The Syrian government is freezing the assets of entire Syrian families of people who have been placed on an alleged list of terrorists, Human Rights Watch have said.
Under Decree 63 Syria’s Finance Ministry can issue permission to freeze assets of people pending investigation into suspected terrorism charges under a 2012 counterterror law, which has been criticised for its use of broad language.
People who had their assets frozen only discovered they had been targeted when they went to carry out a transaction related to their property or saw their name on a list circulated in the media.
One person interviewed by the watchdog said that his brother went to the family-owned pharmacy in government-controlled area and found it had been waxed shut and the keys had been taken to the National Security Branch.
“When he went and asked for the key, they told him I was a traitor and a terrorist,” he told HRW. “He replied that he is not in touch with me, and that this is an important source of income for the family. They hit him and sent him away.”
The rights group has said this amounts to collective punishment and have called on the Syrian regime to provide evidence the people targeted are involved in terror activities, allow them to appeal and unfreeze their assets.
In July last year the Syrian government called on refugees to return to the country, yet this latest measure confirms the fears of many, who are afraid to return on the basis that they will be targeted by the government, branded as terrorists and lose their property.
Last year it was reported that under this anti-terror law Syrian political dissidents and opponents had their homes seized by the government in areas that saw demonstrations in 2011 against its rule, under a decree that authorised courts to carry out “security seizures”.
An architect who joined the uprising against Assad and posted anti-government material on social media told Reuters that last year his office, car and farmland in Ghouta was taken away.
Under Law 10 some ten million Syrian refugees are at risk of permanently losing their homes.
In 2014 the Ministry of Finance issued an order to seize the funds of Al Jazeera journalist Faisal Al-Qassem after accusing him of conspiring against the state and instigating a civil war after he presented a popular programme which hosted figures supporting and opposing the Syrian regime.