Article 7 of Expropriation Law No. 20 of 1983 grants immunity to expropriation decrees, stating that they are conclusive and not subject to appeal or review.
This means that an expropriation decree is not subject to judicial oversight, which clearly violates Syria’s 2012 constitution. Article 51 of this constitution prohibited the immunity of any administrative act or decision from judicial oversight. In theory, Article 7 of Expropriation Law No. 20 should have been amended to align with the 2012 constitution. However, to date, no amendment has been made to the text of Article 7 of the Expropriation Law.
However, not all expropriation decrees are immune. As the judicial body responsible for administrative cases, the State Council has considered an expropriation decree void in some instances, most notably if issued by an unauthorised administrative body.
For instance, the Administrative Justice Court in case 3013/4 of 2009 declared the nullity of an expropriation decision due to a jurisdictional flaw, as it was issued by a city council instead of the prime minister. This rendered the expropriation null and void, as if it had never existed, with all the consequent effects and results.
In an earlier jurisprudence, the State Council had previously affirmed that expropriation by ministerial decision is considered null and void. Only the prime minister has the authority to issue expropriation decrees, as per Legislative Decree No. 11 of 1986, while the cancellation or amendment of a decree requires a presidential decree.
On the other hand, the administrative judiciary oversees the fulfilment of conditions set by Article 7 of Expropriation Law No. 20 of 1983 before issuing an expropriation decree. These conditions include the expropriation being made by a decree issued based on a proposal from the competent minister, declaring the existence of public benefit, and relying on various conditions such as the opinion of the administrative body within whose boundaries the expropriation falls, the opinion of the executive office of the related governorate, and the opinion of the executive office of the General Union of Farmers’s branch in the governorate regarding properties to be expropriated outside the administrative units’ zoning plans.
In this context, the administrative judiciary’s rulings have been contradictory. For example, the administrative judiciary considered the proposal of the competent minister a fundamental condition before issuing an expropriation decree, according to the decision of the Administrative Justice Court number 1724/3 Base 358/3 of 2012. Conversely, the decision of the Administrative Justice Court number 564/3 Base 4742 of 2001 held that the non-approval of the General Union of Farmers does not prevent the issuance of expropriation decrees.
This decision allows the issuance of an expropriation decree without relying on the opinion of one of the entities stipulated in the law. Thus, legally, there is no hindrance to not considering the opinion of other entities mentioned in the Expropriation Law. This highlights the contradiction in the administrative judiciary’s rulings, which conflicts with the principles of justice and the proper application of legal rules, and raise concerns about other unlawful infringements on property rights.
The Supreme Administrative Court, in its decision number 107 of 1972, considered that overlooking the diagram showing the section of the property to be expropriated, or the absence of an estimate for expropriation compensation, invalidates the expropriation. In decision number 112/2 of 1997, the court held that issuing an expropriation decree without recording it in the Land Registry or clarifying or paying the property’s value to the stakeholders renders the expropriation decision null and void.
The administrative judiciary’s oversight of the expropriation decree also includes publishing that decree in the Official Gazette and notifying the concerned party. However, judicial precedent has taken two different stances here.
Earlier rulings considered the expropriation decree as having a personal nature, requiring notification to the concerned party, and not just publication in the Official Gazette. However, the State Council reversed this stance. Per the decision of the Supreme Administrative Court number 154 Base 363 of 2002, publication in the Official Gazette became sufficient. This latest judicial precedent negatively impacts the property rights of the owner of the expropriated property, as it denies them the individual nature that requires notifying them of the expropriation decree.