In a circular issued at the start of the month, and published on official Assad government sites, the Local Administration and Environment Ministry’s General Directorate for Property Interests sped up the confiscation of property of Syrians included in the “terrorist” law issued in 2012, with property transferred to the state.
This circular was accompanied by a series of measures on the ground, with lists issued by the Finance Ministry revealing that there were 40,000 cases of provisional freezes on movable and immovable property of Syrians in 2017, and 30,000 in 2016, most of them against the backdrop of the owners of these properties being involved in “terrorist acts.”
This year has seen the implementation of a decision to carry out provisional freezes on the movable and immovable assets of 10,315 people since the start of the year, according to the deputy finance minister in the regime government, Bassam Abdel Nabi, speaking to the regime’s Al-Watan newspaper. Some of these freeze decisions were due to “corruption cases” as well as accusations related to “terrorism.”
For about three weeks, local media has published documents leaked from the regime’s Finance Ministry showing a list of 137 names from eastern Ghouta, whose assets were ordered to be frozen. Most of them were former rebel group commanders, members of local councils, and media and aid activists. According to activists, these freeze decisions also included the property of a number of residents of the eastern and western Qalamoun area who had been displaced, and also affected a number of people who carried out reconciliations with the regime in their areas.
According to a Syrian lawyer in Lattakia, who asked not to be named for security reasons, the, “security agencies recently began to put forward lists of names to judicial authorities of people accused of terrorism, most of them outside the country, with the aim of speeding up the issuance of sentences, and carrying out freezes of their assets.” The lawyer told Alsouria Net that these lists were put forward sequentially so as “not to create a media uproar.”
The Syrian Jurists Committee warned against the regime continuing and expanding the confiscations of Syrians’ property and assets, describing the matter as a, “continuation of the crime of forcible displacement, with the aim of demographic change and implementation by Russian and Iranian companies to their benefit in Syria.”
The group said that those targeted by the provisional freezes were Syrians who took part in the revolution against the Assad regime, and who had been accused of “terrorism,” which was an illegitimate decision in violation of the Syrian constitution and international humanitarian law and international treaties and conventions.
In the same context, the lawyer Abdullah Najib said that the confiscation of Syrian opposition members’ property had been done through the “counter-terrorism” law issued in 2012, Article 12 of which stipulates that: “in all the crimes stipulated in this law, the court shall by virtue of conviction rule to confiscate the movable and immovable property and returns and items which are used or were prepared for use in the commitment of the crime, and shall dissolve the terrorist group in the event that it exists.”
Naijb told Alsouria Net that the regime had circulated the charge of “terrorism” against, “all political opponents and carried out superficial trials without access to defense for themselves, and then issued rulings in absentia and then executed immediately without consideration for the principles of trying the defendant in accordance with Article 333 of the Penal Code.” He said at the same time that the confiscation of the property, “has not stopped with opposition members, but also sometimes includes their family and spouses and even children, which is a violation of all ownership laws and constitutional provisions.”
The Assad regime, according to a Syrian lawyer residing in Turkey, was resorting to amending the decision on the freeze later, and moving their property if the accused person is not present and registering its ownership to the “Syrian Arab Republic.”
At the start of last year, the Syrian Free Lawyers Association in Turkey, launched a project “Housing and Real Estate Property Resitution” with the aim of preparing information about confiscated civilian property or destroyed property and submitting this information to the responsible entity in Syria in the future.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.