Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) is one of the most important devices of repression used by the security authorities. By virtue of law, the authorities are entitled to form more than one state security court and to set them up in various areas of the country. The state security court was formed to replace the exceptional military courts, which were cancelled in 1968.
The Supreme State Security Court (SSSC) in Damascus was the worst device used by the Authority in its crackdown on the Syrian society in the 1980s. It is believed that this court passed, during the 1980s alone, thousands of judgments, most of which were death penalties. The Authorities were not satisfied only with using the court as a means to legalise repression but its judgments were enforced and applied against a large number of political detainees, according to the testimonies of the witnesses in Tadmur prison and other prisons where the politicians were detained.
Despite the considerable decrease in the decisions passed by this court in the 1990s, the trials before it have not come to an end completely; for it passed judgments against activists in the field of human rights, among the most prominent of whom were the members of the committees for the defense of democratic freedoms and human rights and members in the Communist Party—the Political Bureau and the Communist Labour League. This court resumed trying the political detainees after 2000 although it had lost its legality, which was reaffirmed again because its head continued presiding over it after being retired. It even revived Law No. 49 of 1980 and passed, according to it, death sentences against those accused of affiliation to the Muslim Brotherhood Movement. It, however, started reducing sentences to long-term imprisonment. We have mentioned in the section on Law No. 49 that it sentenced to death, during the period covered by this report, at least 24 detainees.
This court is regarded among the most serious violations of human rights in the country due to the absolute jurisdictions that it enjoys. Moreover, it is directly linked to the institution of the republic presidency; for only the President has the authority to prevent the implementation of its decisions, or to command the repetition of the trial; namely, the fate of the one sentenced by the court is left to the decision of the head of the executive authority.
Legislative Decree No. 47 issued by the President of the Republic on 28 March 1968, which instituted the Supreme State Security Court and defined its jurisdictions in its sixth article, states that “The jurisdiction of the Supreme State Security Court comprehends all civilians and military persons regardless of their status or immunity.”
Although the Decree confirms in its seventh article “the protection of the defense right stated in the valid laws”, it legalises the extra-judicial action through confirming that “the state security courts shall not abide by the usual procedures stated in the valid legislations, in all the sessions and measures of pursuit, interrogation and trial”, and “the prosecution, while interrogating, has all the jurisdictions granted to it, those granted to the examining magistrate and those granted to the judge in accordance with the valid laws”.
The judgments passed by the Supreme State Security Court are inviolable; the only person that can prevent the execution of the judgments is the President of the Republic; for these judgments are not enforceable except after their being endorsed through a decision by the Head of the State, who is entitled to annul the judgment and order retrial, to annul it and preserve the lawsuit, or reduce the punishment or replace it with a lighter one. The preservation of the lawsuit has the effect of general amnesty. The decision of the Head of the State shall be final in this case and shall not be violable or questionable in any way. The tenth article of this Decree annuls “all the rulings opposing this legislative decree”.