Syrian foreign minister extends deadline for property confiscation law following international uproar

Syrian foreign minister extends deadline for property confiscation law following international uproar
A controversial new property law was announced in April, which would give the Syrian regime the right to seize property from refugees living outside government control.
3 min read
02 June, 2018
Muallem said that Syrians now have a year to prove their property rights [Getty]

Syria has extended the deadline for a controversial new property law, giving Syrians a year - rather than a month - to prove their ownership of land.

The law was announced last month would effectively allow the Syrian regime to seize property and lands of citizens living outside areas under its control.

Half of the population have been made refugees due to the war in Syria, the vast majority living in areas outside government control due in part to regime and Russian bombing of opposition towns and cities.

Human Rights Watch has said the law amounts to "forced eviction".

Analysts said that these refugees would be unable to return to these areas, either due to fears of being arrested by regime intelligence services or due to logistical difficulties.

On Saturday, Syria's foreign ministry announced alterations to the bill, known as Decree 10.

It allows Syria's regime to seize private property for zoned developments and compensate proven owners with shares in the new projects.

Read also: Syrian refugees the biggest losers with regime's new confiscation law

Syrians now have up to a year - instead of 30 days - to claim shares after a new zone is announced if they prove ownership.

"The time period has been amended and become a year," Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said at a press conference in the Syrian capital.

Muallem said the nationwide law was "necessary" after the regime regained control of the former rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus in April.

This was done through an intense military assault - which killed hundreds - and evacuation deals, which forced thousands from their homes.

"Property regulation was necessary to restore the rights of the owners," he said.

He accused rebel groups of "burning real estate records" and "manipulating" property deeds in areas under their control.

Some offices holding property deeds are believed to have been destroyed in regime bombing.

Countries that host large numbers of Syrian refugees fear that the new law means they will lose their homes and never be able to return home.

Lebanon's Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil warned that Decree 10 could hinder the return of an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees who live in Lebanon.

But Muallem on Saturday dismissed these claims.

"We are keen for displaced Syrians to return to their hometowns and we will provide all necessary facilitations to those who wish to return," he said.

Syria's war erupted in March 2011 when the Syrian regime brutally suppressed peaceful protests.

More than half a million people have been killed, the vast majority from Syrian regime bombing and shelling.

Agencies contributed to this story.