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Material Reparations in Syria and Their Challenges

Executive Summary


After more than a decade since the onset of the 2011 protests and the political, military, social, and economic changes witnessed in Syria, and with the resulting victims from various Syrian communities and groups, there is a political climate in regional countries to normalize relations with the Assad regime. This might potentially force Syrian opponents into accepting political settlements that resemble unconditional surrender. These settlements do not guarantee the rights of hundreds of thousands of victims and comes at the cost of their long-standing suffering.

This study addresses the issue of financial and material reparations as one of the most crucial forms of victims’ reparation and the most impactful in transitional justice mechanisms. It refers to direct and indirect financial reparations provided to victims to compensate them for the harm they suffered due to the war. This includes defining the priorities in addressing victims' needs, committed violations, forms of material reparations, and mechanisms linking the process of reparations to sustainable development.

According to the discussions held with civil society in Syria on the first axis of this paper about material reparations, the study finds that the matter of identifying potential beneficiaries among the victims is a complex issue that requires unifying victim registries in Syria to identify them more accurately. Additionally, the decision on this matter necessitates the existence of a democratically elected parliament. The study also emphasizes the importance of prioritizing local narratives of victims over establishing a general national narrative. However, the general tendency in the discussions strongly supported the exclusion of combatants and military personnel from financial reparation mechanisms, with consideration for programs aimed at their reintegration into civilian life. It also emphasizes that the reparations should not be limited to victims of recent conflict only, but to encompass past and “permanent” victims, such as stateless individuals whose suffering dates back to previous periods caused by previous regimes, as well as individuals whose properties were seized without fair reparation.

In terms of violations and priorities for reparation, the study finds that the priority lies in the immediate removal of the effects of violations related to housing and demographic changes in Syria, as well as addressing the impact of the conflict on children and the war generation. This includes addressing the issue of detainees and reintegrating them into the labor market, along with financial reparation for victims of unfair dismissal, families of the deceased, and forcibly disappeared persons. The discussions also introduced ideas about the necessity of addressing collective violations related to local cultures. The study found that financial reparations should be provided to the affected individuals, along with the provision of free services, securing employment opportunities with educational and vocational rehabilitation for those affected, implementing economic policies that promote equality, rehabilitating housing, and providing monthly food baskets. The study calls for the necessity of establishing local arbitration committees and recognizing their role in resolving local conflicts regarding reparation and the fairness of its distribution.

The link between material reparations and sustainable development by focusing development projects on supporting affected areas was also discussed. This process aims to work on preparing the infrastructure for the return of displaced persons and refugees to their regions, ensuring the fair distribution of developmental opportunities among regions, and encouraging investment in Kurdish regions and other historically marginalized regions in Syria.

The study addresses, in its second axis, a range of challenges facing, or expected to face, the design and implementation of material reparations programs. An analysis was conducted regarding the absence of a political will to recognize the victims due to the involvement of various parties in committing gross human rights violations. Additionally, it analyzed the challenges confronting the participation of victims in designing reparation programs due to their loss of trust in current and future state institutions, and the difficulty of engaging displaced persons and refugees in this process due to the enormity of the required logistical needs. Moreover, the study highlighted how the patriarchal structure of community, state institutions, and political institutions contributes to the exclusion of female victims from participating in reparation programs design. Finally, the study addresses the challenge of achieving justice for victims in general if limited to material reparations without integrating them into a comprehensive strategy alongside transitional justice mechanisms on one hand, and institutional reform on the other hand.

In the third and final axis, the study addresses the required role of the Syrian civil society in integrating material reparations within the political settlement processes in Syria, in future constitutional and legal mechanisms, and its role in monitoring and evaluating the implementation of material reparation programs and their achieved objectives. Additionally, the civil society bears the greater responsibility in advocating for the effective participation of female victims in designing and executing reparation programs.

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Material Reparations in Syria and Their Challenges - Final
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