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Holding People’s Assembly Elections before Reaching a Political Agreement Is Illegitimate and Undermines the Peace Process


At Least 56 Members of the Current People’s Assembly Are Implicated in Committing Egregious Violations That Constitute Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes


Press release:
(Link below to download full report)
The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) emphasizes in its latest report released today that the Syrian regime’s decision to hold ‘elections’ for the People’s Assembly before reaching a political agreement is wholly illegitimate and undermines the peace process, noting that at least 56 members of the current People’s Assembly are implicated in committing egregious violations that constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The 30-page report notes that on July 19, 2020, the Syrian regime held the ‘People’s Assembly elections’ of the third legislative term, stressing that the results of these sham elections have always been pre-decided in favor of one party, which nominated only one person from the Assad family specifically to be its secretary general, with the report further affirming that the recent ‘People’s Assembly elections’ are illegitimate based on a set of basic points, which the report detailed extensively.
As the report reveals, Hafez al Assad banned any partisan activity opposing his rule and outlawed all political parties and movements, effectively ending the previous multiparty system. Meanwhile, under his aegis, the regime formed a sham political bloc, the ‘National Progressive Front’, consisting of several shell parties to provide a formal, token image of democracy. This bloc’s backbone and actual controller is the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. The Assad regime legitimized this control through a provision included in Article 8 of the 1973 Constitution. The report notes that this article remained in force until the creation of a ‘new’ constitution in February 2012, which altered the previous one in minor detail only, with no perceptible difference in its application on the ground.
The report further notes that although the Ba’ath party claims to have millions of members, it has not nominated even one of these members for the presidency since 1971; instead, rule has remained solely in the hands of the Assad family for fifty years, with the report clarifying that the process of transferring power from Hafez al Assad to his son Bashar following Hafez’ death in 2000 demonstrated a flagrant and offensive contempt for the Syrian nation and people at the level of human rights, the judiciary and the law, when article 83 of the 1973 constitution was amended solely to accommodate Bashar al Assad’s age in order to appoint him as president and successor to his father, demonstrating the extent of the Assad family’s complete control of and domination over the state and its institutions, including the People’s Assembly, as well as the security services and the army establishment.
The report stresses that the Ba’ath Party has dominated nearly two-thirds of the members of the People’s Assembly since 1973, using state employees, university students, Red Crescent volunteers, personnel of all the charities it established, and beneficiaries of its patronage, to ensure that all the voting and election processes are in its favor. In addition, the report notes, after the Syrian regime realized in 2016 that the Syrian governorates now contain less than a third of their previous population, since more than half of the Syrian people are either displaced or refugees, it issued Law No. 8 of 2016, which allows military and security personnel to participate in the voting process, despite the fact that Article 134 of the Military Service Law of 2003 is still in force, according to which military and security personnel will definitely vote for the Ba’ath Party. The report further explains that the remaining third of the People’s Assembly members are almost all selected by the regime’s security services based on the services these individuals have provided for the benefit of the ruling regime, regardless of their damaging effect on Syrian society.
The report further notes that the Syrian people’s complete lack of faith in the People’s Assembly elections is due to the lack of any social contract, especially following the expansion of the sharp vertical divisions that afflicted society in the wake of the outbreak of the 2011 popular uprising for democracy. The report adds that a new social contract to unite Syrian society cannot be created while the current ruling authority remains in power, simply because this ruling authority is the main cause of destroying the social contract and creating the various causes of societal division.
The report focuses on the fact that these ‘elections’ are of no concern to the Syrian people, and the results are not binding on them except by virtue of the control of the security services and the power of military subjugation, because they are illegitimate. Their lack of legitimacy comes from blatantly violating the rulings of the international community – represented by the UN Security Council – pertaining to Syria. These ‘elections’ constitute a terrible violation of firstly: The Geneva Communiqué, which was included in Security Council Resolution No. 2118; and secondly: Security Council Resolution No. 2254. The report stresses that both these resolutions clearly stipulate that the solution to the internal armed conflict is the formation of a transitional governing body exercising full executive powers with representation from both the regime and the opposition, which could then create a new constitution, adding that only then can parliamentary and presidential elections be held based on this new constitution.
The report stresses that the failure of the United Nations and the international community to ensure political transition does not mean in any way that the Syrian regime alone has the right to hold parliamentary elections. On the contrary, holding such elections make a nonsense of the regime’s very presence in constitutional committee talks, with the report noting that these illegitimate elections once again prove that the Syrian regime is wholly deceitful and not serious in engaging in any political process that guarantees the country’s transition towards democracy and stability. Furthermore, the regime is actively encouraged not to comply with international law by the unlimited Russian support in the Security Council, as well as Russia’s military and political support, in addition to Iranian material and military support, in addition by the failure of the rest of the world, especially the democratic and nominally civilized countries, to make greater efforts to ensure that the Syrian regime and its allies comply with the Security Council resolutions and their timetable.
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Chairman of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, says:
“The Syrian regime treats the Syrian state as if it were private property in a far worse manner than the darkest days of the Middle Ages. It has proven to supporters that it can do whatever it likes and still enjoy impunity, and even continue to rule Syria and plunder its wealth. The Syrian regime has violated all UN Security Council resolutions hundreds of times, including those proscribing the use of chemical weapons, barrel bombs, and enforced disappearance, as well as violating peace process decisions. It has done so because it believes in nothing but a zero-sum solution that results in the ruling family maintaining power with absolute legislative, executive and judicial powers in a way that surpasses the most depraved crimes of other totalitarian regimes.”
The report provides a brief background on the SNHR’s database which contain data of individuals who the report assesses to have been involved in committing violations in Syria, with the database containing details on at least 14,737 individuals who are believed to be involved in committing one or more types of violations. The vast majority of these individuals work under some entity controlled by the Syrian regime and its allies.
The report notes that the data of persons who ‘won’ seats in the ‘People’s Assembly elections’ has been cross-checked with the SNHR database of individuals involved in committing violations, discovering that 56 members of the assembly are directly involved in committing violations, with the report finding that 56 out of 250 People’s Assembly members are directly involved in committing violations against the Syrian people, which may constitute crimes against humanity. The report summarizes the data on 24 of these members, as well as analyzing statements by eight other members who support the Syrian regime and the person of Bashar al Assad.
The report notes that the regime’s insistence on holding the People’s Assembly elections, despite the fact that Syria is suffering from a catastrophic outbreak of the coronavirus, proves that the Syrian regime, which has in recent years committed violations, some of which have reached the level of crimes against humanity; similarly it does not care at all about the lives of Syrian citizens as it does not seem to care about the spread of the COVID-19 within Syrian society, with its sole concern only ever being to preserve the ruling class. The report also refers to the gathering of voters in the elections, including government employees, members of the army and police services, their families, and personnel with the Syrian regime’s charities, without the slightest regard for the simplest rules of physical distancing, with the vast majority of members of these groups having not worn protective masks.
The report describes the ‘People’s Assembly’ in Syria as a war assembly which exists to support the Syrian regime, noting that this body did not direct any criticism or demand any accountability of the Syrian regime throughout all the years of its rule, especially since 2011. Despite all that, not a single regime minister has been questioned or dismissed. On the contrary, the ‘People’s Assembly’ did not oppose any of the violations and crimes committed by the Syrian regime and the arbitrary decrees it applied against Syrian society.
The report notes that the Syrian regime needs these elections, despite their being an obvious sham, in order to show that there is a legislative authority by which laws are issued, and to suggest that it is not a totalitarian state imposing authoritarian rule.
The report concludes by warning that these so-called elections constitute a crushing blow to the peace process, violating the Security Council resolutions on the political process, and opposing the international will represented by the UN Security Council. Based on the facts included in the repot, these elections are conclusively proven to be wholly illegitimate and lacking in any credibility, as well as being in no way representative of Syrian people and Syrian society. Rather, they are imposed by brute force of arms and the oppressive power of the security services, aiming solely to strengthen the Assad family’s control of power and to pave the way for Bashar al Assad’s ‘victory’ in the upcoming presidential elections, leading to the next step, in which the regime aims to announce the end of the political process and its participation in this indefinitely.
The report calls on the UN Special Envoy to Syria to be more stringent with the Syrian regime in opposing its flagrant violation of Security Council resolutions related to the political process, and in directly condemning these elections.
The report also calls on the UN Special Envoy to declare an unambiguous position for the sake of all the Syrian people in regard to the illegitimacy of these elections and the extent to which they violate the Security Council resolutions, with the report noting that any failure by the UN Special Envoy to take a clear and deterrent stance will encourage the Syrian regime to move forward towards destroying the remainder of the political solution.
The report recommends that the UN Security Council should condemn the Syrian regime’s breaches of Security Council resolutions and its insistence on continuing with elections that undermine the political process and contradict Security Council resolutions, and to put pressure on the Syrian regime to complete the stages of the political transition towards pluralism and democracy within a period not exceeding 18 months.
Lastly, the report stresses the need for the United Nations and the international community to direct clear messages from all the countries of the world to the regime, rejecting these elections and classifying them as illegitimate due to their violation of Security Council resolutions, adding that the United Nations and the international community must place the largest possible number of those involved in committing violations that constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Syrian people on the European, Canadian, US and Turkish sanctions lists, and those of all the world’s countries, and must classify the Syrian regime’s conduct of these elections as a unilateral step aimed at completely undermining the peace process.

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