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Daraa Chief Justice on ruling to end arbitrary arrests: We must ‘limit violations by armed groups’

The Court of Justice in Daraa province (Dar al-Adl fi […]

The Court of Justice in Daraa province (Dar al-Adl fi Houran), the main judicial body serving opposition-held territories in the southern Syrian province, issued a decision on Monday banning arbitrary arrests.

“No person may be arrested for any reason without a written statement from the Court of Justice,” reads Monday’s decision, pictures of which were posted online the same day. The judicial body promised that “those violating the decision will be prosecuted.”

The decision arose from the “need to reorganize and begin to institutionalize our work,” Sheikh Osmat al-Absi, who heads the Court of Justice, tells Syria Direct’s Maher Hamdan.

Monday’s decision follows months of security problems in rebel-held Daraa province, including assassinations and arbitrary arrests by armed groups. Some of those targeted have been journalists, pursued by rebel factions who disagree with their work, Syria Direct reported this past March.

Arbitrary arrests undermine the rule of law and the court knows it, says the chief justice. For that reason, the new decision “places a limit on violations by armed groups.”

Q: What motivated the Court of Justice to issue Monday’s decision mandating arrest warrants?

We issued the latest decision because we need to reorganize and begin to institutionalize our work in the area. The decision is also to place a limit on violations by armed groups that rob civilians of their freedom. Regulations must be put in place, particularly after the factions’ recent excesses and irresponsible arrests.

We are also working on a computer program [online] for the Court, through which journalists, factions and human rights organizations can view details of arrests and court proceedings.

Since our decision, some of the factions have sought arrest warrants from the Court of Justice. Warrants have been issued for a number of people accused of theft and looting.

Q: How can you ensure that Daraa’s rebel factions abide by your rulings, especially since you don’t have the ability to enforce them?

We are currently working to form an enforcement entity.

The question of abiding or not abiding by a decision doesn’t always depend on strength or weakness, but also from right and wrong. We in the Court of Justice are able to influence the factions to uphold the truth. All those who violate this decision will be prosecuted.

Q: What measures will be taken against those who violate the rulings?

The offending party will be prosecuted by the Court, in accordance with the nature and scale of the offense. 

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