Syrian Arab Republic
Practice Relating to Rule 90. Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
In 2004, in its third periodic report to the Human Rights Committee, the Syrian Arab Republic stated:
61. The State of Emergency Act, which was promulgated in Legislative Decree No. 51 of 22 December 1962, as amended by Legislative Decree No. 1 of 9 March 1963, and which is currently in force in the Syrian Arab Republic, is an exceptional constitutional regime, based on the concept of an imminent threat to the country’s integrity, under which the competent authorities are empowered to take all the measures provided by law to protect the territory, territorial waters and air space of the State, in whole or in part, from the dangers arising from external armed aggression by transferring some of the powers of the civil authorities to the military authorities. Article 101 of the Constitution states that the President of the Republic can declare and terminate a state of emergency in the manner stated in the law. Article 1 of this Act specifies the reasons justifying its promulgation by stipulating that a state of emergency can be proclaimed in the event of war, a situation entailing the threat of war or a situation in which security or public order in the territory of the Republic, or any part thereof, is jeopardized by internal disturbances or the occurrence of general disasters.
62. Since 1948, the Syrian Arab Republic, which was a founding member of the United Nations, has been subjected, like other neighbouring Arab States, to a real threat of war by Israel and, on many occasions, this threat of war has culminated in actual aggression against the territory, territorial waters and air space of the Syrian Arab Republic, particularly in 1967 when Israel seized part of the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic, which it is still occupying, and expelled a large proportion of its population. The latest incident of Israeli aggressions was in Ein El-Saheb on 5 October 2003.
63. This state of affairs, consisting in a real threat of war, the continued occupation of part of the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic and the existence of a real threat of seizure and ongoing occupation of further land in violation of United Nations resolutions, gave rise to an exceptional situation that necessitated the rapid and extraordinary mobilization of forces in the Syrian Arab Republic and, consequently, the promulgation of legislation to ensure the Administration’s ability to act rapidly in the face of these imminent threats when application of the ordinary legislation cannot guarantee rapid action in such circumstances. Accordingly, there was a need to promulgate this Act and maintain it in force. It should be borne in mind that all countries of the world have applied exceptional legislation, in one form or another, when they were faced with a state of war or a threat of war in order to protect their national security. This is a fundamental right recognized in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 4 of which stipulates that: “In time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed, the States Parties to the present Covenant may take measures derogating from their obligations under the present Covenant to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation”.
68. The application of the provisions of the Emergency Act in Syria does not mean in any way a suspension of the provisions of the Constitution and other laws nor a derogation from other international obligations, including obligations in which Syria has entered by virtue of bilateral or multilateral international agreements, such as provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the obligation to submit reports under article 40 of the Covenant. Furthermore, the grounds for a declaration of a state of emergency do not involve any discrimination on grounds of race, colour, gender, language, religion or social origin. The declaration of the state of emergency has not led to any violations of inter alia
, article 7 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights] which remain[s] enforceable under the Constitution and laws, in conformity with the Covenant.
In 2006, in its comments on the concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee, the Syrian Arab Republic stated:
The Syrian Arab Republic, pursuant to legislative decree No. 39 of 1/2004, acceded to the Convention against Torture and prepares a report on it every year. The Convention takes precedence over prevailing Syrian law and gives every individual or legal entity the right to invoke its provisions and demand that they be implemented in the event of any conflict with the laws in force.