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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Syria

Syria’s constitution contains provisions for the protection of the environment. Article 14 reads: “Natural resources, facilities, institutions and public utilities shall be publicly owned, and the state shall invest and oversee their management for the benefit of all people, and the citizens’ duty is to protect them.”
Article 27, on the other hand, states: “protection of the environment shall be the responsibility of the state and society and it shall be the duty of every citizen.”

Featured Legislation

1994: Law No. 7 on Forestry was signed. This Law is composed of 4 Parts, 7 Sections divided into 57 articles. Part I deals with terms and definitions. Part II provides for public forests. Exploitation of public forests and their products (sect. 1). Transport and storage of public forest products (sect. 2). Definition of public forests for exploitation (sect. 3). Exploitation’s rights in public forests (sect. 4). Exploitation licenses (sect. 5). Public forests protection (sect. 6). Creation of protected areas and natural reserves (sect. 7). Part III deals with the exploitation and management of private forests. Part IV contains offenses and penalties.

1994: The Law on Environmental Protection and Development was promulgated. This Law is composed of 10 Sections divided into 46 articles. Section I deals with definitions and terms. Section II provides for the following materials: environmental media protection; water protection water standards and criteria suitable for various uses; air pollution control; allowed limits of noise and vibration; land classification; classification of pollutants; protection of plants and animals, creation of nature reserves; environmental impact assessment of industries; pesticide use control; and waste treatment. Section III concerns licenses and environmental impact assessment. Section IV relates to disasters. Section V addresses liability and compensation for damages. Section VI deals with legal and administrative procedures. Section VII provides for environment and development. Section VIII relates to the Fund for Environmental Protection and Development. Section IX contains offenses and penalties. Section X contains general provisions.

2002: The Environmental Affairs Law No. 50 was instituted. This Law is composed of 8 Chapters divided into 37 articles. Chapter 1 provides for terms and definitions. Chapter 2 deals with the competencies and objectives of the General Authority for Environment Affairs in particular: (a) defining existing environmental problems and participating in the research and scientific studies to treat and solve them; (b) laying down the general policy and preparing the national strategy for the environment protection; (c) developing the public awareness for the protection and safety of the environment; (d) measuring standards and criteria of the environment; (e) preparing the environmental standardization and metrology standards as well as environmental impact assessment reports; (f) carrying out research and studies related to environmental affairs; (g) controlling the activities producing environmental impacts; (h) laying down environmental requirements and instructions necessary for agricultural, industrial, commercial, housing and development projects; (i) laying down the basis for the circulation of hazardous materials and for the creation of natural protected areas; (j) creating environmental monitoring nets; (k) preparing environmental databanks and emergency plans; (m) issuing publications related to the environment; (n) preparing environmental legislation; (o) studying soil erosion causes, desertification as well as proposing solutions; (p) taking necessary measures to prevent the introduction of waste in Syria; (q) laying down instructions and rules for the classification of waste; and, (r) reinforcing the relationship between Syria and other States as well as with international and regional organizations in environmental affairs. Chapter 3 refers to the formation and management of the Authority. Chapter 4 defines competencies and duties of the Minister of State Affairs for Environment. Chapter 5 establishes the Environment Protection Council and defines its tasks. Chapter 6 provides for the creation of the Environment Protection and Support Fund. Chapter 7 deals with damage liability and compensation as well as with offenses and penalties. Chapter 8 contains transitional provisions.

2007: Resolution No. 210/T on game hunting was enacted. The aim of this Resolution is to regulate the hunting of game animals in order to protect the wildlife. It is composed of 2 articles. Article 1 decrees the ban on hunting of game animals in Syria for 5 years. Article 2 allows the hunting of wild boars during the hunting season upon a purpose of the Wild Hunting Council in provinces and the approval of prefects.

2007: Law No. 26 on the Agricultural Quarantine was created.This Law aims at the protection of plants against diseases. It is composed of 13 Chapters divided into 43 articles. Chapter I gives terms and definitions. Chapter II defines the following objectives of this Law: to regulate the importation and exportation of plants and plant products in accordance with international sanitary criteria; to regulate the importation and introduction of useful and advantageous beings in accordance to international conventions and treaties; and, to prevent the spreading and diffusion of epidemics and diseases. Chapter III specifies the competencies of the Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform. Chapter IV deals with authorized employees and officers entrusted to protect plants. Chapters V and VI pertain to the quarantine and sanitary control and monitoring of plants and plant products in Syria and at border passes and points. Chapter VII defines steps and measures to be taken in case of emergency. Chapter VIII refers to the obligatory declaration about plants and plant products at the arrival in Syria. Chapters IX to XI deal with consignments in transit and the importation and exportation measures. Chapters XII and XIII contain general provisions, offenses and penalties.

2012: The Environmental Law was passed. The legislation sets rules for protecting and developing the state of the environment in Syria and entrusts the Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs with these tasks. It also establishes the Supreme Environmental Protection Council, making provisions for criminal liability to be imposed on individuals whose actions prove detrimental to the environment.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • March 15 2021 marked ten years since the war in Syria erupted, a grim milestone with a devastating humanitarian cost. There have been few serious attempts to understand the environmental toll the conflict has taken on the citizens of the nation. A recent report by Netherlands-based NGO PAX has tried to shine a light on the ecological destruction caused by war, using  satellite imaging, geo-location, and other remote sensing techniques. PAX has documented four major factors that contribute to environmental degradation in northeast Syria—makeshift oil refining, solid waste accumulation, fires, and water supply issues. Focusing on the intersection of environment, peace, and security, PAX is promoting youth empowerment and dialogue between different ethnic, religious, and social groups in northeast Syria, starting a conversation about the war’s toxic effect on the environment. Knowing how and where conflict is impacting the environment is vital for humanitarian reasons: when makeshift oil refineries spring up, pollution in Syria increases dramatically. Refineries heat crude to produce a low-quality fuel called mazut, which is sold on the black market to power stoves, cars, and motorcycles. Civilians working at the refineries, who are often children, are exposed to noxious fumes from manually heating crude and  spills, leaking pipes and explosions are common. PAX’s report reveals the way environmental factors and conflict have exacerbated food insecurity in Syria: drought and heavy rains were forecast to bring harvests in the summer of 2019, but flooding spread oil-contaminated water over the wheat fields, accelerating the growth of low-lying weeds that would help fires to spread.

References and Further Reading


Minister of Local Government and Environment: