by Dan E. Stigall
Dan E. Stigall is a Trial Attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs. He also serves as an Adjunct Professor of International Law at the The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School (U.S. Army). He previously served on active duty in the U.S. Army JAG Corps from 2001-2009. Any opinion expressed in this Article is solely that of the author and not necessarily that of the Department of Defense or the Department of Justice.
Stigall wrote on “ Refugees and Legal Reform in Iraq: The Iraqi Civil Code, International Standards for the Treatment of Displaced Persons and the Art of Attainable Solutions” in Land and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding and provides an update in this guest posting.
Even on something so small as a blog post, it is always a privilege to be able to collaborate with Rhodri Williams, whose work I have been citing and whose friendship I have valued since my time as Captain in the U.S. Army JAG Corps. As an Army officer, I served in Iraq – mostly in Tikrit – during the era of the Coalition Provisional Authority. That assignment gave me my first exposure to the problems associated with displaced persons, housing, and land issues attendant to conflict and post-conflict environments. That assignment also permitted me to work closely with Iraqi jurists and Iraqi civil law, and intensified my interest in Middle Eastern legal systems, comparative law, and the nexus between comparative law and the myriad issues relating to post-conflict reconstruction.
Years after that initial experience in a conflict zone, a wave of social and political upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa has now resulted in new areas where state security governance is lacking and nascent democracies (or crumbling autocracies) find themselves unable to cope with new sources of instability. Libya and Syria, in particular, have been profoundly impacted by this phenomenon, which has come to be known as the Arab Spring. Both Libya and Syria have experienced the collapse of their governments’ key institutions and, in the wake of enormous political upheaval, each country now contains ungoverned spaces which are attracting and incubating a variety of unsavory and destabilizing transnational actors, such as terrorist organizations.
Moreover, as TerraNullius has reported, both Libya and Syria are each now experiencing destabilizing and significant displacement crises. The number of internally displaced persons in Libya at the end of August 2012 was between 65,000 and 80,000, a population composed mostly of minorities who are unwilling or unable to return because of potential reprisals. With regard to Syria, it was estimated that, as of early June 2013, as many as 4.25 million Syrians have been internally displaced and more than 2 million Syrians have fled and are living as refugees in neighboring countries. This has prompted UNHCR to note, “Syria is haemorrhaging women, children and men who cross borders often with little more than the clothes on their backs.”
The acute problems facing Libya and Syria were, in part, the catalyst for my forthcoming article, The Civil Codes of Libya and Syria: Hybridity, Durability, and Post-Revolution Viability in the Aftermath of the Arab Spring. My research into Libyan and Syrian civil law systems follows as something of an extension of my work on Iraqi civil law, but was also inspired by a comment in Chibli Mallat’s masterful text on Middle Eastern legal systems in which he notes that:
Civil codes in the Middle East are peculiar in two ways: they have proved more resilient than their public law counterparts, and modern civil codes function as stable institutions offering legal anchors which transcend political changes.
This observation is an important one – especially as it relates to post-Arab Spring countries and countries in turmoil – because of the fact that international actors seeking to create the conditions for peace and stability in the post-conflict environments of Libya and Syria must ultimately support or enable durable legal institutions. Experience has taught that the durability of organic legal institutions is central to the task of restoring order and government functionality in post-conflict states.