Friday, October 27, 2023

Assad abolishes Syria’s infamous military field courts


Syrian President Bashar Assad has announced the abolition of military field courts, which have been criticized for their lack of due process and arbitrary rulings. While this move is seen as a positive step, activists remain cautious about its impact.

The military field courts, established in 1968, have been widely condemned for their summary and arbitrary proceedings. Trials in these courts are known to last only a few minutes, and defendants have no access to legal representation or the right to appeal. Amnesty International reported in 2017 that thousands of detainees at the notorious Sednaya prison had been executed after “trials” in these courts.

According to Syrian lawyer Ghazwan Kronfol, the jurisdiction of these courts was expanded to include civilians in response to unrest in the 1980s. Over the years, many detainees have been sentenced to death in these courts, and their executions were carried out as soon as the sentences were approved. It is estimated that thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people have died as a result of rulings from these courts.

The decision to abolish the military field courts is seen as long overdue. However, activists urge caution, as the regime has never acknowledged that these courts violate detainees’ human rights. Furthermore, the government can still detain people without trial, raising concerns about ongoing human rights abuses.

Diab Serriya, from the Association of Detainees and the Missing in Sednaya Prison, believes that if detainees are referred to military courts instead of military field courts, they will at least be allowed legal representation. He highlights that around 70 percent of detainees at the Sednaya facility after 2011 faced the military field court, which handed out most of the death sentences. Serriya hopes that with the closure of these courts and access to their archives, families will finally learn the fate of their missing loved ones.

While the abolition of military field courts is a positive development, it is important to remain vigilant and continue advocating for justice and accountability in Syria. The country has been embroiled in a civil war since 2011, with the government cracking down on peaceful protests. The human rights situation in Syria remains dire, with numerous reports of torture, extrajudicial killings, and enforced disappearances.

International pressure and scrutiny are crucial in holding the Syrian government accountable for its actions. The international community must continue to demand justice for the victims and push for an end to impunity. Efforts should be made to support local human rights organizations and provide assistance to those affected by the conflict.

In conclusion, the abolition of military field courts in Syria is a step in the right direction. However, caution is warranted as the government’s track record on human rights remains concerning. The international community must remain engaged and committed to promoting justice and accountability in Syria. By doing so, we can hope for a future where human rights are respected and upheld for all Syrians.

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