Syria: Mechanisms for Limiting Transitional Presidential Powers

Syria is in the midst of a devastating civil war, during which over 400,000 persons have been killed, many more have been injured, and millions have been displaced. The international community has fitfully pursued efforts to organize negotiations to bring about a peaceful resolution of the conflict. One major coalition of Syrian opposition groups, known as the Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, or the Syrian National Coalition (“the Coalition”), has been working actively to develop positions in anticipation of negotiations to end the conflict and create a transitional Syrian government.

As the Coalition plans for a post-Assad transition, it has sought the guidance of the Public International Law and Policy Group (“PILPG”), a pro bono international law firm, to advise it on a range of legal and policy issues. Students in this Practicum will provide guidance to PILPG in support of its work with the Coalition. Students in the Practicum will focus in particular on the issue of presidential powers during the hoped-for transitional period. The Coalition is increasingly concerned that any political settlement will leave Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in power during the transitional period; the Coalition accordingly is interested in exploring mechanisms for limiting presidential powers, particularly during a period of fundamental political transition. Students in the Practicum will examine a series of recent transitional episodes from other post-conflict settings to identify the legal and institutional approaches that have been devised to limit the power of particular executive branch actors or groups, or have subjected presidential power to supervening institutional constraints (either internal or external). The memorandum developed during the course of this project will also assess the efficacy of those transitional arrangements and provide suggestions, to the extent possible, as to which might prove effective in the Syrian context.

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