Syrian Legal Platform

Participation of the Local Community in the Constitutional and Political Process

With an international and local participation, the Stabilization Support Unit held the first workshop of the Second phase of ‘’Participation of the local Community in the Political and Constitutional Process’’ project.

The session attended by the U.S. special envoy for Syria, Mr. Joel Rayburn, and representatives from the Turkish, American and Canadian foreign affairs.

The first workshop of the project was attended by representatives of the Constitutional Committee from the delegations of the opposition and civil community organizations.

From the opposition delegation, there was Mr. Hadi Al-Bahra, the co-chair of the Constitutional Committee, and Mr. Tariq Al-Kurdi, the member of the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee.

From the Civil Society Organizations delegation, there was Mr. Mazen Ghariba and Mrs. Huda Sirjawi.
The workshop as well attended by the representatives of local councils, syndicates, unions, feminist groups, and university students.

Proceedings of the workshop:
The participants were welcomed by Mr. Mounzer then the objectives of the session and the agenda were introduced in addition to an extensive explanation about the series of the workshops and the activities that will take place within the scope of the‘’Participation of the local Community in the Political and Constitutional Process’’ project, which was summarized as follows:

·         This workshop is the first and launching workshop with the scope of this project.

·         The current project is the largest political project inside Syria and it will involve the Syrian people inside, in an intensively manner, in the constitutional process through their views and aspirations about the most important constitutional contents as well as about Syria’s political future.

·         Mr. Hadi Al-Bahra, the co-chair of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, began with a speech about the fourth round of Constitutional Committee meetings in Geneva, in which he explained some details and action mechanisms within the committee according to its mandate, specializations, and internal system, and stressing whatever is presented, discussed, and intervened by any of the members of any party, will be considered for discussion and the committee is not abiding the committee.Rather they only represent the person who presented them.

Mr. Hadi also stressed that the Small Body of the Syrian Constitutional Committee is limited in tasks and specialization and it is not a decision maker, but rather it raises and discusses the issues that are considered to be constitutional contents and it can discuss the possible drafts of these contents.

If it reaches certain text forms, then it raises them to the expanded body of the committee, which consists of 150 members, as formation projects so that they can be discussed, modified, and voted for within the expanded body of the committee which is the decision maker. If the formation project gets the majority of votes needed to pass, it then becomes an approved form that is documented and included in the draft of the new constitution.

Regarding the mistake in the speech of the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria to the Security Council, Mr. Hadi said: “I assure everyone that the term (restorative justice) has not been mentioned in any verbal or written form in the discussions of the Small body of the constitutional committee since it was established and until today, and that the only term raised by the delegation members of the Syrian Negotiation Committee was ‘’Transitional Justice’’ which we call for and seek to achieve. We foresee that the political solution can’t be applied unless transitional justice is achieved, and this can be done starting with investigations and prosecutions.”

Mr. Hadi asserted that the members’ speech couldn’t be altered as there was meeting minutes which were audio-recorded and transcribed in writing. And, the Special Envoy’s role in the committee is defined as a facilitator, and has nothing to do with making any decisions or adopting any terms; “What is approved in the Constitutional Committee are the decisions taken by the Expanded body of the Constitutional Committee, with votes of the majority of the members, as stipulated in its internal system only and deposited in the committee’s secretariat”. In addition, “The second task entrusted to the Special Envoy is to follow-up and attend the sessions, listen to the interventions, facilitate reaching agreement regarding the agendas, submit a periodic report on the progress of the committee’s work and evaluate it regarding its progress and the level of achievements accomplished in mission entrusted to it, then raise this report to the Security Council.” He stressed that “no Syrian can expect that the committee’s work will continue for an open term, and a reasonable timetable, that does not exceed several months, must be set to complete the task entrusted to the committee in accordance with the mandate given to it’’.

Mr. Tariq Al-Kurdi talked about the issues being discussed within the Constitutional Committee that are not generally considered but are discussed from a constitutional point of view, such as provisions that guarantee the safety and security of the displaced people. So, I raised a question to the co-chair of the regime delegation that: “You were speaking about the refugees project as a step to welcome back the Syrians’ return to their country, but you delimited it again by excluding ‘’the terrorists’’ in addition to other conditions that prevent the Syrians from returning back home. So, we seek to establish constitutional provisions that protect us as refugees to return after the political solution. Therefore, we can see that the regime is trying hard to evade any concessions because if it does it once it will have to do it again and again. Yet, what we have come to now is to embarrass the regime and start, in a way that it can’t evade, going into the midst of writing the constitutional provisions starting from the next session (and we may and may not succeed and get what we want, but if we do not, then at least we will not allow or leave room for the regime to get what it wants)”.
A wide discussion took place on all of the above-mentioned topics between the participants and the Constitutional Committee members.

Part two:
Representatives of the civil society organizations delegation in the Constitutional Committee to inform about their priorities and proceedings of the last session.
Both Mr. Mazen Ghariba and Mrs. Huda Sirjawi talked and this part was concentrated on two axes:
Axis 1: is related to the fundamental values which the civil society focuses on and which were raised by the civil society organizations delegation through the last four rounds and will be focused on through the subsequent rounds, and this includes:

1.     The first point is related to prosecution mechanisms, legal, criminal and judicial inquiry against perpetrators of war crimes as well as the urgent and immediate release of detainees and those who were arrested by the regime but never heard of them again.

2.     Separating the authorities in Syria, especially the judicial authority, restructuring it, and reducing the authorities of the head of state so that the executive authority does not prevail and dominate over the rest of the authorities.

3.     The third point is related to the issue of decentralization in Syria and its real activation because it gives local communities an effective and real role in the affairs of their cities.

4.     The safe, voluntary and decent return of all the displaced, inside and outside Syria, and this return is subject to political transition without the presence of Assad, in addition to the release of detainees, and applying the transitional justice. In the context of talking about transitional justice, the restitution of properties to their owners was mentioned,

and I case this was not possible due to damage or something that happened to that property, there should be compensation for these displaced people so that they can return but after applying these conditions.

5.     Defining the national identity in Syria, strengthening sense of citizenship, not linking citizenship to the Baath as it was previously, and make it an identity that seeks to include all the male and female Syrians who have equal economic, political and social rights.

Axis 2: Explaining the mistake stated by the Special Envoy, Pederson, who mentioned the term (restorative justice) and then denied their use of this term by means of an official statement through which the mistake was corrected, but this justification was not sufficient for us. What we want to emphasize is that the briefing is not binding on anyone, and it is a periodic report that the envoy prepares to give to members of the Security Council as a general summary of what happened in the political process and the humanitarian situation in Syria, the Corona virus and other things, and it is a routine report. Nevertheless, we issued a statement to clarify all that.

Mrs. Huda Sirjawi also wondered about the opportunities available to the Syrians in terms of political or military solution or other solutions. And because of the absence of available options, we think that it is necessary to work within the framework of the constitutional committee now, and we also welcome constructive criticism and we are ready to respond to any inquiries and therefore we attend such meetings.

Part Three:
The position of the United States of America on the political and constitutional process in Syria:
Mr. Joel Rayburn, the US special envoy for Syria, participated with us in this session, which is the first of its kind with the local community in northern Aleppo.

He spoke about the US policy on the Syrian file and summarized it as follows:

1.     The first goal is to fight terrorism.

2.     Expelling the Iranian regime outside the Syrian territories.

3.     Forcing the Syrian regime to enter the political process.
He also spoke about the importance of the Caesar Act to put pressure on the Syrian regime and its allies. In this part, there there were several inquiries and messages raised by the participants and included:

·         The topic of releasing the detainees.

·         The American position regarding the elections announced by the Syrian regime and the importance of this position being firm on this issue.

·         Acceleration of the political process and American pressure to activate the rest of the provisions of Resolution 2254, as the political solution cannot remain confined to the Constitutional Committee only.

Political empowerment of women and their participation in the political process.

·         The return of US administration support to the regions of northern and western Syria.

·         After the recent briefing of the UN envoy Geir Pedersen, in which he used the term (restorative justice), which is rejected by the Constitutional Committee and the people inside Syria, and it is important to stress on the United Nations to be accurate and not to invent any new terms that may harm the political process.

·         Talking about Idlib and the humanitarian situation in northwestern Syria.
The importance of the detainees file in the political process was emphasized by Mr. Joel Rayburn, and that the U.S will not recognize the elections that the Assad regime will be hold next year, and that these elections will make no difference in dealing with the regime. He stated that U.S allies will keep pressure on the Assad to accelerate the political process. He also indicated that the US administration has not abandoned northwest Syria, on the humanitarian side, and is still supporting many parties and projects among which is this project, and that the Caesar Act will continue to impose sanctions on the Assad regime and its supporters. At the end of his speech, he mentioned that the Assad regime and its allies have not achieved any victory and they have reached their roof and they are on their way to descending.
In conclusion, the participants thanked the US Special Envoy for Syria Mr. Joel Rayburn, the team participating with him from the US State Department, the participants from the Turkish Foreign Ministry, and all attendees.