On April 30, 2022, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad issued Legislative Decree No. 7 which included a general amnesty for “terrorism crimes” with the exception of “crimes” that led to human death.
The decree covers crimes stipulated in both the Anti-Terrorism Law No. 19 of 2012 and the Syrian Criminal Law No. 148 of 1949. As with previous general amnesty decrees, and in accordance with general protocol, the April decree is limited to relieving those convicted of “terrorism” from punishment and public rights claims. It does not cover personal rights claims or right to compensation for the harm done to victims.
The decree also doesn’taddress the provisions imposed by the Anti-Terrorism Court under Law No. 19, such as property confiscation, financial penalties, and compensation for victims.
Here it is important to distinguish between these three different types of penalties, as well as how the latest decree addresses them. The amnesty only covers financial penalties, but not property confiscation or compensation. It is possible, however, that future decrees or decisions also explicitly state them, especially with regards to the confiscation of the properties of people convicted onterrorism charges in cases where there are no personal or affected claimants.
According to the jurisprudence of the Court of Cassation in Decision No. 476/483 of 1963, a financial penalty is an additional punishment which can be covered within a general amnesty.
This fine is originally collected from a convicted person’s movable and immovable assets through their seizure and in accordance with the rules for the collection of state debts through the Ministry of Finance.
Previously, in the event that the government wanted to exclude such fines from an amnesty decree, this would be stated explicitly, as was the case with Amnesty Decree No. 13 issued in 2021. That decree excluded fines related to violations related to the customs department, building violations, electricity, and currency exchange, meaning that such crimes would not be pardoned. The latest decree does not exclude those fines, meaning that convicts are relieved of them.
Under the Anti-Terrorism Law No. 19, confiscations target a convict’s movable and immovable assets, including real estate, and deprives them permanently of these assets. Confiscation is classified by the Penal Code as being an additional financial penalty through which the government forcibly takes away a convict’s property, transferring it to state ownership without compensation.
Confiscation only occurs after a final judgment is issued, though the Anti-Terrorism Law gives the Anti-Terrorism Court the authority to freeze the assets of accused “terrorists” when a verdict is issued. Asset freezes become confiscations, or asset seizures, following the issuance of the final verdict.
Unlike a financial penalty, a confiscation is not implicitly included in an amnesty decree when convicts are relieved of punishment. The latest amnesty decree does not explicitly include any provisions about confiscations, which means that any already confiscated properties remain in the hands of the state.
The Anti-Terrorism Court has the jurisdiction to consider cases of the public right that include terrorism cases. The court also considers cases of personal right that are related to public right cases. However, when public right cases are closed through a general amnesty decree, then the court also stops considering any related personal right cases (claimants in such cases must instead file a request for compensation before the Civil Court). In order for the personal right claimants to obtain compensation, they must follow up on any remaining procedures for the seizure of the convict’s property, within the limits of the amount of compensation owed to them.