On 5 July 2022, the Syrian government, represented by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, circulated a draft of a unified legislation for professional associations, which was prepared by a joint committee established under Resolution No. 1489 issued on 05 September 2021 (no more information was disclosed over the nature or the members of the committee). The Presidency of the Council of Ministers sent the draft law with an official letter to the Assistant Secretary General of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party, instructing them to circulate the draft to various professional associations in Syria (lawyers, physicians, pharmacists, etc.) to review the draft law and submit comments within 5 working days.
Accordingly, on 07 July 2022, the head of the Central Office of Public Organizations and Professional Associations of the Ba’ath Party, Huda al-Homsi, an engineer, sent an official letter to various associations to review the draft and submit feedback within the specified period.
In his letter, the Prime Minister stated that the need for this draft law emerged as a result of the development and growth of professional associations’ work in in providing support to citizens working within public services. Therefore, it is necessary to frame and organize the work of professional associations according to unified general provisions. Moreover, the purpose of the draft is to guide the work of professional associations in order to achieve flexibility and efficiency in their performance, and to remove discrepancies in the provisions that regulate their work, taking into account the unique nature of each profession. Furthermore, the prospective law unifies appealing procedures related to the decisions issued by associations and their disciplinary boards.
The Syrian Constitution No. 94 of 2012 Guarantees the Independence of Associations
Theoretically, the Constitution in Syria is the supreme law of the land, and no law or draft law should conflict with the letter or spirit of its Articles.
Article 154 of the 2012 Constitution obligates the State to amend any legislation in force before approval, in accordance with current constitutional provisions, providing that the amendment is done within a period of no more than three years.
Despite the Constitution’s legal problems (especially those related to the separation of powers and the powerful influence of the Executive Branch over the Legislative and Judicial Branches), the Constitution includes several basic principles that give professional associations a fragile independence and a limited space that allow them to represent professionals before the Syrian government.
Article (10) of the Constitution, under the Title of Basic Principles, considers the independence of professional associations to be one of the basic constitutional principles of the State:
“Public organizations, professional unions and associations shall be bodies that group citizens in order to develop society and attain the interests of its members. The State shall guarantee the independence of these bodies and the right to exercise public control and participation in various sectors and councils defined in laws; in areas which achieve their objectives, and in accordance with the terms and conditions prescribed by law”.
Legally, this Article is an advanced step in allowing professional associations a margin of freedom and independence from the Executive Branch, unlike Article (9) of the previous Constitution of 1973 which stated that “Public organizations and Cooperative Organizations shall be bodies that group citizens in order to develop society and attain the interests of its members”.
Thus, the current Constitution recognizes the independence of professional associations, and grants them the right to public control, as one of the basic constitutional principles of the State.