Syria: Criminal Justice System

In analysis of the criminal justice system of Syria, the historical content of the country has provided substantial origination of the current criminal justice system. From the historical perspective, Asad had ruled Syria longer than any previous leader and has made Syria a stable polity and a regional power. One explanation attributes this success to Asad’s personal qualities, combined with his deep understanding of the internal Syrian political scene and its various forces and groups (DeLong and Lukeman, 2004 p. 66).

Moreover, in contrast to his predecessors, from the beginning of his rule, Asad was not inclined to share political power with his comrades within a collective leadership. By early 1971, Asad had formed a new presidential system granting him extensive political, military and legislative authority, and the Permanent Constitution (1973) has rendered the president almost unlimited control over the country in these various arenas. Asad has exercised his control over the country through both formal institutions and informal channels.

The formal institutions include the Constitution, the government, the People’s Assembly, and the Ba’th Party. In Asad’s perception, his regime is based on institutions rather than the sole power of one man or a group of military officers. The primary scope of the study is to provide the main condition of criminal justice system and how the political evolution, use of military powers, regime trends, and international relations have contributed to the present situation of Syria within the scope of criminal justice.

Discussion History Overview During its long history, stretching back to about 2,500 BC and until independence in 1946, Syria had never constituted a unified and separate state. The remodeling of Syrian legal and criminal justice system had thrived from the political evolution of the country. Rather, it was part of large empires or controlled by external rulers, such as the Persians, the Greeks and the Romans, and from 1516 until the end of World War I, it was part of the Ottoman Empire.

Even the term “Syria” is a Greek word (Ghazzal, 2007). The Arabs, who conquered the region in the seventh century, used the name Bilad al-Sham (the country in the north or the northern region). Only during the mid-nineteenth century did the Arabs adopt the term Suriyya (“Syria”) as a reflection of local patriotism (DeLong and Lukeman, 2004 p. 68). Under Ottoman rule, Syria was not a separate political entity, but was divided into several Wdayets (previnxs) with the central authority in Istanbul.

Although for centuries the basic allegiance of the majority Sunni-Muslim population was to the Ottoman-Islamic state, several groups or regions developed into socio-political autonomies and/or maintained their communal-religious identities, notably Alawis, Druze, and Christians (Jan, 2006 p. 78). Indeed, an important identity of the vast majority of the Syrian population was with the tribe, the religious sect, or the place of residence, rather than with the country (Hopwood, 1999 p. 528).

In addition, among the Sunni-Muslim majority there existed a socioeconomic gap between a small urban oligarchy — property owners and ulama — and many small and landless peasants in the rural areas and lower stratums in the urban centers. Since the economic structure of Syrian region at that time was based primarily on agriculture, the middle class was rather very small. In addition, the absence of a central educational system contributed to the diversification of the Syrian population during most of the Ottoman period (DeLong and Lukeman, 2004 p. 66).