Syria’s Land-Looting Campaign for Reconstruction
Documents issued on November 11, 2018 by the Syrian Ministry of Finance revealed an order of precautionary seizure of movable and immovable assets of 86 Syrians from Douma. The Ministry explained that the order was issued under Legislative Decree 63 issued by the Syrian president in 2012, Decree 203, that is also issued by Assad in 2016, and Law No. 1, which is also issued by Assad in 2016.
According to the documents, the order was also based on a letter issued by the “National Security Bureau”, which coordinates the work of Syria’s intelligence agencies, advises the Regional Secretary, and reports directly to Assad.
“Precautionary seizure” in Syrian law prevents the owner of the assets from using the assets until a court makes a final judgment in the concerned case. However, these documents state that “the owners’ involvement in terrorist acts in the country is confirmed.” This turns the order of precautionary seizure order into confiscation order and transfers the ownership of these assets to “The Syrian Arab Republic”. The “proven involvement in terrorist acts” rule appears to have been issued by the Terrorism Court that is mandated with all issues considered by the regime as “terroristic”.
The resolution also lists the names of 51 wives, daughters, and sons, meaning the confiscation of their assets as well.
Among the names included, there are media activists, medical staff, civil employees, military leaders, and others. This means that Assad continues to punish his opponents and anyone who disseminates information or assists a wounded person, or provided humanitarian aid to anyone who is not loyal to Assad.
This order violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in arbitrarily depriving Syrians of their property, and demographic change.
Abdel Sattar Sharaf, one of the Syrians who have been displaced from Arbin, provided me with the documents those documents, confirming that there are other confiscation orders and lists of his town and other towns in Damascus’s Ghouta.
According to media reports, there are 70,000 cases of confiscation in 2016 and 2017. The Syrian regime also issued orders confiscating properties and money of artists, politicians, dissidents, journalists, and others.
These arbitrary confiscations are a part of a larger systematic campaign to seize property and finances, including lands, to serve the demographic change Assad regime is leading, and reconstruction, by China, Iran, Russia, and Arab or Gulf States or investors.
Expert lawyers can examine this case in details and try to file legal cases against any State, company, or investor that is involved in the construction or investment in these lands or properties that have been arbitrarily confiscated in violation of article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property”.
These practices also violate Syria’s obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, that condemns anyone who directly or indirectly assists, facilitates or makes profits from construction or investment on stolen or arbitrarily confiscated lands.
Minister of Communications and Technology, Ali al-Zafir, said that the reserve precautionary seizure orders will be automatized starting 2 January, 2019. He added that this step will give more accuracy and quick access to data, according to Al Iqtisadi.
Organizing the process of issuing precautionary seizure orders and preparing an integrated electronic system refers to the large number of these orders, which makes it challenging to organize such data base otherwise. This also confirms the intention of the regime to continue the process of confiscating property and abusing the rights guaranteed by all laws. Thus, the regimes employed these decisions to pressure, punish, and deprive dissidents, journalists, politicians, artists, and others of their property because they expressed their views, participated in political opposition, or defended themselves and their families against murder and forced disappearance.
Al-Assad regime has never respected any human rights law or the rights of Syrian citizens. These confiscations are consistent with the regime’s ongoing brutal methodology of displacing people and demolishing houses, endorsed by Law No. 10 which allows for the establishment of regulatory areas throughout Syria, and the issuance of confiscation orders to punish Syrians and loot their property.
Assad leading this campaign personally, through issuing decrees, and laws, and overseeing the National Security Bureau, indicates the importance of looting lands and establishing the regime’s “legal” ownership of these lands in preparation for investment or reconstruction measures. And comes in line with the Syrian regime former practices of issuing decrees or laws to fit Rami Makhlouf’s investment plans. Today, it seems Assad is issuing these decrees and laws to facilitate the plans of Russia, Iran, China and gulf investors.
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