In a statement released on Thursday, the Syrian Network for Human Rights said that the head of the Syrian regime — “the terrorist, Bashar al-Assad” — has appointed and dismissed the Supreme Constitutional Court’s judges. This is a blatant embodiment of dictatorship, underlining that the Supreme Constitutional Court during the rule of Hafez and Bashar Assad did not challenge the constitutional basis of any legislation, decree, or law.
The statement explained that the Syrian regime legalizes full control of the Supreme Constitutional Court through a “constitutional” text. The statement covered the status of the Syrian regime alone in the February 2012 constitution, which essentially contradicts constitutional legal standards. This is because the constitution contains articles that violate human rights — the most prominent of which is Article 141, which provides for the Supreme Constitutional Court’s formation.
The constitution states: “The Supreme Constitutional Court consists of at least seven members, one of whom the President of the Republic names as president by decree.” The regime then passed the Supreme Constitutional Court Act No. 7 (7) of 2014, which contains details of the court’s composition and provisions. It stipulates that the court should comprise 11 members, each named by the President of the Republic by decree for a four-year renewable period.
The statement stressed that the president’s nomination of all court members is the embodiment of absolute individual rule. It undermines the principle of judicial independence and the separation of powers. In addition, the Syrian regime deliberately made the judges’ terms less than that of the President of the Republic.
Democratic states, which respect the separation of powers principle, form the Constitutional Court with the participation of the three arms of government: the judiciary (Supreme Judicial Council), the legislature (parliament), and the executive. These systems use state-to-state ratios, relatively long terms of office (9 to 12 years, or life), and make the removal of judges subject to consensus by the three governmental arms. The procedures vary from one democratic state to another.
The statement set out three reasons for why the Constitutional Court under the Syrian regime was merely a front, reduced to fulfilling the constitution’s formal structure. First, the president appoints court members; accordingly, their oath of office before the president contradicts the separation of powers principle. In this way, the system removes the court’s judicial independence, transforming court members into officials of the executive branch. The court thus loses all independence.
Second, placing judges’ removal from office in the president’s hands makes those judges careful not to challenge any law or decree issued by the president.
Third, there is a structural flaw in the powers granted to the court. Judges are bound by requirements that hinder any serious action. This obstruction, which is set out in the court’s foundational text, is intentionally engineered by the Syrian regime.
According to the network, for these three main reasons, the Constitutional Court under Hafez and Bashar al-Assad did not object or annul any decrees or laws, regardless of the constitution and the spirit of the law. This legislation could violate human rights treaties and conventions, including those ratified by Syria, such as the Law on the Establishment of a Terrorism Court, the Military Field Court, laws that shield security agencies from accountability, and even the Law on Reducing the President’s Age, which reduced his age from 40 to 34 years.
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.