Syria extends deadline for contentious property law

Syria has amended a controversial property law criticised by several Lebanese officials as "hindering the return of 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have sought refuge in Lebanon", Lebanon’s Naharnet reported Monday (June 4th).

Syria amended the law, known as Decree 10, to allow people a year instead of a month to prove ownership of land seized for development, the foreign minister said Saturday.

The law allows Syria's government to seize private property for zoned developments and compensate proven owners with shares in the new projects.

Critics, including rights groups and neighbouring Lebanon, have warned it could prevent millions of Syrians displaced by the war from ever returning home.

Owners inevitably lose their property under the decree, but after an amendment now have up to a year, instead of 30 days, to claim shares after a new zone is announced if they prove ownership.

"The time period has been amended and become a year," Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said at a press conference in Damascus.

Muallem said the nationwide law was "necessary" to restore the rights of the owners. But critics have raised concerns about the repercussions, especially for those affiliated to anti-regime groups who will likely not dare to make a claim.

Last week, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said the law "concerns Lebanon because it tells thousands of Syrian families to stay in Lebanon" should their homes be confiscated.

Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil also warned that Decree 10 could hinder the return of Syrian refugees who have sought refuge in Lebanon.

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