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SYRIA: Digging Into The Details Of The Russian-Written “Draft Constitution”

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Syrian Arab Army solider on the road into Aleppo, Khanasser. December 2016. (Photo: Vanessa Beeley)

Andrew Korybko
21st Century Wire

Sputnik, one of Russia’s publicly funded international media broadcasters, just released the official English-language translation of the Russian-written “draft constitution” for Syria, and it’s a good time to dig into the document and see exactly what it entails. The author earlier analyzed the broader changes that the Russians “suggested” for Syria in his twopart series on the topic for Regional Rapport, relying at the time on the official leaks reported by both Sputnik and RT.

Now that a certified translation of the full document is available, it’s possible to delve into the details and proceed with a more detailed analysis. So as not to be too redundant, the general points raised earlier in the author’s work won’t be reiterated unless contextually necessary for understanding whatever new idea it is that’s being conveyed.

It should be remembered at all times, however, that the author is not questioning Russia’s intent in proposing the forthcoming analyzed legal propositions, and believes that any skeptics should defer to considering the “best-case” scenario outlined in the second part of his Regional Rapport analysis if they have any doubts about the grand strategic gains that Moscow is trying to achieve through these tactical ends.

Nevertheless, it’s entirely possible that Russia did not fully consider how its well-intentioned “suggestions” could be maliciously exploited by the US and its allies in transferring the Hybrid War on Syria to the legal-political realm following the eventual conclusion of its military component. Intelligence agencies regularly partake in “red team-blue team” simulations whereby one side plays the role of an adversary in seeking to undermine the security defenses of the other, and with this in mind, the author is approaching the analysis of the Russian-written “draft constitution” from the critical perspective of how it could conceivably be undermined by hostile elements.

The purpose in doing so is to raise awareness about what might have been some overlooked legal loopholes and questionable inclusions (or exclusions) of various clauses which could unwittingly end up doing more harm than good to Syria in the long run. It’s ultimately up to the Syrian people and their representatives in deciding whether the forthcoming analytical viewpoints are relevant to their task of refining the Russian-written “draft constitution” for their country, but at the very least, it never hurts for a plurality of perspectives to be available to decision makers at crucial historical moments such as this one.

Analyzing the document from an outside angle could be useful in identifying previously unseen shortcomings which might have otherwise evaded the detection of legal experts. Considering that this is intended to the highest law in the land and the institutional framework for rebuilding Syria after the war, it’s more important than ever that any potential problems are preemptively discovered and dealt with before it’s too late to change them.

The Research

The research is organized according to the progression of ideas outlined in the “draft constitution”. As was earlier stated, the author tries to avoid any unnecessary redundancies with his earlier two-part analysis, though this is sometimes contextually unavoidable. Likewise, because the scope of this work is limited to identifying potential shortcomings which could be legally-politically exploited by Syria’s Hybrid War adversaries, it’s not a comprehensive review in the sense of commenting upon each and every part of the document.

Therefore, only the most controversial points relevant to the possible undermining of Syria’s constitutional order will be discussed, with each main idea summarized as a one-sentence headline and then elaborated on afterwards.

In referencing which parts of the document a given idea refers to, the Article-Paragraph system will be in use, whereby 15-3 would deal with Article 15, Paragraph 3, for example. Moreover, there will be certain similarities between the analyses provided for some of the headlined points, and this will form a running theme throughout the text in highlighting both the most important unresolved issues that the “draft constitution” fails to address and the potentially destabilizing inferences which it inadvertently hints at.

The Cultural Loophole

Right off the bat, 1-3 sets off to declare that “the Constitution shall guarantee the protection of cultural diversity of the Syrian society”, which while, superficially, being something which every Syrian can agree upon, might end up legitimizing a series of dangerous loopholes as it relates to the Kurds and other people in Syria and inadvertently allow for the de-facto “federalization” (internal partition) of the country with time. This will be explained in reference to the next highlighted point in the text.

 “Kurdistan” Rising

Although the publicly financed TASS news agency reported that Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that “Russia did not offer to enshrine Kurdish autonomy in the new draft Syrian constitution”, it seems in hindsight that she might not have read the document herself before making that statement otherwise she’d know that 4-2 of the Russian-written “draft constitution” specifically speaks about “the Kurdish cultural autonomy”, with 15-4 going even further in ordering that “the law shall state the status of the Kurdish cultural autonomy”.

According to the text, the Syrian government is presumed to not have a choice over whether or not the “Kurdish cultural autonomy” exists, though the new parliament is expected to rule on the official status of this unilateral decree sometime after the constitution goes into effect.

4-2 also outlines that both Arabic and Kurdish would be equally used by “government agencies and organizations” in this “proposed” “Kurdish cultural autonomy”, with 4-3 suggesting that this could also relate to the field of education in stating that “Syrian citizens shall be guaranteed the right to educate their children in their native language in state educational institutions and in private educational institutions that meet the educational standards.”

Publicly funded schools might fall under the realm of responsibility of “government agencies and organizations”, so this would mean that Kurdish would indeed be one of the languages of instruction. What’s unclear, however, as judging by the language of 4-3, is whether “the right to educate their children in their native language in state educational institutions” would apply only to specifically demarcated “cultural autonomy” zones or nationwide.

Taken together, 4-2 and 4-3 essentially codify some of the demands set forth in the PYD Kurds’ 2015 anti-government manifesto, which was analyzed last year in a threepart article series by the author for the Moscow-based Katehon think tank.

The Path To Linguistic-Territorial Separateness

Article 4 doesn’t just relate to the Kurds, however, since Paragraph 4 says that “each region shall have the right to use another majority language in addition to the official language as is regulated by the law, if such use was approved by a locally held referendum.” What’s so worrying about this is that it doesn’t legally define what a “region” is, nor the scope of a “locally held referendum”.

Are “regions” synonyms for states/provinces (as seems to be implied in 11-3), or an entirely new sort of territorial arrangement? Is the “Kurdish cultural autonomy” its own “region”, a state/province, or something below both of these? Does the scope of a “locally held referendum” mean something as small as a few city blocks in a multiculturally diverse city, a small village, or a conglomeration of territorially contiguous villages/towns?

The reason why such attention is being given to these details is because the constitutional limits (or lack thereof) for these “regions” and “locally held referendums” will likely be put to the test soon after the “draft constitution’s” promulgation by linguistic-territorial identity groups which seek to achieve the same sort of “cultural autonomy” as the Kurds were automatically given, including perhaps “the right to educate their children in their native language in state educational institutions”, whether within their anticipated “cultural zone/region” or nationwide (which has yet to be settled per the ambiguity of 4-3). Should this process of linguistic-territorial separateness accelerate all across the country at around the same time, then it could expectedly manifest itself in a nationwide “federalist” (internal partition) movement, regardless of whether such a possibility is openly codified into law in the approved constitution.

Pertaining to that, 46-3 includes the only mentioning of a governing-legislative entity referred to simply as the “Territories Assembly”, which was analyzed in the author’s earlier work for Regional Rapport. The fact that the Russian-written “draft constitution” makes no further elaboration about what this actually is might be interpreted by some people as a potentially deliberate oversight designed to “sneak” “federalism” into the country and provide a “constitutional outlet” for the abovementioned scenario of widespread linguistic-territorial separateness emboldened by the “affirmative/positive discrimination” afforded to the Kurds.

The “Territories Assembly” might therefore form the basis for a future “federalized” (internally partitioned) state for these politically aware linguistic-territorial groups even if such words aren’t officially written into law and are only applied in practice.

No Separatists Or Expansionists

5-2 stipulates that “political parties shall respect the constitutional order, democratic principles, national sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the state”, thus implying that separatists such as the Kurdish PYD or expansionists like the “Greater Syrian” SSNP would either have to formally revise their political platforms or risk being banned in the “New Syria”.

No Taxpayer-Funded Electoral Campaigns, But Are Foreign-Funded Ones Okay?

5-4 outlines that “public office or public money may not be exploited for a political, electoral or party interest”, suggesting that the state cannot provide taxpayer-provided subsidies to political parties. Although 36-3-4 later says that a forthcoming election law to be decided upon after the passing of the constitution will “identify the regulations of financing election campaigns”, the present document as it exists seems to bar public funds for this purpose while not expressly prohibiting foreign ones.

Broad-Based Banning Of Types Of Organizations

Nobody is outright objecting to the “draft constitution” banning “political parties and other public associations…instigating religious, social, racial, national, and tribal strife; and that are based on sectarian, regional, class, professional discrimination, or on discrimination by gender or origin” in 6-3, but the questions arise as to what constitutes “discrimination” and “instigating strife”, as well as who adjudicates over any legal disputes pertaining to this?

The Supreme Constitutional Court (herein referred to simply as the Supreme Court), which is a nebulous body of at least 7 individuals (Article 77, Paragraphs 1-6) ultimately subservient to the equally vague idea of “international law” (7-3) and with no constitutional stipulation that they even have to be Syrians (despite being appointed by the “Constituent Assembly” per 77-2), will end up deciding on these issues, but without any clear guidance on this matter, it’s indeed possible that the Baath Party, SSNP, and PYD would each potentially qualify for being banned under this clause.

The Baath Party is a Pan-Arab and Arab Nationalist organization which might be seen “discriminatory” and an “instigator of strife” by the most radical elements of Syria’s non-Arab citizenry such as the PYD Kurdish nationalists. Along the same lines, the PYD is an ethno-supremacist organization which is accused of carrying out war crimes against non-Kurdish Syrians in the northern part of the country. Lastly, the SSNP’s stated vision of building “Greater Syria” might be at odds with Syria’s “Turkmen” population and others which don’t identify with this ideology and might argue before the courts that it “instigates” “racial and national” strife because it claims the full or partial territory of several countries.

Broadly banning organizations based on this general criteria before specifying whether or not it would correspond to any of the presently active parties within the country (and possibly “grandfathering” them into the system) might, dangerously, end up opening up a can of worms which unleashes a wide-scale “lustration” (witch hunt) against the ruling Baath Party and its SSNP “patriotic opposition” allies, which is why it might be unwise to agree to such a provision without first settling this matter.

Are The Golan Heights Part Of Syria’s State Borders?

Article 9 briefly states that “the territory of Syria is indivisible, inviolable and integral” and that “state borders may be changed only after a referendum among all Syrian citizens, as the expression of the will of the Syrian people”, which makes perfect sense but doesn’t expressly mention whether the disputed Golan Heights – presently occupied and annexed by “Israel” in contravention of international law – would presumably be part of the country’s state borders at the time of the “draft constitution’s” passing.

This is an exceedingly important detail which mustn’t be overlooked, because Article 85 says that “the Constitution shall come into force on the day of its promulgation after the referendum”, which in practice means that if there isn’t any clear reference to the Golan Heights being part of the “indivisible, inviolable and integral” territory of Syria, that the case can be made that Damascus must abide by Article 8’s decrees that it “maintain good neighborly relations with other countries based on cooperation, mutual security and other principles stipulated by international legal rules” and also “denounce war as an infringement on other countries’ sovereignty and a means to resolve international conflicts.”

In practice, this might constitute a legal quandary whereby Syria de-facto, if not de-jure, ends up withdrawing its claims to the Golan Heights. If Syria is forced to enter into “good neighborly relations” with “Israel” and “denounce war” as ever being an option whatsoever to liberate the occupied Golan Heights, then it’s essentially ceding this territory even if the people aren’t fully aware of it. A suggested recommendation would therefore be to include the Golan Heights in this passage as constituting part of the “indivisible, inviolable and integral” territory of Syria and removing the “denouncement of war” in order to allow Syria the same sovereign rights as Russia, China, Iran, and other countries have in defending themselves if the need arises.

Will There Be Martyrdom Payments To “Rebel” and Kurdish Families?

10-1 mandates that “the State shall provide support to the families of citizens who lost their lives while defending independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria”, which is of course very admirable and understandably suggested with the intent that the government will always continue providing for the families of Syria’s patriotic martyrs, but unfortunately, it might end up being exploited as a way to “pay off” “rebel” and Kurdish fighters into agreeing to other political compromises and ultimately supporting the Russian-written “draft constitution”.

The reason for such fears is obvious –nothing in this passage explicitly says that the martyrs should be from the Syrian Arab Army or allied pro-government militias, thus opening up the legal door for any of the various “rebel” groups which end up signing a final peace treaty with the government to argue that they, too, because of the “legitimacy” which they would receive by entering into an equal deal with Damascus, were involved in “defending the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria”.

Sure, they may argue, they had their “militant disagreements” with the government’s policies, but because that very same government eventually recognized them as political equals in signing a peace treaty/”ceasefire” and no longer designates them as terrorists, the families of their fallen fighters should also be eligible for martyrdom payments especially if they took part in anti-Daesh operations.

Of course, it might end up being impossible to independently verify whether one of the “rebels’” or Kurds’ reportedly killed fighters did in fact die at the hands of Daesh, but therein precisely lies the problem of forthcoming exploitation over this well-intentioned decree. In order to avoid having patriotic taxpayers support the families of individuals who might have only up until recently been regarded as traitors and/or terrorists, 10-1 might have to be rewritten in order to directly say that this only applies to those who served with the Syrian Arab Army and its allied militias prior to the official conclusion of the war.

From a cynical perspective, however, leaving out this important detail would indeed open up the martyrdom program to exploitation by the families of fallen “rebel” and Kurdish fighters, but that might end up being the point in order to basically “pay them off” in exchange for their continued loyalty to the Syrian state after the war.

The author isn’t encouraging this at all, but is simply presenting an unconventional angle for understanding why no legal safeguards were proposed in the first place by the Russian side in preventing this expected eventuality from happening. On the other hand, it might have just been a careless oversight or a detail which the Russia’s don’t realistically foresee being taking advantage of.

Say Goodbye To Hezbollah, SSNP, “Rebel”, And Kurdish Fighters

If 10-5 is included in the final draft of the Syrian Constitution, then “performing military or militarized activity outside the domain of state power (will be) prohibited”, essentially making Hezbollah, SSNP, “rebel”, and Kurdish fighters illegal in the “New Syria”. The only exception to this would be if any of the aforementioned were operating under the “domain of state power”, such as if the PYD were rebranded as “local self-defense forces” for the “Kurdish cultural autonomy”.

It would be very dangerous, however, to give an exception to only one armed group and not to any of the others, and this would be bound to lead to simmering disputes both between these various militias and also against the government (as it relates to the “rebels” and the Kurds, not the SSNP and Hezbollah, of course).

Moreover, as different linguistic-territorial minorities such as the Turkmens, Armenians, and others begin to become more ‘politically aware’ per the legal privileges laid out for them in 4-4, they too might want their own “local self-defense forces” depending on their situation, which could lead to more agitation for additional “exemptions” if any have already been given to the Kurds or other already existing armed groups. The intention  behind the specific wording of this proposal seems to have been to leave open the possibility of “exemptions” while decreeing that all other organizations must disarm the moment that the “draft constitution” is agreed to in a referendum, but then the question  becomes one of which force would end up being responsible for enforcing the disarmament and whether the authorities in power in Damascus at the time believe that it’s worth risking what might potentially become an actual civil war in trying to do so if they encounter resistance (as might predictably be the case with the PYD if no “exemption” is issued).

Whose Cultural Development Will The State Support?

12-2 states that “the State shall support development of culture, education, healthcare, science, and art; protect the environment, and safeguard the people’s historical, material and spiritual legacy”, but it’s unclear whether “culture” and “the people’s historical…legacy” relate specifically to the unified concept of Syrian civilization or each of its various constituent identity parts. This becomes an issue to ponder upon because of the existence of the “Kurdish cultural autonomy” that the Russians are “suggesting” that Syria adopt in its “draft constitution”. History reveals that most of the Kurds came to Syria during and after World War I, so in the temporal sense, they’re relative newcomers to this civilization-state (even if some of the immigrants refused to accept Syrian citizenship at the time and up until now).

Will the “New Syria” be entitled to expend state funds in ‘supporting development of culture” for the Kurds and “safeguarding (their) historical…legacy” because of the “affirmative/positive discrimination” given to them through the “proposed” “legalization” of the “Kurdish cultural autonomy”? If this is the case, will the same precedent be applied in guaranteeing state support for other linguistic-territorial groups which might sprout up afterwards per the process outlined in 4-4? And, the broader question should actually be whether Damascus should indeed promote each and every minority identity or if it should instead focus on the Syrian one in order to rebuild national unity following the years of devastating warfare which saw some of its people commit unforgettable acts of violence against the other?

If the “proposed” law is left purposely ambiguous and is exploited to advance the former, then it could quickly catalyze an out-of-control process of identity fragmentation in Syria which might quickly unravel the “decentralizing” state into a Bosnian-like “federation” of quasi-independent entities perpetually at tense odds with one another. Additionally, it might not even be up to Syrians to decide how this law is interpreted following the “draft constitution’s” promulgation anyhow since it would officially be the realm of the Supreme Court justices to arbitrate on this matter. Even if most of society believes that it should be understood as promoting national unity, these elite individuals might overrule their will in decreeing that priority should be given to the constituent identities instead.

 “Compulsory Labour” For Whom?

For inexplicable reasons, the Russian writers of Syria’s “draft constitution” decided to include a passage in 12-8 about how, “following a court’s decision individuals may be sentenced to compulsory labor the terms and duration of which are regulated by law.” While there do exist countries where penal labor is enforced, including the US and Russia itself, neither of them – to the best of the author’s knowledge – have passages in their constitutions for “compulsory (prison) labor”. Russia, in fact, outright states in Article 37 of its own constitution that “compulsory labour shall be forbidden”, though it doesn’t include such a safeguard for Syrians in their new “draft constitution”.

Granted, the only Syrians that would be sentenced to “compulsory labor” would be those which have violated the law and have received their punishment from the courts, but the question then arises as to what particular laws would have to be broken in order to make someone eligible for this sentence. That’s not stated in the constitution, and it’s presumed that it would be “regulated by law(s)” which come after its promulgation. This is very troubling because it leaves open the possibility that politicians in the “New Syria” might opt for a radical “lustration” of “undesirable ideologies” such as those broadly elaborated on in 6-3, which is why it might not deserve any place in the “draft constitution” but should instead be included in a revised penal code which would eventually follow.

With no clear definition of what defines “political parties and other public associations…instigating religious, social, racial, national, and tribal strife; and that are based on sectarian, regional, class, professional discrimination, or on discrimination by gender or origin”, and with the possibility existing that the Baath Party, SSNP, and PYD might technically be in violation of these generic decrees if the Supreme Court rules that they are, one of the forthcoming punishments for “rehabilitating” “banned ideologies” such as what these might become could possibly be “compulsory labor”. Even if it doesn’t turn out that way, it’s very troubling that Syrians are being asked to constitutionally allow this sort of punishment before having the right to decide what crimes it would be applicable to.

“Decentralization” Is Destiny

To remind the reader, although Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova was vehement that Russia was not “proposing” any form of “autonomy” for Syria, 15-3 apparently assumes that they’ll agree to this course of action on their own prerogative and thus mandates that “the organization of local administrations is based on applying the principle of decentralization of authorities and responsibilities.” It seems that there is no getting around Russia’s “decentralization” “proposal”, as it occupies such a central part of the “draft constitution” that a separate Article was written to describe the guidelines for how it would enter into practice in the future.

Just like with “compulsory labour”, however, it doesn’t specifically say how this would work in practice, leaving it up to a newly elected parliament in the “New Syria” to make the determination in deciding just how far it would go. Because it isn’t outright ruled out in the “draft constitution”, this signifies that “federalization” could indeed become an inevitable reality if the lawmakers ultimately decide on it. It could even be that such a determination is contrary to the popular will of the Syrian people, but if they agree to pass this document which directly states that the specifics of their country’s “decentralization” will be decided by later laws, then the legal grounds are present for politicians to do this anyhow if they so choose.

The Flag Stays The Same But The Emblem And Anthem Change

The state symbols of the Syrian Arab Republic are very dear to every patriot and sincere supporters of the country all across the world, but some of these will have to change if the “draft constitution” is agreed upon. 17-2 confirms what the flag will look like and describes it in the exact same fashion as it presently exists, but then 17-3 says that “the law identifies the state’s emblem and its national anthem.” Just like in other aforementioned passages, whenever the phrase “the law” is introduced, it means that the details will be decided later on by the new parliament in the “New Syria”, and that nothing should be taken for granted in these relevant regards. Therefore, the conclusion can evidently be made that the Syrian state emblem and anthem will end up changing because there’s no constitutional stipulation mandating that they remain the same as they are now (like the flag in 17-2).

“Political Correctness” Comes To Syria

The Russian-written “draft constitution” admirably speaks about “freedom of press and mass media” in guaranteeing in 20-4 that “everyone shall have the right freely to seek, receive, transmit, produce and disseminate information by any legal means”, though this might inadvertently end up “legitimizing” such anti-government propaganda as Bana and the “White Helmets”.

As for the said legal means, they’re described in 20-5 as prohibiting “propaganda or agitation, which incites social, racial, national or religious hatred and hostility, and propaganda of social, racial, national, religious or linguistic supremacy”. This consistently channels the sentiment first expressed in 6-3 that organizations advancing such broad-based ends are not welcome in the “New Syria”, nor should they be welcome anywhere for that matter.

The problem, however, as often is the case in the Russian-written “draft constitution”, is that nothing more specific is offered as a guideline in determining what constitutes “inciting” or “propagandizing” “social, racial, national, religious, or linguistic” “hatred, hostility, and supremacy”.

It’s true that some countries, including Russia, have open-ended legislation prohibiting similar evils, but in Moscow’s case, the country has been at peace with itself for nearly a century after the end of the Civil War, notwithstanding the geographically limited unrest in Chechnya during the 1990s and early 2000s. The preexisting situational context in the Russian Federation is therefore completely different from what the Syrian Arab Republic is presently experiencing, and in a country desperately trying to emerge from the throes of brutal years-long warfare, broad-based mandates such as the one just described might end up causing more harm than good.

The reason for this, just like it was explained in the section pertaining to 6-3, is that it could arbitrarily be used to suppress the Pan-Arabism ideology of the Baath Party and the “Greater Syria” one of the SSNP, to say nothing of the PYD’s overt Kurdish supremacism. The former two ideologies and parties are not dangerous, but according to a literal interpretation of 20-5, Kurds, Turkmen, and other minorities might be able to plausibly argue before the Supreme Court that their promotion constitutes an “incitement” of “racial-national” “hatred, hostility, and supremacy” and should thus be banned. The author thinks such an idea is absolutely ridiculous, but in the “politically correct” “New Syria”, there’s no safeguard preventing this from happening, nor from sentencing “offenders” to “compulsory labour” unless “exemptions” are made.

Will The “New Syria” Extradite Accused “Criminals” To The ICC?

A very serious loophole is present in the Russian-written “draft constitution”, and it’s that the wording of the document accidentally indicates that the “New Syria” might be forced to handover  accused “criminals” to international bodies. 21-3 has a very specific wording which states that “a citizen of Syria may not be deported from Syria or extradited to another state”, but global governance bodies such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) are not “states”. Furthermore, 7-3 mandates the primacy of “international law” over its domestic counterpart, and if the government of the “New Syria” chooses to accede to the Rome Statute and the ICC, then it could in principle detain Syrian nationals accused by that body of committing “war crimes” and send them to the Hague.

It would be wonderful if the ICC went after the “moderate opposition rebels” and undisputed terrorist groups which brought so much pain, suffering, and destruction to the Syrian people over the years, but the regretful fact remains that the organization is so highly politicized that many countries aren’t party to it. Russia, in fact, even recently withdrew from the ICC because of this very same reason, as did many African countries. It’s common knowledge that the ICC essentially functions as an extra-territorial arm of Western legal power, and it’s logically presumed that it would be tasked with working against Syria’s patriots should the country ever accede to its jurisdiction.

In practice, this might mean that politically orchestrated international witch hunts could be commenced against President Assad, Baath Party officials and diplomats, members of the Syrian Arab Army, and other patriotic individuals. The uncomfortable fact is that there’s nothing preventing this from happening because the extradition clause only bars the government from sending its citizens to “another state”, not an international governing body such as the ICC which it might voluntarily accede to. In order to make sure that this passage isn’t exploited, Damascus’ diplomats and legal experts should demand that the words “or international body” be included in that sentence. Failure to do so might horrifyingly result in the witch hunt scenario outlined above, which could rapidly achieve a full deep state “lustration” if “New Syria’s” political officials choose to initiate one.

Will Journalists Be Suppressed?

Although guaranteeing “freedom of press and mass media” per the previously cited passage and in adherence to the broad outlines that were just analyzed, journalists in the “New Syria” might unexpectedly come across some other serious impediments to their work which could make it impossible for them to report on activities of politically connected individuals and corruption. 22-2 is very clear that “collecting, keeping, using and disseminating information about the private life of a person shall not be permitted without his (her) consent”, though as is the trend, it isn’t clear about whether this prohibition relates to the actions of the state, media outlets, and/or individual citizens.

This is troublesome because journalists will have to closely follow the activities of political parties and those linked to them in order to figure out who’s financing them because of 5-4’s decree that “public office or public money may not be exploited for a political, electoral or party interest” (like was analyzed previously). To remind the reader, 36-4 mandates that a future election law “identify the regulations of financing election campaigns”, but without any unambiguous constitutionally stipulated clauses prohibiting foreign financing of election campaigns, it’s obvious that some self-interested individuals and groups will seek to secure funding abroad.

Per the vagueness of 22-2, however, journalists which “disseminate information about the private life of a person” such as their meetings with foreign politicians/NGOs and visits to foreign countries will be breaking a constitutional law. While the Supreme Court might ultimately rule that politicians are exempt from this legal safeguard, that still means that journalists would be unable to report on the politically connected dealings of their intermediaries as this would violate the law as it’s presently written. If there’s a desire to amend the legislation, then it’s suggested that politically related dealings be exempted from these prohibitions in order that journalists aren’t suppressed in their investigative quest to figure out which foreign forces might be funding their countries’ political parties.

What’s The Word “Federal” Doing In The “Draft Constitution”?

The author is very worried that some of the ambiguities previously elaborated on in the Russian-written “draft constitution” inadvertently allow for a “back door” to “federalism”, and his fears appear to be directly confirmed through the curious one-time inclusion of the word “federal” in this controversial document. 24-3, in talking about labor rights and other related issues, for some reason incorporates the phrase “established by federal law”. If there’s no hidden desire to “federalize” (internally partition) Syria, then why is this politically loaded word included in the document?

It might of course have been a careless oversight by an overworked team of Russian experts, but even so, the very fact that it’s in the “draft constitution” could provide the legal justification for arguing that the “Territories Assembly”, “Kurdish cultural autonomy”, and other such entities earlier spoken upon could function as the institutional groundwork for a “federalized” state. If this isn’t the intention, then the word “federal” should be removed from the “draft constitution” in order to avoid any unfortunate legal misunderstandings which might one day be exploited to catalyze the de-facto dissolution of the Syrian state.

No Immunity For Civilians Or Soldiers, Only Serving Politicians

One of the most disturbing elements of the Russian-written “draft constitution” has to be the stipulations regarding immunity. 31-4 is explicit that “no immunity of any act or administrative decision from judicial review shall be allowed”, which feeds into the abovementioned scenario about how President Assad, Baath Party officials, diplomats, members of the Syrian Arab Army, and other patriotic individuals might find themselves instantly being victimized by a far-reaching nationwide and potentially even international witch hunt the moment that the “New Syria” agrees to its new constitution. 43-6 does say that the “People’s Assembly” (one of at least two or three chambers of the “New Syrian” parliament and which will be commented on in the next section) can order “approval of a general amnesty”, but it shouldn’t by any means be assumed that it will necessarily ever enter into use, let alone be used to provide immunity to the earlier described category of individuals.

While soldiers, diplomats, regular civilians, and even the President himself might have to fear falling victim to a political-legal purge, serving parliamentarians in the “New Syria” won’t have much to worry about. 42-3 says that “the members of the People’s Assembly and the Constituent Assembly can not be held legally responsible for their votes or political opinions expressed in exercising their authority”, which interestingly might be the “legal workaround” for avoiding the “political correctness” and “broad-based banning” earlier analyzed in the “draft constitution”. If a serving politician purposely or inadvertently resorts to “instigating religious, social, racial, national, and tribal strife” in the course of “expressing their political opinions in exercising their authority”, then it’s not certain whether or not they’d be called into account for their transgressions (whether real or invented by their political opponents).

Unless “caught in the act” like 42-6 refers to it as, though characteristically without specifying whether this refers to physical or ‘ideological crimes’, “a member of People’s Assembly and a member of the Constituent Assembly can not be detained, arrested, searched or brought before the court without a prior permission from the Assembly to which he belongs” per the protection afforded to them by 42-5. This is nothing less than the overt politicization of the criminal justice system since it gives politicians the right to prevent law enforcement representatives from “detaining, arresting, searching, or bringing before the court” their fellow lawmakers, thus institutionalizing a culture of corruption. The author doesn’t think that this was the intent, of course, but that’s what it amounts to when put into practice. If the Syrian people have a problem with this clause, then it should be completely removed in order to prevent the abuse of office by their future politicians.

Parliamentary Pandemonium

Chapter 3, containing Articles 34-47, speaks on the powers bestowed to the legislative authorities and delineates most of the responsibilities bestowed to the “People’s Assembly” and “Constituent Assembly”, though interestingly without describing the purpose of the “Territories Assembly” mentioned in passing in 46-3. This is a serious problem because it creates questions about how many chambers of parliament the “New Syria” will actually have, and whether the “Territories Assembly” is just a synonym for the “Constituent Assembly”. If so, then such a distinction needs to be expressly codified into law just like how the Russians propose that the “Syrian Republic” will be synonymous with Syria. By having carelessly not done so, Moscow inadvertently opens up a Pandora’s Box of political pandemonium by leaving open the possibility that the “Territories Assembly” is its own separate chamber of parliament and might end up functioning as a shell body for facilitating any forthcoming “federalization” (internal partition) of the country.

Along that topic, Article 40 and its 3 Paragraphs describe the composition of the “Constituent Assembly”, which is said to “be formed to ensure participation of representatives of the constituent parts in legislative activities and administration of the state” and thus “consists of representatives of the constituent parts”. The phrase “constituent parts” isn’t defined, so it could mean the individual states/provinces, or perhaps even include sub-state or de-facto “federalized” entities such as the “Kurdish cultural autonomy” and any similar linguistic-territorial bodies which are created per the “locally held referendum” requirements set out in 4-4. The “Constituent Assembly” is designed to be a sort of Senate which in practice embodies quasi-“federalist” principles by giving each undefined “constituent part” legal representation within the central government, so without any further clarification on this topic being enumerated in the Russian-written “draft constitution” text, it’s presumable that this is in essence a “backdoor” to the institutionalization of unstated “federalism” in the country.

Finally, the last issue of concern is that Chapter 3 expressly states that the number of seats for the “People’s Assembly” and “Constituent Assembly” will be determined by law afterwards, which as will later be argued, unnecessarily creates a host of problems for the presidential nomination process.

Can Non-Citizens Vote In “Locally Held Referendums”?

In speaking about the legislative authorities and electing representatives to the “People’s Assembly”, 36-2 states that “voters shall be the citizens who have completed eighteen years of age and meet the conditions stipulated in the Election Law.” That directly means that only citizens can vote in legislative elections, but it doesn’t answer the question as to who can vote in the earlier mentioned “locally held referendums” constitutionally allowed in 4-4 in order to set up linguistic-territorial units of vague responsibilities and extent. This might have to be clarified as soon as possible through a clause which specifically says that only Syrian citizens can vote in any election being held on their country’s territory, because otherwise it might create the legal precedent necessary for the Supreme Court to rule that non-citizens are eligible to vote in non-legislative elections such as the ones described in 4-4.

The reason why this is such an important issue to settle is because the failure to do so might enable foreign colonists such as Uighurs, Afghans, Turks, and whoever else flooded into Syria over the years to have a say in allowing their native language to be used in their area of occupation so long as these individuals vote for it in a “locally held referendum”. Some of the terrorists which entered Syria don’t want to leave and return to their homelands, preferring instead to stay in the victimized country and silently ‘blend in’ with the locals. If enough of them are gathered in a certain space, however, they might want to take advantage of the “decentralized” nature of the “New Syrian” state in seeking to “legitimize” their presence in the country per the locally held referendums” previously discussed, which could provide them with not only language rights over their occupied territories, but perhaps even a “backdoor” to some sort of political-legal recognition and eventual citizenship.

“Territorial Units” Can Request Laws

Adding to the confusion about post-war Syria’s internal political composition, 45-2 says that “upon the request by administration of a territorial unit the Constituent Assembly shall have the right to send bills to the People’s Assembly for consideration.” The Russian-written “draft constitution” for Syria doesn’t clearly describe whether the country will be divided into “(cultural) autonomous units”, “states”, “regions”, or “federalized entities”, and it seems as though the ‘founders’ were unconsciously aware of this which is why they generically wrote about “territorial units” being able to request laws. Because no further elaboration is provided, and given the existing vagueness laid out thus far in the “draft constitution”, it’s entirely conceivable that a “territorial unit” as low and presumably ‘apolitical’ as the “Kurdish cultural autonomy” will indeed have political rights because of their ability to “send bills to the People’s Assembly (one of the chambers of parliament) for consideration”.

Unless this loophole is closed, then the “draft constitution” could legally allow for so-called “territorial units” of any shape and size to suggest legislation and subsequently be guaranteed political rights, which would thereby completely refute what Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova is previously on record as saying about how “Russia did not offer to enshrine Kurdish autonomy in the new draft Syrian constitution”.

It might be an unfortunate coincidence that the Russian drafters of this “constitution” weren’t aware of their oversight, let alone how something as seemingly small as a few words could lead to radically different and large-scale political consequences, so nobody should automatically assume that this was Russia’s intent all along, but regardless of what the reason was behind why this major loophole exists, it should still be closed before the document goes up before a public referendum in order to make sure that it’s not exploited along the lines of the examined “autonomous”/”federalization” scenarios.

The Supreme Court Might Not Let President Assad Stand For Reelection

Most surprising should be the news that the Russian-written “draft constitution” doesn’t automatically give President Assad the right to stand for reelection despite saying so in principle in Article 82, and it’s all because of a technicality pertaining to the Supreme Court. In fact, the document actually mandates a very complicated process which is bound to create hardships for any presidentially minded candidate in the future.

Article 51 and its 4 related Paragraphs describe exactly what must take place before an individual can run for the highest office in the land. 51-2 says that “the candidacy application shall be made to the Supreme Constitutional Court”, while 51-3 continues by specifying that it “shall not be accepted unless the applicant has acquired the support of at least 35 members of the People’s Assembly and (or) the Constituent Assembly”. The reader should remember that the document doesn’t detail how many total seats the “People’s Assembly” and “Constituent Assembly” should have, previously writing that it should be determined by “law” and inferring that the number will be decided only after the “draft constitution” is passed.

Under these uncertain conditions, there’s no telling if 35 members of either chamber of parliament would be a 10% proportion or a 50% proportion, for example, and 51-3 also includes a supplementary clause that “no member of the Assemblies can support more than one candidate.” This makes it even more difficult for individuals to pass the presidential nomination process. However, from an optimistic angle, it’s possible that the Baath Party (or whatever it might be forced to rebrand itself to in adhering to the “political correctness” previously outlined in the “draft constitution”) might gain enough seats in either of the proposed parliamentary chambers to certify President Assad’s candidacy (which he’s allowed to submit in principle per Article 82), but even then, that doesn’t mean that he would be permitted to run again for office. 51-4 says that “applications shall be examined by the Supreme Constitutional Court; and should be ruled on within 5 days of the deadline for application”, without specifying under what criteria they would examine and rule on an individual’s application.

In legal practice, since nothing is written into law about what this entails, it gives the Supreme Court the right to subjectively arbitrate however it chooses, meaning that an individual such as President Assad might have their candidacy application (which he’s entitled to by Article 82) rejected for no reason at all. Basically, he “has the right to run” but might not have the right to actually stand in the elections. Furthermore, there’s nothing in all of Chapter 4 pertaining to the Judicial Authority about how this group of at least 7 individuals arrives at their ruling, whether through a majority or consensual decision.

This is a problem for anything that it ends up ruling on, of course, but especially when it comes to determining the eligibility of presidential candidates. Without any constitutionally enshrined safeguards about this process, the Supreme Court technically has the prerogative to outright decline an individual’s application just because a single judge is against it. This clumsy oversight will obviously have to be fixed if President Assad, or any potential candidate for that matter, is to have a fair chance at running for president without being arbitrarily discriminated against.

Deep State Coup Against The Ministry Of Foreign Affairs

In another instance of one of those completely inexplicable clauses that the Russian ‘founders’ included in Syria’s “draft constitution”, 58-2 says that “upon proposal from the government, the President shall appoint and recall diplomatic representatives of Syria, and approves the establishment and abolition of or change of status for diplomatic missions.” What this means in practice is that “the government” – defined in 63-1 as “consisting of the Prime Minister, his deputies and ministers”, who are appointed by the President per 64-1 – has the power to order the country’s chief executive to make radical changes to Syria’s diplomatic corps. Should President Assad or a hand-picked patriotic successor win the Presidency, then there’s nothing to really worry about, but if someone from the “opposition” enters into power, then they could suddenly shake up everything and instantly change the country’s foreign policy.

To explain how this would work, the Prime Minister – who per 63-4 “speaks on behalf of the Government” – would simply tell the President that he or she wants the Ambassadors to their country’s multipolar Russian, Chinese, and Iranian allies immediately replaced, and the President shall have to comply with this demand. Remember, the Prime Minister is appointed by the President, so it can be logically inferred that a pro-American, pro-Saudi, pro-Turkish, or pro-anything-but-Syrian “President” would appoint an ideologically likeminded Prime Minister and ministers to his government, though taking care to follow the stipulations laid out in 64-2 that they’re “based on the proportionate representation of all ethnic and religious groups of the Syrian population; some positions shall be reserved for national and religious minorities.”

This is pretty much a legal technicality modelled off of Lebanon’s political sectarian system of “confessionalism” which can be easily worked around by simply finding a sympathetic individual from each of the mandated identity groups and appointing him or her to the government in order to demonstrate the superficial pretense of “inclusivity”. With their ideological allies in power together with them, the President and his government can easily go on a sweeping deep state purge in professionally eliminating all patriotic diplomatic representatives of the country. In fact, this can even happen if the President and most of his government are patriots, since all that matters is what the Prime Minister believes and wants to do, because this person legally “speaks on behalf of the Government” and can therefore constitutionally order the President to carry out these actions.

Unless something is done to resolve this loophole, then Syria’s patriotic representatives the world over, and including even in Damascus at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are in danger of being purged if the “opposition” gains power, and the consequent result would be that the country’s foreign policy could suddenly shift just as quickly as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, and countless other countries’ did after American proxies “legally” (as Washington and their coup governments viewed it) seized control of the highest office in the land.

The President Can Call Referendums

A very important, albeit possibly overlooked, clause in the “draft constitution” is that the President has the authority as laid out by Article 59 to “call for a referendum on important issues which affect the higher interests of the country. The result of the referendum shall be binding and come into force as of the date of its announcement by the President of the Republic.” In accordance with the observable and oft-repeated trend present in the Russian-written document, it’s predictably not specified whether this relates to nationwide or “locally held” ones such as the type described in 4-4 in pertinence to linguistic-territorial separateness and other possible administrative privileges thereof. Should a patriotic President be in power, then this doesn’t become a problem, but just like with the abovementioned scenario about a deep state coup against the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, an “opposition” individual could be utterly disastrous if they exploited the vagueness behind this clause to arbitrarily order “locally held referendums” with the intent of accelerating the country’s (de-facto or de-jure) “federalization” (internal partition).

The Supreme Court Can’t Reverse The Results Of Any Referendum

Surprisingly, the all-powerful Supreme Court “shall not consider the constitutionality of laws put to a referendum that have received the approval of the people”, at least according to Article 79. It’s not clear if this would still be applicable if the President put forth a referendum which expressly asked to reverse or invalidate one of the constitutional Articles or Paragraphs, but because it’s not clear, it can be assumed that the Supreme Court would indeed not have the power to reverse the people’s ruling. Relatedly, it’s also not certain whether or not the use of “referendum” relates to nationwide or “locally held” ones, which could predictably lead to a lot of exploitation by the latter, especially if non-citizens can vote and an “opposition” President goes on a referendum-issuing spree in trying to spur the country’s “federalization”.

It’s Almost Impossible To Amend The Constitution

Finally, as the last controversial point which the author chose to highlight in the research, Article 80 and its 3 Paragraphs outline just how impossibly difficult it is to amend the constitution after it’s promulgated in a forthcoming referendum. Any proposal would have to be approved by ¾ of both the “People’s Assembly” and “Constituent Assembly”, and then finally signed off on by the President. In the post-war conditions of a “New Syria”, radically remade through the “nation-building” “suggestions” of Russia, there will probably never be a time when ¾ of both chambers of parliament and the President are in political agreement over a single issue, thereby essentially meaning that the constitution that the Syrian people vote to accept sometime in the future will – unless this clause is modified or the referendum workaround is utilized – be all but impossible to ever change.

DISCLAIMER: This constitutional analysis is the author’s own independent work and unrepresentative of any of his affiliates, whether professional or personal, unless explicitly and unambiguously stated otherwise by them. Moreover, the opening words from the introduction should always be kept in mind in understanding the author’s intention in conducting this research, which is to identify potential shortcomings, vulnerabilities, and loopholes which could potentially be legally-politically exploited/”hacked by the US’ Hybrid War proxies in seeking to undermine the sovereignty of the Syrian state by “breaking” its constitutional system. Nothing is being demanded from the Syrian people and their authorities, nor are any ill-intentions being subtly attributed to the Russian authorities and experts which composed the “draft constitution

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We are a North American and European-based, grass-roots, independent blog offering geopolitical news and media analysis, working with an array of volunteer contributors who write and help to analyse news and opinion from around the world.
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