NPCTJ publishes recommendations in Syria Transition Roadmap, travels to Northern Ireland

On August 14, 2013 the Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies published a comprehensive report on the Syrian democratic political transition entitled Syria Transition Roadmap. The National Preparatory Committee for Transitional Justice contributed to the chapter of the report on Transitional Justice and National Reconciliation, assisting the Syrian Expert House in the crafting of its recommendations.

In the report, the NPCTJ made five specific recommendations: first, to establish commissions of inquiry for conducting investigations on extrajudicial killings, torture cases, prisoners of consciences, enforced disappearances, and other crimes; second, the creation of a hybrid court system for post-conflict prosecutions of criminals; third, the compensation of victims of regime and conflict-related crimes; fourth, the restructuring and cleansing of state institutions complicit in acts of violence or abuse; fifth, the transformation of centers of torture and abuse into museums or monuments in order to memorialize victims of the conflict.

Additionally, representatives of the NPCTJ recently traveled to Belfast, Northern Ireland to attend a conference held by the Transitional Justice Institute at Ulster University in Belfast. Following the conference, NPCTJ members toured Belfast, learning about the lengthy sectarian conflict, known as “The Troubles,” that occurred there from the late 1960s to 1998.

The sheer destruction and number of victims in Syria is incomparable to that which occurred in Northern Ireland. One of the main reasons for this is the role of state institutions in the respective crises. In the case of Ireland, the institutions were under the control of the British government, which meant they remained accountable to an entity interested in minimizing sectarian conflict. The British government was adamant when it came to keeping the military in check. In Syria, on the other hand, the security forces have been given orders to end peaceful demonstrations by any means necessary. As a result, the Syrian military has played a significant role in creating and prolonging the conflict.

The political system in Ireland at the time is also a notable aspect in understanding the two situations. The system that exists in Ireland is a proportional representation system in which the individual with the most votes wins. A system like this often promotes the ability for each particular sectarian group to elect their own representative, which creates further distinction between each group, rather than promoting cooperation. As a result, the NPCTJ concluded that the success of the Syrian government does not lie in a sectarian system. Although many Western nations will undoubtedly suggest such a system, the future of Syria will not benefit from a system in which these sectarian groups have the opportunity to further differentiate themselves from one another and create an even greater distinction than presently exists. Instead Syria needs to promote a political system in which independence and democracy prevail and, as a result, promotes a nation that all Syrians can call home.

Finally, the NCPTJ has been recognized for its work in Transitional Justice in Syria, a publication that addresses the necessity of a comprehensive justice and accountability process during the Syrian transition. In the section titled “Resources for Transitional Justice in Syria”, the publication acknowledges the NCPTJ as a civil society organization that is providing valuable research and policy recommendations for the transitional process in Syria.