Press release: (Download the full report below)
Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights has issued a new report entitled “The Local Administration Elections Held by the Syrian Regime are Illegitimate and do not Represent the Will or Uphold the Rights of the Syrian People “, which confirms the illegality and illegitimacy of the local administration council elections held in the Syrian regime-controlled areas on Sunday, September 18, 2022.
The report uses methodology that combines analysis of the Syrian regime’s 2012 constitution, in accordance with the requirements of constitutional law, international treaties and covenants, international human rights law, and international humanitarian law, in order to examine the extent to which Syrian laws are constitutional, as well as the extent to which the constitution and Syrian laws conform to the basic principles of any free and democratic electoral process. It also examines the laws governing the Supreme Constitutional Court as a judicial oversight body that exercises pre-legislative and post-legislative control over laws, which paved the way for the study of electoral laws in Syria, such as the General Elections Law No. 5/ of 2014, as it is the law framing all electoral processes.
Fadel Abdul Ghani, Director of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, said:
“The local administration elections conducted by the Syrian regime violate the most basic principles of human rights in candidacy and freedom of choice, as they lack independence, and the lists of candidates are imposed by the power of the security services, the vast majority of whom are members of the Baath Party, the party that has ruled Syria for more than fifty years in favor of authoritarian rule; these are illegitimate elections similar to the presidential and parliamentary elections, not representing the will and rights of the Syrian people.”
The Syrian regime gives importance to these elections in its attempt to confirm the idea of its continuing presence by exercising constitutional functions and conducting elections in a timely manner, in an effort to validate the concept of its victory in the eyes of its supporters. The Syrian regime created 26 new administrative units whose administrations were included in the elections, allowing the regime to offer more positions to its loyalists, despite being aware that these new administrative units provide no benefit to citizens
In addition, the Syrian regime uses the elected members of the local administration to manage local development and reconstruction projects, using powers, granted to them by laws, such as Local Administration Decree No. 107 of 2011 and Law 10 of 2018, which are so extensive that they will be allowed to formulate the reconstruction projects that the Syrian regime intends to carry out; these members will be granted these powers in this process because both Decree 66 of 2012 and Law 10 of 2018 give members of the local administration many discretionary powers, such as deciding on the landlords of properties to be expropriated by the regime, studying objections and receiving ownership confirmation documents from the landlords of houses and properties, and even forming committees authorized to determine the value of land and to decide on granting alternative housing.
The report focuses on six main factors that make the local administration elections in the Syrian regime areas illegitimate. The first is that these elections are based on a constitution that was drawn up illegally, with the Syrian regime, like all dictatorial regimes, drafting the 2012 constitution as an essentially fictitious document that has nothing to do with the principles of constitutional law. The second is the regime’s complete control of the Supreme Constitutional Court and, consequently, the absence of pre-legislative and post-legislative oversight of the Supreme Constitutional Court over the local administration elections. As for the third factor, the impossibility of the independence or objectivity of the High Electoral Commission – the primary supervisor of all kinds of elections in Syria – because it is affiliated with the executive authority due to the mechanism used in its appointment. The head of the Syrian regime dominates it by controlling the appointment of its members; Decree No. 131, issued by the head of the Syrian regime on May 22, 2022, stipulated the formation of the Supreme Judicial Election Committee, which consists of seven original judges and seven reserve judges. The decree shows its lack of independence, because appointing its members, determining their remuneration and promotion, removing them, or initiating a public proceeding against them is the prerogatives of the head of the Executive Authority, and the Minister of Justice in his capacity as Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council. Therefore, the committee cannot practice its role as a supervisor of the elections, whether presidential or related to local administration elections.
The report states that the fourth reason for these elections’ illegitimacy is the Syrian regime’s manipulation of the population numbers. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights’ data, since March 2011 up to the current day, the Syrian regime has killed at least 200,478 civilians, with at least 96,000 more Syrian citizens forcibly disappeared. The regime does not update the data of those who were killed or forcibly disappeared within its civil registry department; therefore these citizens’ names are not present on the electoral registry. In addition, the regime does not consult the millions of displaced people and refugees, but rather fabricates numbers for the Syrian population and for those on the electoral registry.
As for the candidates, the vast majority of these are members of the ruling Baath Party, while the regime’s security services control the lists of candidates, which the regime views as a form of compensation for its loyalists. The fifth reason is that the power of the security services prevents any free electoral practices. The essence of the genuine electoral process is based on freedom of choice, and this is almost non-existent with the presence of security services best known for their barbaric practices against Syrian citizens through kidnappings, fatal torture, and enforced disappearances for many years. Some of these violations have reached the level of crimes against humanity, according to the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria.
The last reason for the illegitimacy of the local administration elections is that they lack independence and decentralization of local administrations, which are dominated by a central character that reflects the centralization of power in the Syrian regime. In order for the local administration to practice its roles, however, it needs at least two things: independence and decentralization.
The report recommends that the UN Security Council take serious steps to enforce the Security Council Resolution 2245 to establish a transitional governing body, and to achieve a political transition that guarantees the holding of free and democratic presidential, parliamentary and local elections. It also recommends that the international community should reject these elections and consider them illegitimate, and make real efforts to achieve the process of democratic political transition.
There are also a number of other additional recommendations.