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Death penalty or execution

Last update: September 2020

The death penalty is envisaged under the Syrian Penal Law and can be imposed for the following crimes: aggravated murder, military offences, terrorism-related offences, drug trafficking, treasonous acts, arson resulting in death, gang robbery resulting in death, as well as other offences not resulting in death, such as subjecting a person to torture or barbaric treatment during commission of a gang-robbery; attempting a crime punishable by the death penalty; and being convicted for the second time for a felony punishable by forced labour for life.

In addition, the Counter-Terrorism Law No.19 was adopted in 2012. It defines terrorism broadly and envisages harsh punishment, including the death penalty.

The Military Field Courts, which try civilians and military personnel for ‘crimes committed during wartime or during military operations’ can also impose the death penalty upon approval by the President of Syria.

There are reports that death penalties and executions were extensively implemented in Syria’s prisons. However, no official figures have been disclosed by the GoS. An amnesty decree was issued by President Bashar al-Assad in September 2019 reducing death penalty to life imprisonment. However, there is no available information regarding the implementation of the decree.

In Kurdish-controlled areas, a legal code based on the ‘Social Contract’ is applied by the Kurdish authorities. According to it, the death penalty has been abolished.

Extremist groups such as HTS and ISIL have carried out public executions, beheadings and crucifixions for transgressing the moral codes of the Sharia law in areas under their control, killing hundreds of civilians. They also reportedly subjected women, girls, and minorities to illegal executions for breach of the imposed codes and for ‘dishonouring’ their families.

Some profiles of applicants from Syria may be at risk of death penalty or execution. In such cases there could be nexus to a Convention ground (see for example the profiles 4.1. Persons perceived to be opposing the government, 4.2.2. Military deserters and defectors, 4.3. Persons with perceived links to ISIL). If the person does not qualify for refugee status, if there is a reasonable degree of likelihood of death penalty or execution, subsidiary protection under Article 15(a) QD shall be granted, unless the applicant is to be excluded in accordance with Article 17 QD (see Exclusion).

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