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The Syrian Justice System: What Role do Non-State Courts Play?

Chatham House, London

Participants

Mikael Ekman, Senior Legal Advisor, International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC)
Judge Keith Raynor, Member, International Legal Assistance Consortium (ILAC)
Sareta Ashraph, Barrister, International Human Rights Law, Garden Court Chambers; UN Commission on Syria (2012-16)
Laila Alodaat, Syrian Human Rights Lawyer, Women's International League for Peace & Freedom
Chair: Elham Saudi, Associate Fellow, International Law Programme, Chatham House

Overview

It has been six years since the Syrian conflict began. The war has displaced over 6 million people, including 2.8 million children, taken 480,000 lives and created the largest refugee crisis of the 21st century. It has morphed into a battle with multiple fronts and actors, including the Assad government, anti-government rebels, ISIS fighters and Kurdish militias. The resulting hostile and unstable environment has meant civilians have struggled to satisfy basic needs in their day-to-day lives. The breakdown in the government’s control over territory has resulted in differences in the execution of justice across the country with many courts operating outside the reach of the government.

Drawing on the findings of the ILAC Rule of Law Assessment Report Syria 2017, our panel will discuss the role of these non-state courts and how to engage, subsume or replace these bodies when considering possible resolutions to the conflict. It is important to maintain institutions that are respected, non-partial and represent the rule of law to assist in the transition from conflict to established peace. But what can be done when these institutions are not state run? What happens when disputes span boundaries of control? Additionally, how do these court rulings relate to international law in terms of legitimacy and validity?