The bank of Terror
Translated by : Basel Watfa
“Their bellies were stuffed and still ask for more, it is lucrative business”.
“H.M” Told me, an Attorney who undertakes a lot of political prisoners’ cases as an agent between the political prisoner’s kin and those who collect the price of the paper of release.
The so called “Counter-Terrorism court” had not been established upon legitimate grounds, declared an attorney who frequently deals with this court. It is none other than a replacement of “State security court”, had been established after abolishing the emergency law and replacing it with “Terror law”. Regardless what names are, attorneys are not permitted to plead and defend their defendants in this court whereas doors have been unabashedly and widely opened for brokerage, adding another aspect of corruption to the Syrian juridical system.
Since the beginning of Syrian revolution, regime has possessed multi-resources for funding through which it could steel itself. I am not an economic expert, but want to shed lights shortly on what I consider them as major pillars, economically contribute to the regime immovability. These pillars are divided into two aspects: foreign support and interior one.
The foreign support
Represented by Geopolitical motives of both Iran and Russia, where imports, debts and the reduction of customs duties enhanced the regime stabilization. For instance but not limited to, the trade exchange between Syria and Iran have augmented from 430 M$ in 2010 to reach 869 M$ in 2014 according to Iranian Trade Development Corporation .
In addition to Iranian-Russian support and accompanied with severe deterioration of the security condition in the eastern portion of Syrian map, ISIS played a crucial role in backing the Syrian pound and thus, the regime itself by selling the crude oil to it; given the very low price per barrel which only scored 20 USD while the barrel price scored 103 USD in the global market prior to the beginning of 2015. Consequently, ISIS contributed to protecting the Syrian pound and provided the regime with crude oil whose end user remains unknown.
The interior Support
There are countless channels through which the regime got support, and I am going to mention three of them:
- Business men, stock holders, goldsmiths and money changers
Phenomenon such as looting and kidnaping for the sake of demanding ransom spread widely in the beginning of Syrian revolution. Capitals owners who do not corroborate the regime interests have been robbed by “Unbeknown”, or they were being arrested by the security agencies according to various fabricated charges in order to forcibly seize their money with no legitimate justifications. On the other hand, balances in the Syrian banks have been put under control by some employees in the bank for certain time, monitoring high credits in coordination with the security system. High credits are tempting where their holders could be kidnapped by security forces in purpose of demanding ransom but this does not necessarily mean that the kidnapped will be released even if ransom was paid. Goldsmiths are no exception of kidnapping and blackmailing for ransom purpose which may reach tens of millions of Syrian pounds. Money exchangers are exposed to a different type of treatment, so to speak, where their money is to be seized under the pretext of not having the needful legitimate licence. The State grants this licence In return for huge sum paid by money changer as a deposit and when one of security apparatuses detains the money exchanger under the pretext of not having legitimate licence, consequently, he loses the paid deposit even if his innocence has been proved let alone his detention which may be prolonged, costing him more money due to the slow legitimate procedures.
- Renewing Syrians passports
For being wanted by the regime due to security reasons, hundreds of thousands of Syrians could not renew their passports for years. Such condition grabbed regime’s attention for even more profitable business. According to the department of immigration, the average of daily applications has amounted to 2000 /day and around 1 Million in 2015. Based upon these statistics, Syrian regime had earned 400 Million USD out of this business considering the new fees which equivalent 400 USD per passport.
- Bank of Terror or as it is known “Counter-Terrorism court”
One may picture a juridical institution and its customary rule when hearing the word “Court” , but what is hidden beyond this pseudo court and its vital role is often not addressed.
As previously mentioned, this court has been marginalizing attorneys’ function in terms of defending the defendants while allowed the brokerage gate wide –open the thing that positioned the attorney as a joint between the prisoner’s kin and the efficacious party and this latest remains covert due to “security considerations”, unknown neither to the prisoner’s kin nor to the attorney himself sometimes when the process includes a chain of several efficacious parties, each of whom gets a share of the paid sum in return for the judge’s approval on prisoner’ release paper. This chain consists of many brokers and called “Judges’ keys” whose role is to mediate between the attorney and the efficacious party and guarantees the judge’s needful action in return for money. The key is mostly to be the “Judge’s clerk”.
Syrians have been incapable of deducing the random massive detentions whose frequency has not been lessened since the beginning of the Syrian revolution, but given the number of “Terror” detainees which is amounted to be around 200.000 according to the report issued by Violations documentation Centre (VDC) besides not a single acquittal was passed through this court since it has been established in 2012 according to what an attorney had mentioned to VDC which estimated the number of cases that were transmitted to the “Counter-Terrorism court” to be around 32.000 cases , we can then realize the enormous revenue of those shady efficacious parties whose “security” titles could be known only by the attorney and judges.
“I cannot disclose the name of the mediator who helped on releasing a female prisoner who was being adjudicated before the fifth judge in the court “military judge” in return of money, but I can tell you that this fifth judge salutes him for being higher-rank than him”, said attorney “H.M” and continued: “This matter had been exposed to an extend where specific prices were classified for each prisoner according to his/her condition. Price could start with Million SP to reach tens of millions SP, depending on charge and proofs available for conviction. In addition to another price for travel ban lifting and different one for unbanning his/her seizures. No judge in the court of terror without “Key”, and has nothing to do with law at all. Their bellies were stuffed and still ask for more, it is lucrative business”.
These efficacious parties follow certain tactics with the prisoners’ kin predicate upon two rules: first; prisoner must deny everything before the judge even his/her trail was built upon solid proofs, namely, being caught red-handed for judge’s certainty – in case his certainty was not assured – is not substantial at any rate. Second; prisoner’s kin must deal with a sole efficacious party and avoid dealing with many on the same case. Prisoner’s kin engagement with several efficacious parties would trigger conflict and hot competition among the many parties involved on fixing the deal with who’s who, namely, the security high ranking figures whose might is what can complete the deal. In such atmosphere of fevered competition the deal can be prolonged or even hindered.
Some attorneys warn prisoners’ kin against such fraud to which they are exposed, burdened by their enormous wish to know their beloved destiny and to work on their release, by those who profit from the bloody business allowed by this court, advising them not to get involved with those brokers but to go through the normal legal path in terms of appointing a lawyer and relying on judiciary. Being exposed to fraud is possible in such condition of permissible brokerage, but going through the normal way is zero-sum game in the Counter-Terrorism court, not to mention, it would surely hinder and threaten the brokerage business and its high revenues.
What Lieutenant Mohammad is doing in Female central prison (Adraa) where he works, confirms what attorney “H.M” told me. Lieutenant Mohammad “secretly” serves as a broker, offering to some financially competent female prisoners to release them in return for money whereas, for instance, he mediated in releasing a prisoner in a deal of 600.000 SP.
Despite of being charged of funding the Syrian revolution upon solid proofs that provided, a prisoner could manage to be released in return for 11 million SP after just one month in detention, while his female cousin whose charge was identical but not a shred of evidence was provided, had to stay for one year in prison for not being capable of affording more than 1 million SP.
The painful irony dwells in being opponent to the regime and, concurrently, supporting its immovability via the money you pay to dispose of the brutality of its security grip. But to bear what you are subjected to of systematic torture and suppress against your being is beyond imagination indeed.
Quoting the following example from Historian Hanna Batato: “In the course of the national conference of the Baath party 1985, one of representatives referred to the black market in Lebanon and the necessity of forbidding it according to the low, then a Baathist lady stood and answered him: how could such business be forbidden while all those who present in this conference are profiting from it. Hafez AL Assad’s reaction was “loud laugh“ ”. (1). In addition, the share of illegal economy is about 32% of GDP according to report made by a group of economists in 1987.(2).
The above Quote summarizes The Mafiosi and authoritarian structure on which Syrian regime was based upon since decades, where illegal economy including: smuggling, brokerage, robbing and blackmailing forms considerable percentage of its resources, taking into account that the security system is built upon unofficial authoritarian hierarchy in a way that guarantees loyalty and continuity on one hand, and guarantees the distribution of illegal resources of enrichment amidst the regime powerful figures in a way that supports the ruling system and falls in its favour on the other hand.
What makes the “Counter-Terrorism court”so significant is the blackmailing and brokerage policy which is deeply rooted in the Assad regime structure. Besides its role as one of the security agencies in Syria, it represents a crucial bank based upon solid ground in favour of the regime, and a systematic looting of home in the name of law.
- Allen, George : Syria: Neither Bread nor Freedom . P 22.
- Allen, George : Syria: Neither Bread nor Freedom. P 22.