health sector are unacceptable.
  • The Ministry of Health has continuously denied media rumors that the prices of locally produced medicines, which cover 89% of domestic demand, have been raised. However, the lack of price increases is forcing pharmaceutical companies to cease production of certain medicines, which in turned are being imported from foreign suppliers turning a profit. Imported medicines are not always subject to the same pricing rules as local products. Therefore, the current state of affairs does not favour local manufacturers. The Ministry of Health controls prices in order to enable consumers to seek cheaper access to medicines. The resulting lack of profitability for producers is therefore forcing pharmaceutical manufacturers to cut back on the production of certain medicines. The Ministry of Health sometimes asks for a list of medicines from which to raise prices in order to help pharmaceutical manufacturers turn a profit. Persisting problems include a rise in the prices of raw materials and a decline in the value of the Syrian Pound coupled with a lack of price increases for medicines that make it unprofitable for manufacturers.
  • According to the Minister of Health, there are 70 pharmaceutical factories in Syria that cover domestic demand by up to 89%.
  • The Minister of Health warned that factories must satisfy the pharmaceutical demands of Syrians before exporting products or else face closure.
  • According to the Minister of Health, special cancer treatment drugs and those for other chronic diseases and vaccines are being imported.
  • The government intends to facilitate access to pharmaceutical products from Iran, Russia, China, Cuba and India.
  • The General Establishment of Foreign Trade announced that a shipment of Cuban medicines arrived in Syria in the framework of a debt settlement agreement.
  • Syria and Cuba signed contracts for the importation of drugs and pharmaceutical products produced by Cuban companies.
  • The Minister of Health told a delegation from Belarus that economic sanctions hindered the importation of cancer drugs and other essential medicines. The Belarusian authorities are fixing the value for registering Syrian medicines equal to those in Belarus to facilitate their access to the markets in Belarus and the Eurasian Economic Union. The bilateral protocol between Syria and Belarus regulates and facilitates the entry of medicines manufactured in both countries to their local markets. In addition, the Syrian and Belarusian governments stressed the need to implement a health agreement signed between the two parties to encourage cooperation between the public and private sectors in Syria.
  • The Minister of Health and the Sudanese Ambassador agreed to enhance health and medicinal cooperation and facilitate the registration of Syrian medicines in Sudan. According to the Minister of Health, Syrian medicines conform to international standards and are subject to tight supervision by the Ministry’s ISO Pharmaceutical Control Laboratory.
  • 18 loopholes have been discovered in the implementation of the health insurance system established in 1959 that require attention.
  • The Ministry of Finance considers issuing new regulations related to the provision of health insurance.
  • A Sharia Judge noticed the peculiar cases of gender reassignment coming before the courts, which are considered alien to Syrian society.
  • The Prime Minister issued a decision creating an office for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, which is linked to the Council of Ministers and affiliated to the Prime Minister’s Office in order to facilitate its work.

Education

  • The Ministry of Higher Education has determined the conditions for the transfer of students in private universities.
  • Law 23/2016 sanctions the transfer of Al-Assad University Hospital in Lattakia to the Ministry of Defence. The Law also transfers employees of Al-Assad University Hospital in Lattakia to Tishreen University Hospital.

Media

  • A new bill to regulate the electronic media is currently a work in progress. The new Electronic Media Bill aims to combat cybercrime and regulate media content on the Internet and social networking sites. The bill was discussed during a workshop organized by the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Information.
  • The Minister of Justice has called for broad participation by the media industry in debating the new Media Bill. It will be interesting to pay attention to the provision concerning ‘criminal defamation’ in media legislation.
  • The Syrian media seeks more legal protections and procedures to better facilitate access to information from public authorities. The Ministry of Information is sending its representatives to all ministries and press offices of public bodies to facilitate access to information.
  • The Minister of Information pledged to protect journalists against exposure to illegal acts and to seek a role for the media as the fourth branch of government.
  • The People’s Assembly discussed the media sector. The Syrian Law Journal would like to know whether any MPs proposed establishing a media platform by Syria to counter the Western media narrative surrounding the conflict in the country.

Administrative Matters

  • The Council of Ministers approved the Ministry of Administrative Development’s national reform plan to improve the public sector and services provided to citizens.
  • The Council of Ministers approved an amendment to the Civil Status Law provided for in Legislative Decree 26/2007 to facilitate registrations and procurement of relevant documents by citizens.
  • The Budget and Accounts Committee in the People’s Assembly called for the issuance of laws pertaining to the electronic government and electronic signature projects. While on this subject, Syrian and Russian ministers signed a contract to develop the electronic government project in Syria.
  • The People’s Assembly approved a bill on the work of sworn translators stating that they must obtain an official license before practising the profession. The new Law 22/2016 amends Article 2 of the Sworn Translators Law and stipulates that no person may practise the profession unless they are registered accordingly and receive their official license from the Ministry of Justice in exchange for a SYP 25,000 fee.

Judiciary

  • 450 cases have stalled due to procedural issues related to the notification procedures in the newspapers. It is worth noting that according to Article 222 of the Customs Law, the Director-General of the Customs Directorate has extrajudicial authority to deal with customs cases vis-à-vis the courts.
  • According to the Ministry of Justice, the prevention of reporting on lawsuits is to avoid potential public influence on judgments. Rather, statistics on cases will be made available.
  • MPs in the People’s Assembly called for speeding up the resolution of lawsuits.
  • The Ministry of Justice is prepared to open a thorough investigation into the workings of the judiciary and the Customs Directorate.
  • Automation at the Court of Cassation and the Terrorism Court continue along with updates to the Ministry of Justice’s web portal. The Ministry of Justice signed contracts for the supply of computer hardware and servers as part of an initiative to automate the workings of courts.
  • The Minister of Justice retreated from his previous decision to relocate the Palace of Justice in Damascus from the Old City to his Ministry’s headquarters in Mezzeh district.

Family Law

  • The Ministry of Social Affairs prepared a bill to protect children whose parents are unknown, which has become more common during the conflict.
  • The Sharia Court is receiving daily queries by young children about the fate of their parents.
  • The Council of Ministers approved a bill amending the law that establishes the Syrian Commission on Family and Population Affairs.

Nationality Law

  • There have been renewed calls for Syrian mothers to pass on their Syrian nationality to their children who were born and lived in Syria for decades.
  • According to a Syrian MP, at least 3,000 Syrians with university degrees are in the process of obtaining Turkish nationality. In turn, this is contributing to a brain drain in Syria. The People’s Assembly plans to study this issue and the resulting consequences of Syrians applying for nationality in Turkey and in other countries. The MP regarded the plan to naturalize Syrian university graduates in Turkey as a systematic and intentional effort to drain Syria of its talent. The MP went further and explained that Turkey and European countries like Germany are leading efforts to grant citizenship to Syrians to benefit from their skills and talents. Since Syrians who obtain Turkish, German and other nationalities are less likely to return back home, it is seen as a loss for Syria. In response, the MP called on the government to take more measures to dissuade Syrians from migrating such as by raising wages for example. It is nevertheless important to point out that the Syrian Nationality Law does not prohibit Syrians from obtaining the citizenship of another country. As Syria has not declared war on Turkey, the MP clarified that there are no legal impediments for Syrians to obtain Turkish nationality. On a final note, the MP stressed the need to reform the Nationality Law and develop it in accordance with the current circumstances.
  • According to the former Minister of Higher Education, the war against Syria includes a focus on its talented people by granting them citizenship to ensure they remain abroad.
  • The Attorney-General in Aleppo believes that Turkey is trying its best to draw advantages from Syrian graduates.

Criminal Law

  • The Minister of Justice revealed that the new Draft Criminal Code has been prepared.
  • The Council of Ministers has approved the new Terrorism Bill to take into consideration recent developments that have arisen during the conflict.
  • Legislative Decree 32/2016 extends the validity of Legislative Decree 15/2016, which relates to the granting of amnesty, for three months. Legislative Decree 15/2016 grants amnesty to those persons who turn themselves in to the authorities and lay down their arms as well as those who set their hostages free.
  • According to a judicial source, there has been a doubling in the number of economic crimes committed in 2016. The Economic Criminal Code lists numerous economic crimes.
  • According to the President of the Criminal Court of Cassation, there has been a four-fold increase in crimes committed by young people spurred on by the deteriorating economic conditions. He went on to explain that new criminal laws must be commensurate with the effects of the current crisis to deter crimes.
  • A study has found that 17% of the population is involved in illicit activities, half of them in acts of smuggling, extortion and trafficking.
  • Six years of conflict proved to be fertile ground for counterfeiters to pursue acts of fraud and forgery in official documents.
  • The Council of Ministers lauded the efforts of the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Justice in combating narcotics in light of the current security conditions in Syria.
  • The Public Prosecutor’s Office in Aleppo had officials standing by ready to settle the status of militants willing to surrender from the eastern section of the city.
  • The Legal Research International Strategic Symposium discussed the war in Syria and the application of international humanitarian law. The Symposium was organized by the Ministry of Justice in cooperation with the Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Education. It heard of plans to pursue prosecutions against states and persons conspiring against Syria and attacking its people and Army. It also looked into the effects of economic sanctions against Syria.

International

  • A German court has ruled that Syrian refugees are not entitled to ‘full asylum’ status but rather only subsidiary protection.
  • The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution demanding Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Syrian Golan Heights to the June 4, 1967 lines. It condemns Israel’s non-compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 497 and deems Israel’s 1981 decision to impose its laws on the Golan Heights as null and void. In 1967, Israel occupied the Golan Heights belonging to Syria in the Six-Day War and imposed martial law. In 1981, it annexed the territory and extended its civil law system to it. Through its actions, the General Assembly has called for Israel to rescind its annexation of the Golan Heights and to cease imposing Israeli citizenship on Syrians. It affirmed that the Hague Convention of 1907 and the Geneva Convention continue to apply to the Golan Heights and that the decisions by Israel are a breach of international law.
  • The European Union first sanctioned 10 additional Syrians, including four members from the Armed Forces and a prominent businessman. It subsequently imposed sanctions on 17 Syrian government ministers and the Governor of the Central Bank, all of whom were appointed last summer.
  • The European Union allowed certain exemptions on its Syria sanctions regime with respect to oil purchases and transport for supposed humanitarian purposes.
  • Sanctions imposed on Syria have only served to target the economic livelihoods of ordinary Syrians through shortages of goods and rising inflation.
  • The Attorney-General in Istanbul ordered the arrest of Husni Mahalli, a Syrian correspondent based in Turkey, under the pretext of defaming senior Turkish officials.
  • A Czech parliamentary delegation visited Syria. The Czech Republic is one of the few European countries that maintained diplomatic ties with Damascus.

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