Legal Briefing – June 2018


  • President Bashar Al-Assad has made clear that reconstruction in Syria will not be an open house. Syria will not seek funding from the US, EU and other countries that actively aided combat operations against it. Rather, Syria will rely on its own people, particularly expatriates living overseas, and friendly states. According to President Al-Assad, both human and financial resources will be essential pillars on the path towards reconstruction. Expatriate Syrians have huge financing capabilities and expertise to steer reconstruction while being complemented by investors from friendly and non-combatant countries.


  • It is expected that the Urban Renewal Law will be implemented in the Damascus districts of Qaboun and Jobar within the next five years.
  • According to Damascus Cham Holding, building permits will be issued by the Governorate of Damascus for the construction of two towers in Marota City very shortly.
  • There are reports that powers of attorney issued in accordance with the Urban Renewal Law by Syrians living overseas to legal representatives in the country will not need to obtain clearance from the security services. Such powers of attorney are necessary in order for Syrians living abroad to prove their ownership over real estate property located in an area subjected to redevelopment if their property rights are not recorded in the Land Registry.
  • The General Commission for Real Estate Development and Investment is preparing to launch four major real estate development zones in the provinces of Rural Damascus, Aleppo, Hama and Homs. The largest one is anticipated to be in Adra in Rural Damascus.


  • The Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade issued a resolution permitting the importation of a number of agricultural, food and industrial products, air conditioners and automobile accessories. Import controls have been in place in Syria since 2011 in a bid to protect the value of the Syrian Pound.
  • Syrian merchants have objected to a resolution issued by the Ministry of Economy and Foreign Trade that requires import licenses to include the names of customs agents as this could lead to complications where there are disputes between merchants and their customs agents.
  • The former investor in Qassioun Mall opened the first mall dedicated to restaurants in Damascus. The ‘Big 5 Complex’ was opened in the Midan district of Damascus and is comprised of five well-known restaurants.
  • Prime Minister Imad Khamis gave the green light to establish a center in Egypt that would promote Syrian goods for export with the intention of targeting markets in North Africa.


  • The Real Estate Sales Tax Bill will soon be referred to the People’s Assembly for deliberations. The new Bill will revise outdated property valuations and update them to current real estate market rates while reducing the sales tax to one percent. The current Law imposes a 25% sales tax on valuations dating from 1985 and earlier and a 15% sales tax on valuations dating from 1986. The new Bill once enacted is expected to have a positive effect when it comes to mortgaging properties as the banks will be more confident of their actual valuations. There have been different points of view with respect to whether or not the passage of the Bill will lead to an increase in property prices.
  • The government is pushing forward with its plans to transform the Customs Directorate into a public body with its own board of directors to monitor its operations as opposed to being a department within the Ministry of Finance.


  • A new emerging businessman who was elected as an Aleppo MP in 2016 has recently incorporated an oil and gas services company in Damascus with a share capital of SYP 1 billion.
  • A Spanish company specialized in renewable energy is investing in a solar power project in Aleppo.


  • The People’s Assembly is deliberating on a new bill that will regulate the fees for public and privately-owned vehicles in Syria.
  • The government is targeting importers of automobile components who are merely reassembling them into cars without any manufacturing and design inputs. Car imports have been ceased since 2011 as part of import controls seeking to protect the value of the Syrian Pound. The importation of some car parts is still allowed in order to manufacture automobiles in Syria but some businessmen are illegally taking advantage of the situation. They are importing all the components of automobiles into the country and reassembling them into whole cars without any manufacturing and design inputs.
  • The privately-owned airline company Cham Wings prepared to launch direct flights to the United Arab Emirates. It is the first private airline company set up in Syria and was established in 2007.
  • Preparations are underway to reopen Aleppo International Airport very soon.

Public Procurement

  • The Minister of Finance confirmed that a new bill that will replace the Public Procurement Law is currently under review and will aim to fill in gaps in the present legislation that have become more prevalent since the conflict erupted in Syria. Once enacted, the new Law is expected to address issues relating to the termination of public contracts and compensation payable to contractors for price differences caused by the devaluation of the Syrian Pound since 2011. It is these factors in particular that have tested and challenged the durability of the current Public Procurement Law for the past seven years.

Local Councils

  • For the first time since 2011 when unrest in the country first began, Syrians will be heading to the polls on September 16th to vote in local council elections. The move follows the issuance of Decree 214/2018 by President Bashar Al-Assad, which sets the date for the polls. The last local council elections were held on December 12, 2011. The local councils’ terms ended in early 2016 but they were extended until this year as the conflict had previously prevented the possibility of holding new elections.


  • Following the restoration of stability in Syria’s major cities, there has been an uptick in the number of Syrian expatriates returning back to their country, particularly from the Gulf region. Financially speaking, the cost of living in Syria is much cheaper, which is a major incentive.

Family Law

  • Sources in the Sharia Court in Damascus revealed that amendments to the Personal Status Law have been completed and focus on women’s rights issues with regards to marital matters such as divorces and the payment of dowries. With respect to women being subjected to arbitrary divorces, they will be entitled to compensation regardless of their personal financial situation. Judges will also be expected to intervene to ensure dowries are not considered to be too low in value. The Personal Status Law dates back to 1953 and was amended on two occasions in 1975 and 2003.
  • A bill was presented to the People’s Assembly that would amend provisions of the Criminal Code to make it an offence punishable by imprisonment for any couple that weds through a customary marriage. However, the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee in the People’s Assembly deemed the punishment of imprisonment too harsh and amended the bill so that it provides for a fine instead. The bill was introduced because there have been numerous instances of people being abused through marital procedures during the conflict. Moreover, there has been an increase in customary marriages in Syria since the war broke out for a variety of reasons, one of which is an absence of government control in parts of the country. Marriages in Syria are legally conducted according to the personal status laws of the individuals concerned. Accordingly, Muslims conclude what is known as the Sheikh’s Book Ceremony and then register the marital contract in the Sharia Court. Christians conduct a Church Ceremony and then register the marital contract in the Spiritual Court for the relevant denomination. A customary marriage takes place when the relevant ceremonies are conducted but there is no registration of the marital contracts in the courts. When this happens, a marriage is not legally valid as far as the state is concerned. As such, there are no legally imposed obligations on the husband, which can have broad consequences if a child is born or the marriage breaks down. As far as the state is concerned, the marriage was never legally valid. One rationale behind the drafting of the new bill was to help protect the rights of women who were placed in vulnerable positions following a breakdown in their customary marriage. Nevertheless, the bill drew considerable criticism, particularly from MPs in the People’s Assembly. The objective of deterring customary marriages through the threat of imprisonment was deemed excessive by many observers given the current circumstances in the country especially as the bill was meant to help certain segments of society. Once passed by the People’s Assembly, the bill was ratified by President Bashar Al-Assad and became Law 24/2018.
  • The People’s Assembly passed a bill that grants Syrian citizenship to children whose fathers are unidentifiable. According to the Nationality Law, the Syrian nationality is conferred on any individual whose father is a Syrian national. The bill raised controversy among some MPs who feared that the Syrian nationality would be granted to individuals born in former rebel strongholds and whose fathers could potentially have been foreign fighters and terrorists. The Syrian Nationality Law already contains a provision that children of unknown parents shall be deemed to be Syrian citizens by virtue of being found in Syria.


  • President Bashar Al-Assad issued Legislative Decree 8/2018, which increases pension payments to retired military personnel by 20%.
  • President Al-Assad also issued Legislative Decree 9/2018, which increases salaries to military personnel by 30%.


  • The US Supreme Court formally upheld Donald Trump’s travel ban, which will prevent many Syrians from travelling to the US.
  • On June 1st, the Swiss Federal Council adopted an amendment to the Ordinance on Sanctions against Syria to clarify and formalize the authorization processes with respect to the export of certain chemicals, materials and other goods to Syria. In the future, the sale, shipment, export and transit of certain chemicals, materials and other goods to Syria, or for use in Syria, will require authorization by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO).

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