Brooklyn Journal of International Law


George Somi

First Page



According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; since 2011; the Syrian conflict has generated roughly 5.4 million refugees; while approximately 6.5 million people are internally displaced within the country; making it the largest internally displaced population in the world. Rebuilding Syria’s infrastructure; homes; and businesses will be an immense task; with cost estimates ranging between $250–$350 billion USD. The Syrian government and the international community have already started to contemplate postwar reconstruction and even wartime reconstruction; despite the ongoing fighting. This Note operates under the assumption that the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad will; at a minimum; remain in charge of at least what has been termed “Useful Syria.” Furthermore; it recognizes that reconstruction is a process that begins during war and that the notion that Syria will be able to implement a grand; centralized reconstruction project after the war’s cessation is an unrealistic paradigm. It is imperative; then; that policymakers; negotiators; and lawmakers representing Syria’s warring parties debate and negotiate existing Syrian domestic law; which appears likely to persist in some form; in order to anticipate and accommodate the rights of displaced Syrians and Syrian refugees. A proper investigation of the obstacles to Syrian refugees’ achievement of appropriate post-conflict relief and housing restitution necessitates an understanding of the flaws in Housing; Land; and Property rights in prewar Syria. Rapid urbanization and the proliferation of informal housing spurred by neoliberal government policies led to massive discontent in the country. This Note analyzes the Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons (“Pinheiro Principles”) and argues that while they provide valuable contributions to an increased understanding of the needs of post-conflict societies; room may be allotted to tailor a more context-specific approach to remedying the rights of displaced Syrian persons and refugees. This Note proceeds to analyze and prescribe amendments and additions to existing Syrian domestic law so that it better conforms to the end goals of the Pinheiro Principles. Syria’s Local Administrative Law; Legislative Decree Law 107; if amended to democratize the institution of the Syrian governorship; could be an effective starting point that presents decentralization as a pivotal tool to empower sustainable reconstruction efforts for refugees and displaced persons. Its incorporation; alongside an amended version of Syria’s Public-Private Partnership Law; Legislative Decree Law 5; could safeguard against abuses directed against refugees’ and displaced persons’ rights under the Pinheiro Principles; strengthen ordinary Syrians’ voices in the deliberations concerning their country’s bottom-up reconstruction; and enhance and strengthen demoralized and underdeveloped local Syrian institutions.