|Date: Jul 19, 2019|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Syria abuses terror law to freeze assets: HRW|
|Agence France Presse|
BEIRUT: The Syrian government is abusing a 2012 counterterrorism law to punish the families of suspects by freezing their assets, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday. It charged the move amounted to “collective punishment.”
“By penalizing people solely on the basis of their family relationship with an accused person, and not on the basis of their individual criminal responsibility, the Finance Ministry’s implementation of Decree 63 constitutes collective punishment,” HRW said in a report.
Decree 63, part of Syria’s counterterrorism law, allows Damascus to freeze the assets of people pending investigation of terrorism-related crimes, even if they have not yet been charged, according to HRW.
The decree is now being widely used to target families of the accused, putting relatives also at risk, it said.
HRW cited cases in which family-owned businesses and properties were seized because a member of the family was placed on a regime list of suspected terrorists.
“Syria is using Decree 63 to authorize abusive and arbitrary practices that rob people of their very livelihoods,” said Lama Fakih, HRW’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“So long as its laws and practices violate people’s rights, Syria will not be safe or stable,” it added.
The counterterrorism law, enacted in July 2012, grants the government wide jurisdiction to label “almost any act as a terrorist offense,” according to the New York-based rights watchdog.
It has been used in the past to criminalize providing humanitarian aid, recording human rights abuses and taking part in peaceful dissent, HRW said.