Syrian Arab Republic
1. The Committee considered
the second periodic report of the Syrian Arab Republic (CCPR/C/SYR/2000/2)
at its 1916th and 1917th meetings, held on 30 March 2001, and adopted
the following concluding observations at its 1924th meeting, held on
5 April 2001.
2. The Committee has considered
the second periodic report of the Syrian Arab Republic. It welcomes
the submission of the report, which contains detailed information on
Syrian legislation in the area of civil and political rights, and the
opportunity to resume the dialogue with the State party after an interval
of 24 years. It regrets the considerable delay in submitting the report,
which was due in 1984, and the lack of information on the human rights
situation in actual fact, which makes it difficult for the Committee
to determine whether the State party's population is able fully and
effectively to exercise its fundamental rights under the Covenant.
B. Positive aspects
3. The Committee welcomes
the information given by the delegation that a large number of political
prisoners have been released since the early 1990s and, more recently,
in July and November 2000.
4. The Committee has noted
evidence of developments within the State party that reflect some relaxation
of political restraints that have raised serious questions of gross
violations of rights protected by the Covenant.
C. Subjects of concern and
5. The Committee has noted
the status of the Covenant in the State party's internal legal framework.
It also takes note of the assurances given by the State party's delegation,
without adding further details or citing precise cases, that the Covenant
may be directly invoked before the Syrian courts. It notes that the
provisions of the Constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic frequently
refer to the law. The law, however, rather than being an additional
guarantee of the rights and freedoms proclaimed in the Constitution
and ensuring that the provisions of the Covenant are given full effect,
often tends to restrict the scope of application of the Covenant's provisions.
The State party should review
its legislation in order to render it compatible with all the provisions
of the Covenant. The Committee wishes to receive from the State party
more precise information about the number of cases in which the Covenant
was in fact invoked before the Syrian courts.
6. The Committee is concerned
at the fact that Legislative Decree No. 51 of 9 March 1963 declaring
a state of emergency has remained in force ever since that date, placing
the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic under a quasi-permanent state
of emergency, thereby jeopardizing the guarantees of article 4 of the
Covenant. It also regrets that the delegation did not provide details
of the application of the state of emergency in actual situations and
While noting the information
given by the State party's delegation that the state of emergency is
rarely put into effect, the Committee recommends that it be formally
lifted as soon as possible.
7. The Committee notes that
the information given by the State party concerning the conditions for
proclaiming a state of emergency is still not sufficiently precise.
It remains concerned that some of the provisions of the 22 December
1962 Legislative Decree referred to in the report are too vague and
imprecise and do not appear to be compatible with the requirements of
article 4 of the Covenant, and that the legislation does not provide
remedies against measures limiting citizens' fundamental rights and
The State party should take
appropriate steps to bring its state of emergency legislation fully
into line with the requirements of article 4 of the Covenant, and the
Committee requests detailed, precise information in this regard.
8. The Committee takes note
of the delegation's explanations that the death penalty is rarely imposed
and even more rarely carried out. It nevertheless remains seriously
concerned at the number of offences punishable by the death penalty
and at the absence of any information on the number of death sentences
imposed in the past 10 years and the number of executions carried out
during the same period. This situation is particularly disturbing in
the light of precise, consistent reports alleging that a large number
of death sentences have been passed and executions carried out following
unfair trials in which the accused were sentenced although evidence
was used that had been obtained through confessions which had been made
The Committee calls upon
the State party to ensure respect for articles 6, 7 and 14 (3) (g) of
the Covenant and recommends that it reduce the number of offences punishable
by the death penalty. The State party should also provide the Committee
with statistics on the number of death sentences passed since 1990,
the number and identity of persons executed during that period, the
dates of execution and the grounds for their sentence.
9. The Committee is concerned
that the characterization of some of the political offences referred
to in paragraph 60 of the report and punishable by the death penalty
is vague and imprecise and includes common law offences.
The State party should make
its legislation conform to article 6, paragraph 2, of the Covenant,
which provides that sentence of death may be imposed only for the most
10. The Committee is deeply
concerned about allegations of extrajudicial executions and disappearances,
on which the delegation failed to give sufficient and precise explanations
and information. These allegations concern the disappearance of many
Syrian nationals and of Lebanese nationals arrested in Lebanon by Syrian
forces, then transferred to the Syrian Arab Republic.
The Committee urges the
State party to establish an independent commission of inquiry on the
above-mentioned disappearances. This commission should publish the results
of its investigations within an appropriate time frame, and the State
party should ensure that its conclusions are acted upon, including,
where applicable, through the indictment of law enforcement personnel
identified in the results of such an investigation.
11. The Committee is concerned
about the absence of any independent oversight body and of non-governmental
organizations in a position to consider the implementation of the human
rights guaranteed by the Constitution and governed by law.
The State party should take
the necessary measures to arrange for the monitoring of respect for
human rights in its territory by an independent agency.
12. The Committee is deeply
concerned about constant and duly substantiated allegations of violations
of article 7 of the Covenant, to which the delegation did not respond,
which are attributed to law enforcement personnel. It notes with concern
the many allegations that torture is practised in Syrian prisons, particularly
Tadmur military prison.
The State party should ensure
that complaints of torture and other abuses committed by agents of the
State are considered by an independent body. The State party should
institute a system of independent oversight of all detention facilities
with a view to preventing all acts of torture and other abuses of power
by law enforcement personnel.
13. The Committee takes note
of the information provided by the delegation on the conditions of detention
in Syrian prisons. It nonetheless remains concerned about the many allegations
of inhumane prison conditions and inadequate medical care in a number
of prisons, particularly military prisons, including Tadmur prison.
The State party should take
steps to improve prison conditions in the facilities referred to above.
It must ensure that all persons deprived of their liberty are treated
with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human
person. The State party must ensure that appropriate and timely medical
care is available to all detainees.
14. The Committee is concerned
about the number of people held in pre-trial detention, some of whom
are in solitary confinement. Hundreds of people have reportedly been
arrested and detained without an arrest warrant or indictment, only
to be released without judicial procedures having been initiated and,
in many cases, after many years in detention.
The State party must ensure
that anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge is brought promptly
before a judge (article 9, paragraph 3, of the Covenant). The State
party must ensure that all other aspects of its practice are consistent
with the provisions of article 9 of the Covenant and that detainees
have access to counsel and are permitted to contact their families.
The next report should contain precise statistics on the number of people
held in pre-trial detention and on the duration of and reasons for such
15. The Committee has noted
the delegation's explanations to the effect that the independence and
impartiality of the judiciary in the Syrian Arab Republic are fully
assured. It nonetheless remains concerned about certain aspects of the
appointment of judges which pose problems with regard to article 14,
paragraph 1, of the Covenant. This is the case of the four-year renewable
term of the members of the Supreme Constitutional Court (article 141
of the Constitution), which, as currently formulated, may compromise
their independence vis-à-vis the executive branch. The Committee is
also concerned that proceedings may be held in camera in circumstances
not authorized by article 14, paragraph 1.
The State party should take
appropriate measures to ensure and protect, at all levels, the independence
and impartiality of the judiciary.
16. In the Committee's view,
the procedures of the State Security Court are incompatible with the
provisions of article 14, paragraphs 1, 3 and 5. The public nature of
proceedings before the State Security Court is not guaranteed. The Committee
is also concerned about allegations, to which the delegation did not
respond, that the Court has rejected complaints of torture, even in
flagrant cases, and that some legal representatives have withdrawn in
protest against the failure to respect the rights of the defence. Moreover,
the Committee notes that the State Security Court's decisions are not
subject to appeal.
The State party should ensure
that the procedures of the State Security Court scrupulously respect
the provisions of article 14, paragraphs 1 and 3, of the Covenant and
should grant accused persons the right to appeal against the Court's
decisions (article 14, paragraph 5, of the Covenant).
17. The Committee observes
that its questions on the composition and jurisdiction of military courts
received summary responses, and notes the delegation's explanation that
the procedures of military courts do not differ from those of civil
courts. It nonetheless remains concerned about numerous allegations
that the procedures of military courts do not respect the guarantees
laid down in article 14 of the Covenant.
The Committee calls upon
the State party to provide it with additional information on the composition,
the jurisdiction and the procedures of military courts.
18. The Committee notes that,
notwithstanding the provisions of article 25 of the Constitution and
the explanations given by the delegation in this regard, problems remain
with respect to gender equality in the Syrian Arab Republic. In the
Committee's view, the Personal Status Act No. 34 of 1975 contains provisions
which are not compatible with articles 2, paragraph 1, 3 and 26, of
the Covenant. The Committee notes, in particular, that the provisions
on the rights and obligations of spouses during marriage and upon its
dissolution include discriminatory elements.
The Committee recalls its
General Comment No. 28 on equality of rights between men and women,
and urgently calls upon the State party to take all necessary measures
to make its legislation consistent with articles 2, paragraph 1, 3 and
26, of the Covenant.
19. The Committee notes the
absence, in the State party's report, of adequate information and statistical
data on the status of women, particularly with regard to employment,
remuneration and level of responsibility in both the public and the
The State party should provide
the Committee with such information and pertinent statistical data in
its next periodic report.
20. The minimum marriageable
age is 17 years for girls and 18 for boys. The fact that the minimum
age can be reduced by a judge to 15 years for boys and 13 for girls
with the father's consent poses a problem with regard to the State party's
obligation, under article 24, paragraph 1, to protect minors. Marriage
at such a young age hardly seems compatible with article 23 of the Covenant,
whereby no marriage shall be entered into without the free and full
consent of the intending spouses.
The State party should amend
its legislation to bring it into line with the provisions of articles
3, 23 and 24 of the Covenant.
21. The Committee notes the
promulgation of Ordinance No. 1016 of 13 November 1999, which facilitates
the travel, departure and return of citizens. It remains concerned that
many Syrians living abroad, as well as their children, have been denied
a Syrian passport. This situation, which deprives them of the right
to return to their own country, is incompatible with article 12, paragraph
4; the denial of a passport to children of exiled Syrians constitutes
a violation of articles 24 and 26 of the Covenant. Moreover, the fact
that many designated categories of nationals are still required to obtain
an exit visa each time they wish to leave the country is a matter of
concern to the Committee and constitutes a violation of article 12,
paragraph 2, of the Covenant.
The State party should facilitate
the return to the country of Syrian citizens wishing to do so and should
eliminate the exit visa requirement as a general rule and require it
only in individual cases that can be justified in relation to the Covenant.
22. In the Committee's opinion,
the discretionary power of the Minister of the Interior to order the
expulsion of any alien, without safeguards, if security and the public
interest so require poses problems with regard to article 13 of the
Covenant, particularly if the alien entered Syrian territory lawfully
and has obtained a residence permit. Protests lodged by the expelled
alien with Syrian diplomatic and consular missions abroad are not a
satisfactory solution in terms of the Covenant.
Before expelling an alien,
the State party should provide him or her with sufficient safeguards
and an effective remedy, in conformity with article 13 of the Covenant.
23. The Committee remains
concerned that the activities of human rights defenders and of journalists
who speak out for human rights remain subject to severe restrictions.
In this context, it refers to the case of Nizar Nayyuf, who in 1992
was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment for his non-violent expression
of opinions critical of the authorities. Such restrictions are incompatible
with freedom of expression and opinion as provided for in article 19
of the Covenant.
The State party should protect
human rights defenders and journalists against any restriction on their
activities and ensure that journalists can exercise their profession
without fear of being brought before the courts and prosecuted for having
criticized government policy.
24. The Committee notes the
assurance given by the delegation that the provision adopted under article
38 of the Constitution, which subjects the expression of opinions to
limitations such as "constructive criticism" and "the integrity of the
country and the nation" without establishing precise criteria, has never
been applied and may be repealed. It also notes the delegation's statement
that the provision of the 1965 legislative decree which makes opposition
to the aims of the revolution a political offence has fallen into disuse
and has apparently never been applied. The Committee remains nonetheless
concerned by numerous allegations it has received in this respect.
The State party should revise
its legislation in this particular area.
25. The Committee has noted
the delegation's explanation that freedom of assembly is fully respected
in Syria. It remains concerned, however, at the restrictions on the
holding of public meetings and demonstrations (see articles 335 and
336 of the Penal Code). In the Committee's view, such restrictions exceed
those authorized by article 21.
The Committee requests the
State party to provide it with additional information on the conditions
for authorizing public assemblies and, in particular, to indicate whether
and under what conditions the denial of an authorization can be appealed.
26. While noting the explanations
provided by the delegation regarding the exercise of the right to freedom
of association, the Committee is concerned at the absence of specific
legislation on political parties and at the fact that only political
parties wishing to participate in the political activities of the National
Progressive Front, led by the Baath party, are allowed. The Committee
is also concerned at the restrictions that can be placed on the establishment
of private associations and institutions (paragraph 307 of the report),
including independent non-governmental organizations and human rights
The State party should ensure
that the proposed law on political parties is compatible with the provisions
of the Covenant. It should also ensure that the implementation of the
Private Associations and Institutions Act No. 93 of 1958 is in full
conformity with articles 22 and 25 of the Covenant.
27. The Committee remains
concerned about the situation of a large number of persons of Kurdish
origin who have entered Syria from neighbouring countries. It is also
concerned about the fate of Kurds born in Syria whom the Syrian authorities
treat either as aliens or unregistered persons and who encounter administrative
and practical difficulties in acquiring Syrian nationality. The Committee
considers this discriminatory situation to be incompatible with articles
24, 26 and 27 of the Covenant.
The State party should take
urgent steps to find a solution to the statelessness of numerous Kurds
in Syria and to allow Kurdish children born in Syria to acquire Syrian
28. The State party must
ensure that its second periodic report and these concluding observations
are disseminated widely.
29. The State party should
indicate within one year, in accordance with rule 70, paragraph 5, of
the Committee's rules of procedure, the measures it has taken or envisages
to take to lift the state of emergency (para. 6) and submit the information
requested on cases in which the Covenant has actually been invoked before
the Syrian courts (para. 5), the number of death sentences passed since
1990, the number and identity of persons executed during that period,
the dates of execution and the grounds for their sentence (para. 8).
The State party should also submit information on disappeared persons,
as well as on the problem of extra-judicial executions (para. 10). Within
the same period of one year, it should provide additional information
on the composition, the jurisdiction and procedures of military courts
(para. 17). It should equally provide information on the measures taken
to remedy the situation of statelessness of numerous Kurds in Syria.
The Committee requests that
the information relating to its other recommendations and to the Covenant
as a whole should be included in the third periodic report of the Syrian
Arab Republic, to be submitted by 1 April 2003.