In the spotlight

SLDP is proud to share with you a selection of activities we have implemented and have been involved in since 2014.

Activities

2023

A Workshop and Roundtable Titled: Using the International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion Procedure as an Accountability Tool in Syria

The International Law Support Unit organized a workshop and a round table with representatives from the Syrian civil society in Berlin on using the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion procedure as an accountability tool in Syria. The International Law Support Unit also provided a capacity-building session from a legal perspective on the use of the advisory opinion procedure and its use in other contexts. This was followed by a roundtable discussion on a research under development by the unit.

Launch Event of SLDP and Diakonia New Report: No Justice for Torture in Syria – A Victim Rights-Based Analysis of the 2022 Anti-Torture Law

In partnership with The Diakonia International Humanitarian Law Centre , The International Law Support Unit of SLDP launched its new report No Justice for Torture in Syria: A Victim Rights-Based Analysis of the 2022 Anti-Torture Law. This paper analyses the Syrian authorities’ failure to fulfil its obligations under international law despite the adoption of the new anti-torture law.

Survivors’ Right to Reply Side Event : Torture Case Against Syria

In partnership with victims/survivors and families of Disappeared groups in Syria, and on the margins of Canada and the Netherlands oral interventions on the case and the provisional measures before the International Court of Justice, SLDP convened a side-event as a “Right to Reply” to the oral interventions and what the ICJ case means to them.

SLDP Write about the Public Hearing of Canada and the Netherlands case v. Syria before the International Court of Justice

After attending the first hearing session of Canada and the Netherlands case v. Syria before the international Court of Justice, Veronica Bellintani and Mouhanad Sharabati from the International Law Support Unit of SLDP are sharing with us the highlights of Canada and the Netherlands oral argument in an article published by  Aljumhuriya

SLDP had the honor to support survivors to participate in a series of high-level official meetings & engagement with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at The Crimea Platform to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Chemical Weapon attacks on Ghouta, Syria

The Stream daily TV show by Aljazeera English invited SLDP to share its views on how humanitarian workers are faring in Turkey and Syria after two months of the earthquake?

The Financial Times quotes SLDP team.

Our team member Dr.Eyad Hamid, Senior researcher at the Human Rights and Business Unit,  was featured at the Financial Time article Syria’s state capture: the rising influence of Mrs Assad | Financial Times (ft.com)

SLDP Oral Intervention during the General Debate on Item 5, during the HRC52 session.

Acknowledging the important role civil societies have within the #UN, SCM and @SyrianLDP reaffirmed their intention to continue their cooperation and urged #UNHRC to demand the respect of human rights from the different Syrian parties.

The intervention was delivered by Mouhanad SHARABATI from the Syrian Legal Development Programme (SLDP), during the General Debate session on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms.

Activities

2022

SLDP HRC51 Oral intervention/item 6 – General discussion session – Universal Periodic Review

A joint oral intervention on item /6/ of the Syrian Legal Development Programme (SLDP) and the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), was delivered during the general discussion session of the Universal Periodic Review at the 51st session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, by Ms. Zahra AL-BARAZI, Research Director of the Syrian Legal Development Programme on 30 September 2022.

Public Launch Event of our report in Washington DC

SLDP and OPEN report: ‘UN Procurement Contracts in Syria: A ‘’Few’’ Bad Apples?’ was launched in a public event titled “The Troubling Reality Behind the UN’s Procurement Contracts in Syria” in Washington DC at the Middle East Institut.

Roundtable on Business and Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid in Syria

In partnership with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, the Human Rights and Business Unit organized a roundtable discussion on Business, Human Rights and aid provision in Syria to learn more about the practical steps aid organizations should take to prevent and address business-related human rights abuse in Syria and discuss best practices and different complexities that arise in the process of procurement.

New featuring of our unique report by the Associated Press

Our report’ UN Procurement Contracts in Syria: A ‘’Few’’ Bad Apples?’ was featured at the Associated Press news: Report finds sanctioned Syrians benefit from UN contracts | AP News.

UN Procurement Contracts in Syria, A ‘’few’’ Bad Apples? A Study of The Top 100 Suppliers

The Syrian Legal Development Programme (SLDP) and the Observatory of Political and Economic Networks (OPEN) have carried out a new study which examines how private companies involved in human rights abuses benefit from the UN’s procurements from the country and the share of funding going to them.

The International Law Support Unit of SLDP first audio Handbook on “The Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council in the Syrian context”

SLDP published, for the first time, an audio version of its updated Handbook on “The Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council in the Syrian context” in Arabic to be accessible to people with visual special needs.

SLDP work featured in the Secretary-General’s Report on General Assembly Resolution 76/228

The work of SLDP with the Syrian victims/survivors and families’ groups was recognised in the United Nations Secretary-General’s Report (activity 26) on the General Assembly Resolution 76/228 on how to bolster efforts to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing people in Syria and provide support to their families. The report presents a framework to improve existing mechanisms and the creation of a new institution dedicated to clarifying the fate and whereabouts of missing persons in Syria and to providing adequate support to victims and the families of those missing.

Activities

2021

SLDP and HRW Guide on Human Rights-Compliant UN Procurement in Syria

The guide, developed by SLDP’s Human Rights and Business Unit (HRBU) in partnership with Human Rights Watch, sets out recommendations for how UN humanitarian agencies can strengthen their procurement practices from a human rights perspective. It also includes an assessment tool to help UN agencies identify Syrian suppliers at risk of involvement in conflict-related human rights abuses.

Podcast Feature: Branch 251

SLDP’s report on the effectiveness of sanctions was mentioned in the podcast, Branch 251. This podcast focuses on the worldwide first criminal trial dealing with crimes against humanity by Syrian regime officials. The episode in which our team contributed to with information attempted to address the question of who’s financing the Syrian regime.

Roudtable with SLDP on violations of HLP rights in Syria

SLDP participated in a roundtable discussion in Geneva hosted by the International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC). The event addressed displacement, dispossession, and access to justice in Syria, shedding light on what justice actors can do to find durable solutions on the ground and to ensure greater accountability. SLDP presented on HLP rights violations and the role of the private sector in these violations. In addition, available accountability options, such as sanctions, were addressed while also showing examples of how they influenced behavior and resulted in changes on the ground.

Report: The Effectiveness of Sanctions as a Tool for Accountability and Behavioural Change Among Syrian Businesspersons in the Syrian Context

SLDP’s Human Rights and Business Unit (HRBU) has carried out a study to examine the understudied issue of the effectiveness of the Syrian sanctions programmes in holding Syrian businesspeople accountable and/or changing their behaviour as individuals. The paper includes policy recommendations for state actors and INGO’s to improve the efficiency of the sanctions regime.

“Arab Gas Pipline… Economic Gateway to Normalisation with the Assad Regime”

SLDP experts were interviewed to provide insights on US policy towards Syria and the implications of the Arab Gas Pipeline on the Ceasar act.

Justice systems adrift: What can be done to prevent further justice system divisions in Syria?

SLDP contributed to the roundtable discussion at Brussels V Conference: “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region”.

“What is the legality of appointing a minister on the sanctions lists as a representative of the World Health Organization?”

SLDP was interviewed by Enab Baladi to provide a commentary on the election of a Syrian Official to the WHO.

“Three legal indicators reveal the feasibility of Canada’s move to hold the Assad regime accountable”

SLDP was interviewed by Orient News to provide a commentary on recent developments to hold the Assad regime accountable.

Discussion: Landmark Trials in Europe on Syria

The International Law Support Unit of SLDP participated in “Landmark trials in Europe on Syria” series, organised by Heinrich Böll Foundation Beirut, to discuss the steps taken toward criminal accountability on Syria, particularly in Europe.

Activities

2020

Al Jazeera Documentary, “The Fortune of the Castle: A Financial Network Ran by the Syrian Regime to Circumvent Western Sanctions”

War and Disease: Living with Covid-19 in Syria and Yemen

SLDP contributed to the roundtable organised by TRT World Forum “War and Disease: Living with Covid-19 in Syria and Yemen”. SLDP discussed the effects of COVID on the humanitarian situation and conflict in Syria.

A Position of Syrian Civil Society Organisations on The Sanctions Imposed on Syria

SLDP consulted 9 Syrian civil society organizations to draft a Syrian civil society position paper on sanctions and unilateral coercive measures. The team then consulted with Syrian civil society to receive feedback on the sanctions position paper for Syrian civil society. The sanctions paper now has 20 signatures and is receiving more. This paper will allow civil society members to engage in advocacy on sanctions in Syria in a well informed and cohesive manner.

Policy Brief: The Role of Syrian Businesses in Conflict-related Human Rights Abuses: Options for Accountability

SLDP drafted two policy papers on the role of businesses in human rights abuses in Syria and on the ties between business, migration and HLP rights abuses in the Syrian context. Each policy paper includes a set of recommendations for state actors including state actors, INGOs, UN humanitarian agencies, businesses and institutional investment funds.

Guide On The Special Procedures Of The Human Rights Council In The Syrian Context

ILSU produced a practical guide, in Arabic and English, on the mandate and engagement with the most 15 relevant Human Rights Council Special Procedures to the Syrian context. The guide provides an informative background about each Mandate, its involvement and contribution to the Syrian context, and practical guidance on its work methods and how SNGOs can strategically engage with it.

Webinar: Interactive Session about Netherlands’ Step toward Syria

ILSU, in collaboration with Guernica 37, organized a webinar on the occasion of the Netherlands’ announcement its intention to submit to the ICJ the issue of Syria violations of its obligations under the Convention Against Torture. About 120 persons attended the webinar which addressed the legal and technical aspects of this step. The webinar aimed as well to contribute to managing the expectations of the audience while clarifying the potential positive and strong contribution of the step to the Syria-related accountability endeavors. In the same context, ILSU produced a Q&A paper – including 37 questions – addressing most of the information relevant to this step.

Webinar: Informative Session on Legal Concepts and Contexts

ILSU organized a special webinar to respond to SNGOs’ requests and questions about several legal concepts and contexts. The webinar, attended by 45 SNGOs and individuals, addressed about 4 legal terms and concepts of which many where sometimes misused or misunderstood. The webinar included Q&A sessions following each theme, and ILSU developed and shared a comprehensive paper on the addressed concepts with all SNGOs on its list.

Activities

2019

A Lawyer Tells the Story of Freezing the Money of Bushra Al-Assad’s Daughter in the United Kingdom

ILSU Supporting Syrian Civil Society Organizations on International Law

Throughout 2019, ILSU held about 40 training and information sessions addressing a wide range of complex and niche areas of Syria-related international law. The sessions addressed – among others – topics of IHL, IHRL, ICL, Refugee Law, accountability and justice, and engagement with UN mechanisms and other international actors. All the sessions incorporated practical advocacy components to enable the SNGOs to utilize the acquired legal knowledge in their plans and activities.

HRBU in the Business and Human Rights Forum

The Human Rights and Business Unit (HRBU) within the Syrian Legal Development Programme participated in the “UN Forum on Business and Human Rights” in November 2019 in Geneva, an event guided and chaired by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights and organized by its Secretariat at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Activities

2018

Interview: White Helmets Evacuation from Syria

SLDP, GRC Attend Jordan Reconstruction Conference

On 30 July- 2nd August 2018, Jordan International Building, Construction & Engineering Industries Exhibition hosted a conference on rebuilding Iraq and other conflict countries in the region, including Syria. The conference hosted businesses from all over the world across all industries regarding networking and opportunities for involvement in reconstruction in the region as well as issues involved in participation in reconstruction. In addition to businesses, the conference was well attended by government representatives, including the Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz.
The conference included discussions on potential partnerships and other opportunities for involvement in reconstruction, including industry-specific joint reconstruction efforts. Attendees also discussed mechanisms for financing, managing, and implementing reconstruction, including mechanisms for interacting with different donors and local civil society. The conference also discussed the role that refugees may play in reconstruction. SLDP Executive Director, Ibrahim Olabi attended the conference in partnership with Global Rights Compliance (GRC). Scott Martin of GRC spoke on a panel on 1 August at the conference about the various international legal risks of funding or participating in reconstruction in Syria. Particularly, Martin discussed the potential for business complicity in international crimes in Syria and the importance of compliance with international law to protect businesses from legal liabilities. The panel was followed by questions and answers. SLDP and GRC hope to continue to have a presence at events related to Syria’s reconstruction where we may raise awareness about the potential for business involvement in human rights violations and international crimes in Syria’s reconstruction.

SLDP participates in “Durable Solutions for displaced Syrians: Perspectives from Civil Society” conference

SLDP’s Director, Ibrahim Olabi, was a panellist at the “Durable Solutions for displaced Syrians: Perspectives from Civil Society” on November 29, 2018, in Amman organized by the Durable Solutions Platform. The conference focused on the future of Syria in terms of transition, reconstruction, and return, in addition to Syrian refugees in the region and their prospects.
The conference gathered more than 80 members of Syrian civil society, researchers, experts and practitioners from the region in addition to regional and international stakeholders such as organizations, donors, state representatives and academics.
SLDP provided a presentation on issues around reconstruction, Justice, Housing Land and Property rights, and Law No. 10 within “The future of Syria: transition, reconstruction and return” panel. Key points raised focused on the role businesses, including Jordanian businesses, in not contributing to crimes committed in Syria or supporting the war criminals that committed them. It also shed light on the importance of not allowing the rhetoric of reconstruction to take away from the need for accountability and justice.
The conference was hosted by the Durable Solutions Platform (DSP), an initiative set up by Danish Refugee Council, International Rescue Committee, and Norwegian Refugee Council in 2016 aiming to generate evidence and promote informed discussions on long-term solutions for displaced Syrians in the region.
Participating in this panel was a part of SLDP continuous advocacy with various stakeholders around human rights and business issues in the Syria context.

Report: Launch event of the Human Rights and Business Unit at Chatham House

Although the conflict in Syria continues unabated, there has already been a shift of focus on Syria’s reconstruction. Many international actors have refused to contribute to Syria’s reconstruction until a political transition is underway, while some are unsure of how to proceed, and others have expressed interest. While Syrians are entitled to their country to be rebuilt, participating in reconstruction in Syria may support the narrative that the conflict is over and thus weakens the calls for accountability and justice. It may further provide legitimacy to the current Syrian Government, who has been achieving military victories and presents itself as the official potential reconstruction partner, while also being the main perpetrator of war crimes and rights abuses throughout the conflict. In addition, reconstruction creates ample opportunities for further violations of human rights as well as potentially endorsing other crimes already committed, such as forced displacement.
On 25th of May 2018, at Chatham House, the Syrian Legal Development Programme held an event to launch their Human Rights and Business Unit, focusing on human rights in the context of reconstruction in Syria. The founder of the Syrian Legal Development Programme, Ibrahim Olabi, chaired the first panel while Noor Hamadeh, the head of the Human Rights and Business Unit, chaired the second. Ibrahim outlined the aims and objectives of the newly established unit, which received support for its first phase from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The unit engages with policymakers and local stakeholders, builds the capacity of SNGOs, monitors business activity from the lens of human rights and publishes thematic and periodic reports. He made it clear that this event comes at a very important and sensitive time for Syria, and that the panel will cover the issues from the perspective of human rights, politics, economics as well as hearing from Syrians.
The event aimed to shed light on risks, opportunities and challenges that should be taken into account by various stakeholders when approaching the issue of reconstruction.
Two panels discussed the theme, Reconstruction between political pragmatism and human rights idealism. The first panel was with Maria Alabdeh (Syrian NGO), Jean-François (EU) Hasperue, and Toby Cadman (Barrister). The second panel had Wayne Jordash QC (Barrister), Fionna Smyth (Humanitarian, Oxfam), and Joseph Daher (Economist).
The event was attended by governments, businesses, think tanks, NGOs and universities.

Activities

2017

Roundtable:

Has Bashar al-Assad won the war in Syria? 22 December 2017

2017 SLDP contributes to an assessment conducted by ILAC

SLDP contributed to the research for a recently published International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) assessment on justice sector institutions and judicial processes in Syria. Using its access and legal background, SLDP conducted desk research into court systems as well as multiple interviews with judges in non-state-controlled areas of the country to support ILAC’s research and analysis. This topic represents a particular point of interest and continued engagement for SLDP’s focus on rule of law in Syria.

A Training for Syrian Civil Defense on International Law

As the work of the Syrian Civil Defence (SCD) was becoming more complex due to use of several prohibited weapons and the interference of multiple factions in the Syrian conflict, they requested more knowledge on their rights and obligations under International Law. In 2017 SLDP delivered training for SCD members on International Humanitarian Law and Humanitarian Principles and how these topics relate to their work. The training was tailored to the needs of the SCD and aimed to create IHL focal points within the organization to sustainably increase IHL knowledge among its team.

SLDP Trains and Advises SNGOs During the Geneva Talks

During the Geneva Talks, SLDP Syrian humanitarian NGOs to train and advise them on international law matters. The aim was to improve their knowledge of legal concepts relevant to the Syrian context and to improve their ability to effectively explain and negotiate when engaging with States and UN officials. The training included for example understanding international human rights law, and how UN mechanisms and tools function and how they can be utilized. SLDP accompanied the SNGOs into the UN and provided advice on ad hoc matters. This form of guidance that we offer continues through our work at our ILS unit.

Activities

2016

21 Answers on International Humanitarian Law and Humanitarian Principles

In 2016, SLDP, supported by the INGO GOAL and NGO Forum, developed a handbook in Arabic and English for humanitarian workers in Syria. This handbook offered answers to 21 frequently asked questions regarding International Humanitarian Law in the Syrian context. The aim was to offer those working on the ground guidance on some main legal questions considered to be vital, practical, and controversial during their humanitarian work.

SLDP Assists IRC in The Documentation Crisis in Northern Syria

In 2016 we assisted with an assessment on Personal Status Documentation in Northern Syria. This project was requested by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and implemented through the International Rescue Committee.  For this project, SLDP carried out research and analysis of data on access to CRVS documentation by those living in non-state areas in Syria.  The aim was to highlight the challenges of individuals obtaining essential documents and to offer recommendations on how to overcome these challenges found in the report

SLDP invited by Heads of States and UN Secretary-General to the Donors’ Conference

On the 4th of February, SLDP received an invitation from the UK`s Prime Minister, the Amir of Kuwait, the German Chancellor, the Norwegian Prime Minister and the UN Secretary-General to attend the Donor conference held in London. SLDP engaged with a number of NGOS and State participants in order to raise awareness of addressing legal issues in the Syrian conflict.

SLDP Supporting Syrian Civil Society Organizations in Understanding Counterterrorism Laws

Within the framework of supporting Syrian civil society especially humanitarian actors on the ground in fully understanding how the increase in domestic and international counterterrorism laws affects the sustainability of humanitarian work in Syria’s dynamic operating environment, SLDP developed a training to interpret domestic and international counterterrorism laws, their intersection with IHL and the humanitarian principles, and their implications on the work of civil society organizations. The training included an in-depth discussion and real-life examples from the Syrian context, alongside an explanation of counterterrorism laws related to each organization’s work.

SLDP Designs and Trains on International Criminal Law

The “eyeWitness” tool is a mobile application produced by the International Bar Association to increase legal usage of documented atrocity crimes. Upon the request of the International Bar Association, SLDP designed and delivered training to 40 Syrian humanitarian, human rights and media organisations on international criminal law and standards of evidence in courts. The aim was to ensure that this tool was used in the most effective manner possible and to increase the chance of evidence being viable in future courts.

Activities

2014

SLDP Initiates a Project on Fair Trial Guarantees for Non-State Actors’ Courts

In 2014 SLDP, alongside various partners, initiated a project on fair trial guarantees for non-state actors’ courts. This was carried out in collaboration with the Manchester International Law Centre and the participants of the workshops included legal professionals, academics, representatives of intergovernmental and supranational bodies and of governments. This project was carried out during a period in Syria where non-armed actors were assuming state functions, often with limited experience. The aim therefore of this project was to guide these court initiatives to ensure their work was regulated justly and that the rights of citizens at the court were protected.

In the spotlight

In the spotlight

SLDP is proud to share with you a selection of activities we have implemented and have been involved in since 2014.

Activities

2023

A Workshop and Roundtable Titled: Using the International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion Procedure as an Accountability Tool in Syria

The International Law Support Unit organized a workshop and a round table with representatives from the Syrian civil society in Berlin on using the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion procedure as an accountability tool in Syria. The International Law Support Unit also provided a capacity-building session from a legal perspective on the use of the advisory opinion procedure and its use in other contexts. This was followed by a roundtable discussion on a research under development by the unit.

Launch Event of SLDP and Diakonia New Report: No Justice for Torture in Syria – A Victim Rights-Based Analysis of the 2022 Anti-Torture Law

In partnership with The Diakonia International Humanitarian Law Centre , The International Law Support Unit of SLDP launched its new report No Justice for Torture in Syria: A Victim Rights-Based Analysis of the 2022 Anti-Torture Law. This paper analyses the Syrian authorities’ failure to fulfil its obligations under international law despite the adoption of the new anti-torture law.

Survivors’ Right to Reply Side Event : Torture Case Against Syria

In partnership with victims/survivors and families of Disappeared groups in Syria, and on the margins of Canada and the Netherlands oral interventions on the case and the provisional measures before the International Court of Justice, SLDP convened a side-event as a “Right to Reply” to the oral interventions and what the ICJ case means to them.

SLDP Write about the Public Hearing of Canada and the Netherlands case v. Syria before the International Court of Justice

After attending the first hearing session of Canada and the Netherlands case v. Syria before the international Court of Justice, Veronica Bellintani and Mouhanad Sharabati from the International Law Support Unit of SLDP are sharing with us the highlights of Canada and the Netherlands oral argument in an article published by  Aljumhuriya

SLDP had the honor to support survivors to participate in a series of high-level official meetings & engagement with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at The Crimea Platform to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Chemical Weapon attacks on Ghouta, Syria

The Stream daily TV show by Aljazeera English invited SLDP to share its views on how humanitarian workers are faring in Turkey and Syria after two months of the earthquake?

The Financial Times quotes SLDP team.

Our team member Dr.Eyad Hamid, Senior researcher at the Human Rights and Business Unit,  was featured at the Financial Time article Syria’s state capture: the rising influence of Mrs Assad | Financial Times (ft.com)

SLDP Oral Intervention during the General Debate on Item 5, during the HRC52 session.

Acknowledging the important role civil societies have within the #UN, SCM and @SyrianLDP reaffirmed their intention to continue their cooperation and urged #UNHRC to demand the respect of human rights from the different Syrian parties.

The intervention was delivered by Mouhanad SHARABATI from the Syrian Legal Development Programme (SLDP), during the General Debate session on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms.

Activities

2022

SLDP HRC51 Oral intervention/item 6 – General discussion session – Universal Periodic Review

A joint oral intervention on item /6/ of the Syrian Legal Development Programme (SLDP) and the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), was delivered during the general discussion session of the Universal Periodic Review at the 51st session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, by Ms. Zahra AL-BARAZI, Research Director of the Syrian Legal Development Programme on 30 September 2022.

Public Launch Event of our report in Washington DC

SLDP and OPEN report: ‘UN Procurement Contracts in Syria: A ‘’Few’’ Bad Apples?’ was launched in a public event titled “The Troubling Reality Behind the UN’s Procurement Contracts in Syria” in Washington DC at the Middle East Institut.

Roundtable on Business and Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid in Syria

In partnership with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, the Human Rights and Business Unit organized a roundtable discussion on Business, Human Rights and aid provision in Syria to learn more about the practical steps aid organizations should take to prevent and address business-related human rights abuse in Syria and discuss best practices and different complexities that arise in the process of procurement.

New featuring of our unique report by the Associated Press

Our report’ UN Procurement Contracts in Syria: A ‘’Few’’ Bad Apples?’ was featured at the Associated Press news: Report finds sanctioned Syrians benefit from UN contracts | AP News.

UN Procurement Contracts in Syria, A ‘’few’’ Bad Apples? A Study of The Top 100 Suppliers

The Syrian Legal Development Programme (SLDP) and the Observatory of Political and Economic Networks (OPEN) have carried out a new study which examines how private companies involved in human rights abuses benefit from the UN’s procurements from the country and the share of funding going to them.

The International Law Support Unit of SLDP first audio Handbook on “The Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council in the Syrian context”

SLDP published, for the first time, an audio version of its updated Handbook on “The Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council in the Syrian context” in Arabic to be accessible to people with visual special needs.

SLDP work featured in the Secretary-General’s Report on General Assembly Resolution 76/228

The work of SLDP with the Syrian victims/survivors and families’ groups was recognised in the United Nations Secretary-General’s Report (activity 26) on the General Assembly Resolution 76/228 on how to bolster efforts to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing people in Syria and provide support to their families. The report presents a framework to improve existing mechanisms and the creation of a new institution dedicated to clarifying the fate and whereabouts of missing persons in Syria and to providing adequate support to victims and the families of those missing.

Activities

2021

SLDP and HRW Guide on Human Rights-Compliant UN Procurement in Syria

The guide, developed by SLDP’s Human Rights and Business Unit (HRBU) in partnership with Human Rights Watch, sets out recommendations for how UN humanitarian agencies can strengthen their procurement practices from a human rights perspective. It also includes an assessment tool to help UN agencies identify Syrian suppliers at risk of involvement in conflict-related human rights abuses.

Podcast Feature: Branch 251

SLDP’s report on the effectiveness of sanctions was mentioned in the podcast, Branch 251. This podcast focuses on the worldwide first criminal trial dealing with crimes against humanity by Syrian regime officials. The episode in which our team contributed to with information attempted to address the question of who’s financing the Syrian regime.

Roudtable with SLDP on violations of HLP rights in Syria

SLDP participated in a roundtable discussion in Geneva hosted by the International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC). The event addressed displacement, dispossession, and access to justice in Syria, shedding light on what justice actors can do to find durable solutions on the ground and to ensure greater accountability. SLDP presented on HLP rights violations and the role of the private sector in these violations. In addition, available accountability options, such as sanctions, were addressed while also showing examples of how they influenced behavior and resulted in changes on the ground.

Report: The Effectiveness of Sanctions as a Tool for Accountability and Behavioural Change Among Syrian Businesspersons in the Syrian Context

SLDP’s Human Rights and Business Unit (HRBU) has carried out a study to examine the understudied issue of the effectiveness of the Syrian sanctions programmes in holding Syrian businesspeople accountable and/or changing their behaviour as individuals. The paper includes policy recommendations for state actors and INGO’s to improve the efficiency of the sanctions regime.

“Arab Gas Pipline… Economic Gateway to Normalisation with the Assad Regime”

SLDP experts were interviewed to provide insights on US policy towards Syria and the implications of the Arab Gas Pipeline on the Ceasar act.

Justice systems adrift: What can be done to prevent further justice system divisions in Syria?

SLDP contributed to the roundtable discussion at Brussels V Conference: “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region”.

“What is the legality of appointing a minister on the sanctions lists as a representative of the World Health Organization?”

SLDP was interviewed by Enab Baladi to provide a commentary on the election of a Syrian Official to the WHO.

“Three legal indicators reveal the feasibility of Canada’s move to hold the Assad regime accountable”

SLDP was interviewed by Orient News to provide a commentary on recent developments to hold the Assad regime accountable.

Discussion: Landmark Trials in Europe on Syria

The International Law Support Unit of SLDP participated in “Landmark trials in Europe on Syria” series, organised by Heinrich Böll Foundation Beirut, to discuss the steps taken toward criminal accountability on Syria, particularly in Europe.

Activities

2020

Al Jazeera Documentary, “The Fortune of the Castle: A Financial Network Ran by the Syrian Regime to Circumvent Western Sanctions”

War and Disease: Living with Covid-19 in Syria and Yemen

SLDP contributed to the roundtable organised by TRT World Forum “War and Disease: Living with Covid-19 in Syria and Yemen”. SLDP discussed the effects of COVID on the humanitarian situation and conflict in Syria.

A Position of Syrian Civil Society Organisations on The Sanctions Imposed on Syria

SLDP consulted 9 Syrian civil society organizations to draft a Syrian civil society position paper on sanctions and unilateral coercive measures. The team then consulted with Syrian civil society to receive feedback on the sanctions position paper for Syrian civil society. The sanctions paper now has 20 signatures and is receiving more. This paper will allow civil society members to engage in advocacy on sanctions in Syria in a well informed and cohesive manner.

Policy Brief: The Role of Syrian Businesses in Conflict-related Human Rights Abuses: Options for Accountability

SLDP drafted two policy papers on the role of businesses in human rights abuses in Syria and on the ties between business, migration and HLP rights abuses in the Syrian context. Each policy paper includes a set of recommendations for state actors including state actors, INGOs, UN humanitarian agencies, businesses and institutional investment funds.

Guide On The Special Procedures Of The Human Rights Council In The Syrian Context

ILSU produced a practical guide, in Arabic and English, on the mandate and engagement with the most 15 relevant Human Rights Council Special Procedures to the Syrian context. The guide provides an informative background about each Mandate, its involvement and contribution to the Syrian context, and practical guidance on its work methods and how SNGOs can strategically engage with it.

Webinar: Interactive Session about Netherlands’ Step toward Syria

ILSU, in collaboration with Guernica 37, organized a webinar on the occasion of the Netherlands’ announcement its intention to submit to the ICJ the issue of Syria violations of its obligations under the Convention Against Torture. About 120 persons attended the webinar which addressed the legal and technical aspects of this step. The webinar aimed as well to contribute to managing the expectations of the audience while clarifying the potential positive and strong contribution of the step to the Syria-related accountability endeavors. In the same context, ILSU produced a Q&A paper – including 37 questions – addressing most of the information relevant to this step.

Webinar: Informative Session on Legal Concepts and Contexts

ILSU organized a special webinar to respond to SNGOs’ requests and questions about several legal concepts and contexts. The webinar, attended by 45 SNGOs and individuals, addressed about 4 legal terms and concepts of which many where sometimes misused or misunderstood. The webinar included Q&A sessions following each theme, and ILSU developed and shared a comprehensive paper on the addressed concepts with all SNGOs on its list.

Activities

2019

A Lawyer Tells the Story of Freezing the Money of Bushra Al-Assad’s Daughter in the United Kingdom

ILSU Supporting Syrian Civil Society Organizations on International Law

Throughout 2019, ILSU held about 40 training and information sessions addressing a wide range of complex and niche areas of Syria-related international law. The sessions addressed – among others – topics of IHL, IHRL, ICL, Refugee Law, accountability and justice, and engagement with UN mechanisms and other international actors. All the sessions incorporated practical advocacy components to enable the SNGOs to utilize the acquired legal knowledge in their plans and activities.

HRBU in the Business and Human Rights Forum

The Human Rights and Business Unit (HRBU) within the Syrian Legal Development Programme participated in the “UN Forum on Business and Human Rights” in November 2019 in Geneva, an event guided and chaired by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights and organized by its Secretariat at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Activities

2018

Interview: White Helmets Evacuation from Syria

SLDP, GRC Attend Jordan Reconstruction Conference

On 30 July- 2nd August 2018, Jordan International Building, Construction & Engineering Industries Exhibition hosted a conference on rebuilding Iraq and other conflict countries in the region, including Syria. The conference hosted businesses from all over the world across all industries regarding networking and opportunities for involvement in reconstruction in the region as well as issues involved in participation in reconstruction. In addition to businesses, the conference was well attended by government representatives, including the Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz.
The conference included discussions on potential partnerships and other opportunities for involvement in reconstruction, including industry-specific joint reconstruction efforts. Attendees also discussed mechanisms for financing, managing, and implementing reconstruction, including mechanisms for interacting with different donors and local civil society. The conference also discussed the role that refugees may play in reconstruction. SLDP Executive Director, Ibrahim Olabi attended the conference in partnership with Global Rights Compliance (GRC). Scott Martin of GRC spoke on a panel on 1 August at the conference about the various international legal risks of funding or participating in reconstruction in Syria. Particularly, Martin discussed the potential for business complicity in international crimes in Syria and the importance of compliance with international law to protect businesses from legal liabilities. The panel was followed by questions and answers. SLDP and GRC hope to continue to have a presence at events related to Syria’s reconstruction where we may raise awareness about the potential for business involvement in human rights violations and international crimes in Syria’s reconstruction.

SLDP participates in “Durable Solutions for displaced Syrians: Perspectives from Civil Society” conference

SLDP’s Director, Ibrahim Olabi, was a panellist at the “Durable Solutions for displaced Syrians: Perspectives from Civil Society” on November 29, 2018, in Amman organized by the Durable Solutions Platform. The conference focused on the future of Syria in terms of transition, reconstruction, and return, in addition to Syrian refugees in the region and their prospects.
The conference gathered more than 80 members of Syrian civil society, researchers, experts and practitioners from the region in addition to regional and international stakeholders such as organizations, donors, state representatives and academics.
SLDP provided a presentation on issues around reconstruction, Justice, Housing Land and Property rights, and Law No. 10 within “The future of Syria: transition, reconstruction and return” panel. Key points raised focused on the role businesses, including Jordanian businesses, in not contributing to crimes committed in Syria or supporting the war criminals that committed them. It also shed light on the importance of not allowing the rhetoric of reconstruction to take away from the need for accountability and justice.
The conference was hosted by the Durable Solutions Platform (DSP), an initiative set up by Danish Refugee Council, International Rescue Committee, and Norwegian Refugee Council in 2016 aiming to generate evidence and promote informed discussions on long-term solutions for displaced Syrians in the region.
Participating in this panel was a part of SLDP continuous advocacy with various stakeholders around human rights and business issues in the Syria context.

Report: Launch event of the Human Rights and Business Unit at Chatham House

Although the conflict in Syria continues unabated, there has already been a shift of focus on Syria’s reconstruction. Many international actors have refused to contribute to Syria’s reconstruction until a political transition is underway, while some are unsure of how to proceed, and others have expressed interest. While Syrians are entitled to their country to be rebuilt, participating in reconstruction in Syria may support the narrative that the conflict is over and thus weakens the calls for accountability and justice. It may further provide legitimacy to the current Syrian Government, who has been achieving military victories and presents itself as the official potential reconstruction partner, while also being the main perpetrator of war crimes and rights abuses throughout the conflict. In addition, reconstruction creates ample opportunities for further violations of human rights as well as potentially endorsing other crimes already committed, such as forced displacement.
On 25th of May 2018, at Chatham House, the Syrian Legal Development Programme held an event to launch their Human Rights and Business Unit, focusing on human rights in the context of reconstruction in Syria. The founder of the Syrian Legal Development Programme, Ibrahim Olabi, chaired the first panel while Noor Hamadeh, the head of the Human Rights and Business Unit, chaired the second. Ibrahim outlined the aims and objectives of the newly established unit, which received support for its first phase from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. The unit engages with policymakers and local stakeholders, builds the capacity of SNGOs, monitors business activity from the lens of human rights and publishes thematic and periodic reports. He made it clear that this event comes at a very important and sensitive time for Syria, and that the panel will cover the issues from the perspective of human rights, politics, economics as well as hearing from Syrians.
The event aimed to shed light on risks, opportunities and challenges that should be taken into account by various stakeholders when approaching the issue of reconstruction.
Two panels discussed the theme, Reconstruction between political pragmatism and human rights idealism. The first panel was with Maria Alabdeh (Syrian NGO), Jean-François (EU) Hasperue, and Toby Cadman (Barrister). The second panel had Wayne Jordash QC (Barrister), Fionna Smyth (Humanitarian, Oxfam), and Joseph Daher (Economist).
The event was attended by governments, businesses, think tanks, NGOs and universities.

Activities

2017

Roundtable:

Has Bashar al-Assad won the war in Syria? 22 December 2017

2017 SLDP contributes to an assessment conducted by ILAC

SLDP contributed to the research for a recently published International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC) assessment on justice sector institutions and judicial processes in Syria. Using its access and legal background, SLDP conducted desk research into court systems as well as multiple interviews with judges in non-state-controlled areas of the country to support ILAC’s research and analysis. This topic represents a particular point of interest and continued engagement for SLDP’s focus on rule of law in Syria.

A Training for Syrian Civil Defense on International Law

As the work of the Syrian Civil Defence (SCD) was becoming more complex due to use of several prohibited weapons and the interference of multiple factions in the Syrian conflict, they requested more knowledge on their rights and obligations under International Law. In 2017 SLDP delivered training for SCD members on International Humanitarian Law and Humanitarian Principles and how these topics relate to their work. The training was tailored to the needs of the SCD and aimed to create IHL focal points within the organization to sustainably increase IHL knowledge among its team.

SLDP Trains and Advises SNGOs During the Geneva Talks

During the Geneva Talks, SLDP Syrian humanitarian NGOs to train and advise them on international law matters. The aim was to improve their knowledge of legal concepts relevant to the Syrian context and to improve their ability to effectively explain and negotiate when engaging with States and UN officials. The training included for example understanding international human rights law, and how UN mechanisms and tools function and how they can be utilized. SLDP accompanied the SNGOs into the UN and provided advice on ad hoc matters. This form of guidance that we offer continues through our work at our ILS unit.

Activities

2016

21 Answers on International Humanitarian Law and Humanitarian Principles

In 2016, SLDP, supported by the INGO GOAL and NGO Forum, developed a handbook in Arabic and English for humanitarian workers in Syria. This handbook offered answers to 21 frequently asked questions regarding International Humanitarian Law in the Syrian context. The aim was to offer those working on the ground guidance on some main legal questions considered to be vital, practical, and controversial during their humanitarian work.

SLDP Assists IRC in The Documentation Crisis in Northern Syria

In 2016 we assisted with an assessment on Personal Status Documentation in Northern Syria. This project was requested by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and implemented through the International Rescue Committee.  For this project, SLDP carried out research and analysis of data on access to CRVS documentation by those living in non-state areas in Syria.  The aim was to highlight the challenges of individuals obtaining essential documents and to offer recommendations on how to overcome these challenges found in the report

SLDP invited by Heads of States and UN Secretary-General to the Donors’ Conference

On the 4th of February, SLDP received an invitation from the UK`s Prime Minister, the Amir of Kuwait, the German Chancellor, the Norwegian Prime Minister and the UN Secretary-General to attend the Donor conference held in London. SLDP engaged with a number of NGOS and State participants in order to raise awareness of addressing legal issues in the Syrian conflict.

SLDP Supporting Syrian Civil Society Organizations in Understanding Counterterrorism Laws

Within the framework of supporting Syrian civil society especially humanitarian actors on the ground in fully understanding how the increase in domestic and international counterterrorism laws affects the sustainability of humanitarian work in Syria’s dynamic operating environment, SLDP developed a training to interpret domestic and international counterterrorism laws, their intersection with IHL and the humanitarian principles, and their implications on the work of civil society organizations. The training included an in-depth discussion and real-life examples from the Syrian context, alongside an explanation of counterterrorism laws related to each organization’s work.

SLDP Designs and Trains on International Criminal Law

The “eyeWitness” tool is a mobile application produced by the International Bar Association to increase legal usage of documented atrocity crimes. Upon the request of the International Bar Association, SLDP designed and delivered training to 40 Syrian humanitarian, human rights and media organisations on international criminal law and standards of evidence in courts. The aim was to ensure that this tool was used in the most effective manner possible and to increase the chance of evidence being viable in future courts.

Activities

2014

SLDP Initiates a Project on Fair Trial Guarantees for Non-State Actors’ Courts

In 2014 SLDP, alongside various partners, initiated a project on fair trial guarantees for non-state actors’ courts. This was carried out in collaboration with the Manchester International Law Centre and the participants of the workshops included legal professionals, academics, representatives of intergovernmental and supranational bodies and of governments. This project was carried out during a period in Syria where non-armed actors were assuming state functions, often with limited experience. The aim therefore of this project was to guide these court initiatives to ensure their work was regulated justly and that the rights of citizens at the court were protected.