The Syrian parliament on Thursday passed a law that bans any candidate from the presidential elections if he or she has not lived in Syria for the past ten years or holds any other nationality. The residency requirement of the law effectively bars [Reuters report] many members of Syrian opposition groups, many of whom are living in exile. Members of the main opposition group within Syria, the Syrian National Coalition [official website], are especially affected, as the group is based out of Istanbul. Tolerated opposition groups in Damascus appear to be the only opposition parties with potential eligible candidates, though they have little popular support. President Bashar al-Assad has not announced whether or not he will run for a third term in July. However, the new law makes reelection more likely. Introduced as amendments to the constitution approved in a referendum two years ago, the legislation also includes [AFP report] provisions requiring candidates to be at least 40 years old, to hold Syrian citizenship only, to be a child of Syrian citizens and married only to a Syrian citizen and to be free of criminal convictions. Opposition parties have not announced any intentions to run in the upcoming elections.
Both sides of the Syrian conflict have been accused of war crimes in violation of international law. The Syrian Civil War [JURIST backgrounder] has been ongoing since 2011 when opposition groups first began protesting Assad's regime, and the increasingly bloody nature of the conflict has put pressure on the international community to intervene. Earlier this month Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] accused [JURIST report] Assad's forces of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity on Palestinian and Syrian civilians in Yarmouk, on the outskirts of Damascus. Also this month the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic [official website] urged the international community [JURIST report] to respond to recent and reoccurring crimes against humanity perpetrated by both government and non-government entities. Last year Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] reported that the Syrian government is likely responsible [JURIST report] for the August 21 chemical weapon attacks. Also last year UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] urged [JURIST report] the international community to help facilitate negotiations between warring parties in Syria. Commentators have argued [JURIST op-ed] that the use of military force against Syria would constitute a violation of international law. Also last year the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee [official website] approved [JURIST report] a joint resolution authorizing the limited use of force against Syria.