Law No. 42/2022 Further Consolidates the Syrian Regime’s Central Authority and Erodes the Powers of the Local Administration Councils

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Press Release:

Paris – The Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) today released its latest report, entitled, “Law No. 42/2022 Further Consolidates the Syrian Regime’s Central Authority and Erodes the Powers of the Local Administration Councils.”
The 7-page report explains that through Law No. 42, adopted in October 2022, the Syrian regime aims to consolidate the central authority of the regime and turn the local administration councils into mere administrative apparatuses controlled and operated by the central authority. The report also notes that according to Law No. 42, specifically Articles 1, 2, 3, and 4, contracts (whether leases, investment, or sale contracts) signed by the local administration councils should be officially approved through officials from the executive authority (i.e., the central authority). This law specifies that the approval of contracts is the responsibility of the economic committees which report to the head of the Council of Ministers (Article 1), Minister of Local Administration (Article 2), Minister of Tourism (Article 3), or the Governor (Article 4). Which specific authority is responsible for approving a given contract is dictated only by the value of said contract.
The report lists four reasons that make Law No. 42 an instrument to consolidate the Syrian regime’s central authority. First, the law asserts the complete and utter absence of the supposed autonomy that the regime claims to have bestowed upon local administration councils according to Article 30 of Legislative Decree 107/2011 on Local Administration Law. This manifests itself in a number of ways: for instance, the fact that local administration councils must refer to officials of the executive authority to obtain approval for any economic contracts signed at the local level demonstrates the absence of administrative autonomy, which also undermines these councils’ financial autonomy, with this legislation implying that local administration councils do not have the right to make their own financial and administrative decisions, contradicting Legislative Decree No. 107/2011 that regulates local administration.
Second, Law No. 42 exposes another of the Syrian regime’s lies, namely its false claim that it will give local administration councils ‘decentralized’ powers according to Article 2 of Legislative Decree No. 107/2011 on local administration. The fact that local administration councils have to refer to the executive authority to obtain approval for financial contracts (lease, investment, or sale contracts) shows that they are simply standard apparatuses that report to the executive authority as seen under any centralized regime, emphatically discrediting any claims of decentralization.
Third, the report reveals that Law No. 42 gives the regime’s central authority the final say on any financial decisions, effectively stripping the local administration councils of any financial autonomy. Even more egregiously, the Syrian regime is trying to seize local resources, which are supposedly at the disposal of the local administration councils for the service of citizens. However, having the regime’s central authority approve any contracts by the local administration councils gives the regime the power to determine the outcome of those contracts, in a manner devoid of any of the transparency or credibility that should be found in any contract for a lease, investment, or sale. It will not be difficult for the Syrian regime to manipulate those contracts to its benefit and the benefit of its clients as long as the power to approve contacts is in the hands of its regulatory organs. In short, tying contracts to the regime’s central authority makes them another stream of clientelism and leverage enhancing the Syrian regime’s power and wealth.
Fourth, the report stresses that the text of Law No. 42 is yet another case in a long list of contradictory laws that negate one another to the Syrian regime’s benefit, as Syrians have become all too familiar with by now. As shown in Law No. 42 and Legislative Decree 107/2011 on Local Administration Law, these contradictions can be found in many legal texts. Even though Legislative Decree 107/2011 nominally establishes the principles of decentralization and autonomy, Law No. 42, and other laws erode and obstruct these articles of legislation that supposedly aim to ensure greater democracy, violating the most basic principles of decentralization and autonomy.
The report recommends that the international community accelerates the steps required to reach a political resolution in Syria that should enable the Syrian people to hold free and fair political, parliamentary, and local elections that respect electoral regulations. Moreover, the report calls on the international community to condemn the laws issued by the Syrian regime which violate the rights of millions of Syrians and are enforced by force and arms.
In addition, the report calls on the Syrian regime to hold fair and democratic presidential election, and to cease its seizure of the financial channels of local administration councils, as well as making a number of other recommendations.

Download the full report