Last update: February 2023
The Government of Syria
President Bashar al-Assad, who is also the leader of the ruling Baath Party, and Baath party leaders dominate all three branches of government as an authoritarian regime.
In areas controlled by the GoS institutions of justice persistently fell ‘far short’ of meeting international standards of impartiality and independence, especially in the running of the ‘exceptional courts’ (the Counter-Terrorism Court and Military Field Courts). The justice system was described to be highly political and under the control of the Baath Party, the President and the security services. Corruption and bribery continued diminishing the independence of the judiciary. In areas which had not been continuously under GoS control, such as Aleppo, Dar’a, Sweida and East Ghouta, efforts had been made to reinstall official state justice structures, but justice continued to remain largely absent.
Corruption was reportedly a widespread problem in the police forces. The police were reported to take part in arbitrary home raids and arrest warrants were rarely issued. The intelligence agencies, responsible for most arrests and detentions of persons perceived to oppose the government, were also reported to be corrupt and to engage in extortion.
During the reporting period, GoS forces continued to arbitrarily detain people, with detention leading to torture, ill-treatment, and in some instances to death of detainees. In March 2022, the GoS passed an anti-torture law (Law No. 16 of 2022) that prohibits authority from ordering torture and makes evidence gathered through torture invalid. However, the law’s effectiveness and intention has been questioned as legislation protecting employees of the State Security Department from prosecution remains in force and the law cannot be applied retroactively.
When assessing the availability of State protection for individual applicants, the implications of leaving Syria should also be taken into account.
In general, the Government of Syria would not be considered an actor of protection meeting the criteria under Article 7 QD.
Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES)
The AANES is led by the Syrian Democratic Council (the political wing of the SDF), with the Movement for a Democratic Society as the ruling coalition.
In the Kurdish-controlled territories in northeast Syria, Kurdish forces have introduced self-governing sub-regional security and governance institutions. Two justice systems continue to operate along each other, the system of GoS and that one of AANES, not recognised by GoS. The court system was described as suffering from a ‘fundamental lack of independence from the executive’. Gaps in the legal system, which undermine due procedures and the right to a fair trial remained. It was reported that various tribes in Hasaka as well as in eastern Deir Ez-Zor governorates agreed to reaffirm a tribal judicial system, called Madbata, to resolve inter-clan disputes.
The SDF engaged in extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and unlawful detention of civilians. Torture leading to death was reported to continue in detention facilities. Cases of enforced disappearance and torture and sexual violence against women were also reported.
It can be concluded that the AANES in the Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria do not qualify as an actor of protection who is able to provide effective, non-temporary and accessible protection.