Syrian Arab Republic (Syria)

Official Country Name

Syrian Arab Republic (Syria).

Geographical Region

Asia (Western Asia).

Language(s)

Arabic.

Population

21,000,000 (2009 est.).

Retentionist or Abolitionist De Facto

Retentionist.

Year of Last Known Execution

2014.

Methods of Execution

Hanging.

Executions can be carried out by hanging in the case of ordinary persons.

Shooting.

Executions can be carried out by shooting for military personnel.

Number of Individuals On Death Row

It is impossible to accurately assess death row numbers or judicial executions because of the ongoing conflict in Syria.

In 2015, the most recent year information was available, no judicial executions could be confirmed, but at least 20 new death sentences were reported.

(This question was last updated on May 31, 2019.).

Annual Number of Reported Executions in Last Decade

Executions in 2021 to date (last update on Nov. 24, 2021)

At least 24.

Executions in 2020

Reliable numbers are unavailable.Syria did carry out executions in 2020 but we are unable to provide a reliable estimate of minimum number of executions carried out.
.

Executions in 2019

0 This is the number of executions reported in the media. We are not able to offer a reliable estimate.

Executions in 2018

Due to civil strife, we could not confirm if judicial executions were carried out in Syria.

Executions in 2017

Due to civil strife, we could not confirm if judicial executions were carried out in Syria.

Executions in 2016

0

Due to the civil strife in Syria, we have very little information about executions in the country.

Executions in 2015

0 Due to the civil strife in Syria, we have very little information about executions in the country.

Executions in 2014

At least 7. Due to the civil strife in Syria, we have very little information about executions in the country. According to a report by UN Human Rights, at least 7 were executed by armed opposition groups in the first week of January. We have not found any information on what, if any, judicial proceedings led to these convictions and executions. Amnesty International does not record any judicial executions for Syria in 2014.

Executions in 2013

2

Due to the civil strife in Syria, we have very little information about executions in the country. The reported 2 executions were carried out by Syrian rebels for treason. We have not found any information on what, if any, judicial proceedings led to these convictions and executions.

Executions in 2012

We found media reports confirming 1 execution.

Executions in 2011

Because of ongoing anti-government violence, Amnesty was unable to confirm the number of executions which were carried out in Syria, noting only that at least 1 execution had occurred. The actual number of executions is likely to be much higher.

Executions in 2010

At least 17.

Executions in 2009

At least 8.

Executions in 2008

At least 1.

Executions in 2007

At least 7.

Is there an official moratorium on executions?

No.

Does the country’s constitution mention capital punishment?

The Constitution makes no reference to capital punishment or the right to life.

Offenses Punishable by Death

Aggravated Murder.

Premeditated murder, murder to further a felony, murder of one’s ascendants or descendants and murder of a State employee charged with the implementation of the Narcotic Drugs Law during the performance of his function.

Other Offenses Resulting in Death.

Arson resulting in death and gang-robbery resulting in death.

Terrorism-Related Offenses Resulting in Death.

Terrorist acts and the financing of terrorism.

Terrorism-Related Offenses Not Resulting in Death.

Terrorist acts and the financing of terrorism.

Drug Trafficking Not Resulting in Death.

Drug trafficking not resulting in death is punishable by death.

Drug Possession.

Drug possession is punishable by death.

Treason.

Several treasonous acts are punishable by death. Treason in Syria encompasses a broad category of crimes that include actions such as political dissidence.

Espionage.

Espionage by military personnel is punishable by death.

Military Offenses Not Resulting in Death.

Desertion, insubordination, rebellion and other military offenses.

Other Offenses Not Resulting in Death.

- Subjecting a person to torture or barbaric treatmentduring the commission of gang-robbery is punishable by death.
- Attempting a death-eligible crime is punishable by death (but the sentence can be commuted to forced labor for life).
- Repeat Offender: being convicted for the second time for a felony punishable by forced labor for life, is punishable by death.
- Belonging to the Moslem Brethren Group (Muslim Brotherhood Organization) is punishable by death.
- Falsification of material evidence resulting in a third party being convicted for a drug offense and sentenced to death, is punishable by death.

Comments.

By September 2010, we could not be able to locate an updated version of the Penal Code. We have worked with a 1979 edition, about 100 articles of which are missing.

Under the 1979 penal code, death sentences are commuted to life imprisonment if the offender was convicted of a political offense.

Does the country have a mandatory death penalty?

Although only in a limited number of circumstances. Article 243 of the penal code permits courts to commute death sentences to forced labor if they find mitigating circumstances. However, under Article 39 of the Narcotics Drugs Law of 1993, courts are sometimes prohibited from considering mitigating circumstances if recidivism or other specified factors are found.

Which offenses carry a mandatory death sentence, if any?

Drug Trafficking Not Resulting in Death.

Drug trafficking aggravated by recidivism, status as a state employee, use of a minor, and other specified factors carries the mandatory death penalty.

Other Offenses Not Resulting in Death.

- Membership in the Moslem Brethern Group (Muslim Brotherhood).

Categories of Offenders Excluded From the Death Penalty

Individuals Below Age 18 at Time of Crime.

“A death sentence cannot be imposed for offences committed by a person under 18 years of age pursuant to article 29 (a) of the Juveniles Act, as amended by Legislative Decree No. 52 of 1 September 2003.” Under Article 237 of the Penal Code, the maximum penalty for juvenile offenders is imprisonment with obligatory work.

Additionally, Syria is party to the ICCPR and to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibit the execution of individuals for crimes committed while under the age of 18.

Pregnant Women.

Under Article 43 of the Penal Code and Article 454 of the Code of criminal procedure a pregnant woman can be executed only after she has given birth to her child.Additionally, Syria is party to the ICCPR, which prohibits the execution of pregnant women."

Women With Small Children.

Syria has ratified the Revised Arab Charter on Human Rights, which prohibits execution of nursing women for at least two years after giving birth.

Intellectually Disabled.

Under Articles 232 and 241 of the Penal Code, the death penalty is commuted to imprisonment if the offender is intellectually disabled.

Mentally Ill.

An offender who was mentally ill at the time of the offense is exempted from the death penalty. “If the offender is afflicted with insanity after committing an offence, during the investigation or trial or after sentencing, enforcement of the penalty is deferred until he is cured.”

Offenses For Which Individuals Have Been Executed In the Last Decade

Aggravated Murder.

Two men were hanged for murder and armed robbery on September 3, 2008.

Comments.

As of September 2010, we could not ascertain for which crimes individuals have been executed since January 2008. The only report we could find mentions that two men were hanged on Sep. 3, 2009 for armed robbery and murder. However, pre-2008 self-reporting indicated that Syria was executing mainly for deliberate or aggravated murder.

Have there been any significant published cases concerning the death penalty in national courts?

As of January 2011, we were unable to locate any domestic cases concerning the death penalty.

Does the country’s constitution make reference to international law?

No.

ICCPR

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

ICCPR Party?

Yes.

ICCPR Signed?

No.

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Apr. 21, 1969.

First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Recognizing Jurisdiction of the Human Rights Committee

ICCPR 1st Protocol Party?

No.

ICCPR 1st Protocol Signed?

No.

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Toward the Abolition of the Death Penalty

ICCPR 2nd Protocol Party?

No.

ICCPR 2nd Protocol Signed?

No.

Date of Signature

Not Applicable.

Date of Accession

Not Applicable.

ACHR

American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR)

ACHR Party?

ACHR Signed?

Death Penalty Protocol to the ACHR

DPP to ACHR Party?

DPP to ACHR Signed?

ACHPR

African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR)

ACHPR Party?

ACHPR Signed?

Protocol to the ACHPR on the Rights of Women in Africa

ACHPR Women Party?

ACHPR Women Signed?

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child

ACHPR Child Party?

ACHPR Child Signed?

Arab Charter on Human Rights

Arab Charter on Human Rights

Arab Charter Party?

Yes.

Arab Charter Signed?

Yes.

Date of Signature

August 17, 2006.

Date of Accession

February 6, 2007.

Comments and Decisions of the U.N. Human Rights System

In its August 2005 Concluding Observations, the Human Rights Committee expressed its concern at the “nature and number of the offences carrying the death penalty [which] are not consistent with the requirement of the Covenant that this form of punishment must be limited to the most serious crimes” and consequently recommended Syria to limit the cases in which the death penalty can be imposed.

The Committee also recommended that Syria “take firm measures to stop the use of incommunicado detention and eradicate all forms of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by law enforcement officials, and ensure prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations by an independent mechanism into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment, prosecute and punish perpetrators, and provide effective remedies and rehabilitation to the victims.”

Comments and Decisions of Regional Human Rights Systems

In a May 2006 Opinion, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention expressed its serious concern about the Supreme State Security and Field Military Courts’ non-compliance with international standards on the right to a fair trial. “For example, lawyers are not granted access to their clients prior to the trial, proceedings are initiated before legal representatives have an opportunity to study the case file, and lawyers are frequently denied their right to speak on behalf of their clients. Lawyers require written permission from the Court’s President before they can see their clients in prison. Moreover, those sentenced by the Supreme State Security Court and the Field Military Court had no right to appeal their sentences”. It subsequently decided that given the gravity of the violation of the right to a fair trial, plaintiffs had suffered an arbitrary deprivation of liberty.

The General Assembly’s Human Rights Council will engage in the Universal Periodic Review of human rights in Syria in its 12th Session (2011); for information, see: http://www.upr-info.org/-Syria-.html.

Availability of Lawyers for Indigent Defendants at Trial

According to the U.S. Department of State, the courts appoint lawyers for indigent defendants. Lawyers are designated at no cost by the Bar Association. We were not able to uncover information about the availability and competence of lawyers in practice.

Availability of Lawyers for Indigent Defendants on Appeal

According to the U.S. Department of State, the courts appoint lawyers for indigent defendants. Lawyers are designated at no cost by the Bar Association. We were not able to uncover information about the availability of lawyers for the indigent on appeal.

Quality of Legal Representation

The Syrian Bar Association is reported to be a non-independent organization controlled by the Syrian authorities. The Bar Association is reported to have forbidden its lawyers in some cases to visit their clients in jail. When the accused is tried by the Supreme State Security Court, “lawyers are not allowed to meet with their clients until the trial begins.” It is also reported that guards regularly eavesdrop on prisoners'' conversations with counsel.

In June and July 2010, two lawyers were sentenced after a trial denounced as unfair by the International Federation for Human Rights to 3 years imprisonment on charges related to their professional activities as lawyers and human rights activists.

Appellate Process

The decisions of the civil and military criminal courts that sentence a person to death are final. The only way to review the case is to lodge an appeal before the Court of Cassation, which has jurisdiction only regarding the formal, procedural and legal aspects of the conviction. If a death-sentenced person does not lodge an appeal before the Court of Cassation, the Public Prosecutor is under an obligation to do it on his behalf.

The decisions of the Supreme State Security Court (an exceptional court outside the ordinary criminal justice system) and the Field Military Court cannot be appealed. Although “the minister of interior may ratify, nullify, or alter [a Supreme State Security Court] ruling, and the president must approve the verdict or may ask for a retrial,” this is a clemency process, not an appeals process.

Clemency Process

The clemency procedures are laid down in articles 459 to 467 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The death penalty cannot be carried out until the Clemency Board (Commission des Grâces) has been consulted and the execution of the sentence is approved by the President.

Syrian delegates to the U.N. have reported that “any person sentenced to death is entitled to apply to the Head of State for a pardon and may renew his application after one year in the event of its rejection.”

In its 2009 Human Rights report, the U.S. Department of State reported that the president had issued amnesties to seven Lebanese prisoners and that death sentences issued by the Supreme State Security Court that year had been commuted to imprisonment. The Department also reports the existence of periodic presidential amnesties.

Availability of jury trials

No.

Systemic Challenges in the Criminal Justice System

Since 1962, Syria has been under Emergency Law, which allows the suspension of fundamental rights and freedoms. Preventive arrests are allowed; arrest warrants are not needed; in cases involving political or national security offenses, suspects are detained incommunicado for prolonged periods; other infringements are permitted.

The Committee against Torture recently expressed its deep concern at the “numerous, consistent and serious allegations” that the Supreme State Security Court “fails to function in accordance with the international standards for courts of law.” But it seems that the frequent violations of the right to fair trial occur even before the ordinary courts, which, reportedly, are not independent of the ruling Ba’ath party. The same Committee was also concerned by the “numerous, ongoing and consistent allegations concerning the routine use of torture by law enforcement and investigative officials, at their instigation or with their consent, in particular in detention facilities.” Confessions obtained by torture are reported to be invoked as a form of evidence in proceedings.

The lack of judicial independence is also a serious issue. “According to observers, approximately 95 percent of judges [are] Ba''athists or closely aligned to the Ba''ath Party and therefore not independent.”

Where Are Death-Sentenced Prisoners incarcerated?

As of September 2010, we could not determine where death-sentenced prisoners are incarcerated.

Description of Prison Conditions

The Committee against Torture recently expressed its deep concern about “numerous, ongoing and consistent allegations concerning the routine use of torture by law enforcement and investigative officials, at their instigation or with their consent, in particular in detention facilities.” The same Committee received information on “the deplorable living conditions in places of detention, prison overcrowding, lack of hygiene, insufficient food, health risks and inadequate health care.” Juveniles are not separated from adults. The U.S. Department of State reports that prison conditions do not meet international standards for health and sanitation. Political prisoners are reported to be discriminated against.

Foreign Nationals Known to Be on Death Row

As of September 2010, we could not identify foreign nationals under death sentence in Syria. It is reported that in 2009, the president issued amnesties to seven Lebanese prisoners.

What are the nationalities of the known foreign nationals on death row?

As of September 2010, we found no reports of foreign nationals on death row.

Women Known to Be on Death Row

As of September 2010, we found no reports of women held under sentence of death.

Juvenile Offenders Known to Be on Death Row

As of September 2010, we found no reports of individuals held under sentence of death for crimes committed while under the age of 18.

Racial / Ethnic Composition of Death Row

Although we discovered no information relating specifically to the racial or ethnic composition of death row, it is reported that the Kurdish minority is more likely to be subjected to torture and ill-treatment in prison.

Recent Developments in the Application of the Death Penalty

It seems that there wereno executions between 1993 and 2001 but the reason why they resumed in 2002 is unknown.

In 2007, the Syrian Minister in charge of the Red Crescent was reported to be pro-abolition. But it seems to be a personal stand not followed by any political initiative.

Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

2020 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

2018 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

2018 Cosponsor

No.

2018 Vote

Against.

.

2018 Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes.

2016 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

2016 Cosponsor

No.

2016 Vote

Against.

.

2016 Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes.

2014 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

2014 Cosponsor

No.

2014 Vote

Against.

.

2014 Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes.

2012 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

2012 Cosponsor

No.

2012 Vote

Against.

.

2012 Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes.

2010 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

2010 Cosponsor

No.

2010 Vote

Against.

.

2010 Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes.

2008 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

2008 Cosponsor

No.

2008 Vote

Against.

.

2008 Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Yes.

2007 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution

2007 Cosponsor

No.

2007 Vote

Against.

.

2007 Signed the Note Verbale of Dissociation

Member(s) of World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

None.

Other Groups and Individuals Engaged in Death Penalty Advocacy

Reprieve
PO Box 72054
London EC3P 3BZ
United Kingdom
Tel 020 7553 8140
Fax 020 7553 8189
info@reprieve.org.uk
http://www.reprieve.org.uk.

Where are judicial decisions reported?

As of January 2011, we were unable to locate any judicial decisions from Syria.

Helpful Reports and Publications

Razan Zeitouneh & Abdul Hai Al-Sayyed, Can Extraordinary Courts Ensure Justice, Supreme State Security Court, Al Bosla, http://www.dchrs.org/english/news.php?nachra, Dec. 1, 2007.

U.N. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Committee against Torture, Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 19 of the convention Concluding observations of the Committee against Torture, Syrian Arab Republic, U.N. Doc. CAT/C/SYR/CO/1, May 25, 2010.

Additional notes regarding this country

None.