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Autonomy of Trade Association in Northwestern Syria Come Under Serious Threat as the Syrian Interim Government Consolidates Control

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Resolution 29 Must be Repealed, and Coercive Intrusion into Trade Associations’ Work Must Stop

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On Tuesday, May 14, 2024, Habboush Lata, Minister of Justice in the Syrian Interim Government, run by the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, issued resolution 29, halting the operations of any law firms affiliated with the Free Bar Association in northwestern Syria which do not fulfill the quorum requirement stipulated in Paragraph 1 of Article 46 of Law No. 30 of 2010 on Regulating the Practicing of Law. According to the legal text, in order for a law firm to be recognized by the Free Bar Association, it must have at least 150 lawyer professors and practicing lawyers registered as associates. Resolution 29 states that those lawyers currently working for smaller law firms which don’t meet this criterion will need to transfer to larger firms which fulfill the quorum stipulated in the aforementioned article. Moreover, any lawyers currently practicing in these smaller law firms whose operations will be terminated will have their judicial license to practice law revoked until they move to firms that meet the criteria.

Pursuant to this resolution, the Public Prosecutor of the Court of Cassation and the Director of the Military Police Department both issued a circular to all judicial bodies ordering that they stop dealing with lawyers working with these discontinued law firms until they comply with resolution 29 of 2024. This is despite the fact that the text of the resolution makes no mention of any notification of or correspondence with the Central Free Bar Association Council to clarify which law firms’ activities will be discontinued in light of this resolution, nor does the resolution address in any way the fate of the ongoing legal cases currently being handled by legal agencies established by the firms affected. In short, the resolution will lead to a state of widespread confusion, especially since courts in the region do not know which law firms are discontinued.

In response to Resolution 29, the Free Bar Association’s offices in the affected government issued a statement protesting against it, declaring it unlawful, and a blatant intrusion into their work, and stating that it clearly contravenes the principle of the separation of powers.

In another development, the Free Bar Association issued Resolution 6 of 2024, which consolidates the law offices representing Deir Ez-Zour, Hasaka, and Raqqa into one office; consolidates the law offices of Damascus and Rural Damascus, Homs, and Daraa into another single office; and consolidates the two law offices of Hama and Latakia into a third single office, in line with Law No. 30 of 2010 on regulating the Practicing of Law. Resolution 6/2024 made no mention of having been introduced in light of the resolution issued by the Minister of Justice, which suggests that it does not recognize it.

In 2018, the law firms in the Free Bar Association agreed on establishing one union body representing free lawyers in Syria in accordance with a bylaw. Following a series of meetings, that bylaw went on to become Law No. 30 of 2010 on Regulating the Practicing of Law, after the association dismissed all articles related to the powers and authority of the Baath Party regarding its supervision of the work of lawyers and the bar association.

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