Study of law in northern Aleppo: a future bound by political change

Enab Baladi – Saleh Malas

In the countryside north and east of Aleppo, as elsewhere, disputes related to financial and social issues are quite common and are handled by the judiciary as part of the usual working mechanism of lawyers.

However, since the area is ruled by the de facto authority of the Syrian Interim Government (SIG), real concerns have begun to mount among locals about the future of the practice of law in the northern and eastern countryside of the governorate. from Aleppo.

These concerns are justified because all legal practices are linked to official government institutions and their administrative decisions, legislations and judicial decisions.

In the general instability of Syria, any military or political change in the region could negate the legitimacy of the GIS and its institutions in favor of the new political or military power, destabilizing the legal foundations on which the practice of law rests.

Such a scenario raises questions about the value of studying law at universities in the region and the future of law graduates in the job market.

Reasons to study law despite the uncertainties associated with it

Mohammad Haji Bakkour, 24, joined the faculty of law at the Free University of Aleppo to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a lawyer.

Bakkour, who graduated in 2021, said Enab Baladi, “The study of law ensures a promising career and a wide range of professional roles. It helped me understand life well. I have no fear for the future or for any change in the region as the nature of our study has prepared us to undertake various works.

Bakkour, from the city of al-Atareb, intends to join the region’s Free Bar Association and start working as a courtroom lawyer.

“We studied Syrian, French and Egyptian laws at university, and our teaching materials are somehow similar to those taught in other faculties in Syria,” Bakkour said.

The SIG manages the higher education sector through the region’s two higher education councils. The Free University of Aleppo, also known as the University of Aleppo in the Liberated Areas, was established by a SIG decision in 2015, following the suspension of studies at Aleppo University from the Syrian government.

Aleppo Free University has over 13 faculties and four technical institutes in Aleppo, Idlib, Homs countryside, Damascus countryside and Daraa and is not recognized by the regime government.

In late 2017, the Syrian Salvation Government (SSG) took control of Idlib Governorate and parts of western Aleppo countryside. As a result, the faculties and headquarters of the Free University of Aleppo in the northern Idlib town of al-Dana were closed in 2018, forcing the GIS to move its headquarters to the countryside of Aleppo. Aleppo.

Ahmad al-Harah, 30, a 2020 law graduate, shared with Enab Baladi his fears about poor job opportunities in the liberated areas and the possibility of a change in the legal credentials, under which he and other lawyers practice.

“We studied public international law, international humanitarian law and Islamic jurisprudence. We have also studied all types of Syrian civil, commercial and criminal laws and some established Arab laws. The methodology and the pedagogical plan were good, but is it enough in practical life?

Al-Harah, whose studies were interrupted due to circumstances of displacement and military hostilities against the northern region of Syria, does not feel confident about the feasibility of the teaching plan in the law school whose he is a graduate and if it would allow him to work as a lawyer throughout Syria, which has divided into many territories ruled by different political and military tendencies.

Al-Harah, currently a trainee lawyer at one of the region’s law firms, said: “Even though our legal role may be affected by changing political and military situations and we may not be able to to apply certain decisions in the future, it is necessary to have lawyers in the region to defend the rights of the people, represent them legally and help them by providing them with professional legal advice and advice.

The adoption of Syrian laws

Lawyers intervene within the framework of their duties in all legal proceedings and take measures to ensure the rights of their clients. They strive to apply court decisions and take the necessary steps to comply with the duties and obligations set out in the law.

However, lawyers are bound by their own jurisdiction and can only perform their duties if they are citizens of the country where they wish to practice law or under the principle of reciprocity.

The principle of reciprocity is applied between the different States by allowing foreign lawyers to exercise their legal functions on their lands; however, this issue is more complicated in the northern territories of Syria.

Furthermore, the regime government does not recognize the de facto authorities operating in northern Syria, nor any of their decisions, including judicial decisions or administrative and executive decisions relating to the acquisition and recognition of the right people to practice law. This, in turn, threatens the future of lawyers’ work if there is a political change in the region.

Under the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, held in 1990, everyone has the right “to retain and retain counsel of his own choosing in the protection and enforcement of his and defend them at all stages”. of criminal prosecution. »

“Governments must ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional duties without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference.”

The Free University of Aleppo takes into account the issue of its recognition as a higher education institution in Syria, especially for its Faculty of Law and all disciplines that require a license by administrative decisions issued by official institutions .

Dean of the Faculty of Law at the Free University of Aleppo, Abdulkader al-Sheikh, said Enab Baladi “The main courses are the same courses adopted at the regime’s Aleppo University, and all the laws taught at our Law School are Syrian laws, in addition to some Arab and international legal documents.”

The judicial authority in the areas controlled by the GIS has been formed relying solely on lawyers for judicial work.

It was agreed to adopt the Syrian laws of the 1950 Constitution to manage the affairs of the people and resolve disputes in accordance with international legal regulations and rules in addition to Syrian law.

The 1950 Constitution was the first to be drafted after Syria’s independence from France and the first to set out a clear text on the sources of the legislation and to show a conflict between two points : State religion and sources of legislation, according to a research study by the Omran Center for Strategic Studies.

As a result, “a law graduate from the Free University of Aleppo can join the Free Bar Association”, according to al-Sheikh, who added that the recognition of law students’ degrees remains subject to political changes. .

The need to qualify lawyers

According to al-Sheikh, the training and qualification of lawyers is necessary for the current phase in the fields of GIS to manage the affairs of the people, regardless of the issue of formal recognition of certificates of university graduates.

The training of new generations of lawyers is part of a chain that includes judicial bodies in the northern region and administrative and security institutions that need legal professionals to prevent violations.

In a previous conversation with Enab Baladi, Syrian judge and legal scholar Abdulrazaq al-Hussain said that the courts in the territories of the Salvation and Interim governments were founded in response to the “demands” of the institutions of the absent regime, including the judiciary; the people’s need for a body to monitor and adjudicate their new cases and disputes; and the desire of people to achieve some kind of social, economic and financial stability, as well as to build community peace.

These needs and goals “depend largely on the ability of these courts to meet people’s needs and solve their problems, which remains a difficult thing to achieve”, al-Hussain added.

Enab Baladi’s correspondent in the city of al-Bab, Siraj Mohammad, contributed to this report.

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