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A Road Map for Syria (in English)

A Road Map for Syria (in English)

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Published by The Guardian

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Published by: The Guardian on Jun 30, 2011
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A Road Map for Syria Enabling the Syrian Authority to make a secure and peaceful transition to civil democracy

The Syrian Authority has declared its intention to make drastic changes for the transition of the country towards establishing a democratic civil state. This declaration has led us to contribute to this process by putting forward this proposal, or “road map” which, if adopted by the Authority, would lend credibility to its claims, through allowing for the participation of all segments of society in building this desired state. This road map is being proposed despite our perception that the situation may now be at such an impasse that it precludes opportunites for cooperation and political dialogue and the feasibility of any proposal for reconciliation. what is available today will be elusive tomorrow and impossible after tomorrow. Thus we believe that the authority has to take immediate action to reassure the Syrian people. The theme of the intended change is for the Authority to give up of a large part of its control over state and society and return it to the state and society. This control is exercised by the Authority using the security and authoritarian services, popular organizations and institutions of the Baath Party, the media, and other actors. The first step on this path involves building confidence between the Authority and the people to bridge the gap between them; not in blood and destruction, but through the establishment of safe and secure bridges that cannot be demolished in future. The main element of this first step is to reduce the role of the security services and security operations in order to make progress on the political process. Initial steps may be taken on many levels at the same time: At the security level: The security forces should work according to specific regulations: - Act in accordance with the principle of defense, not attack, meaning they should

remain on the street for the protection of vital installations and public and private property and the safety of people and their lives. - All the security services should have one zonal authority at the governorate level (until a united single command at the national level as a whole is rapidly formed), and this authority shall be responsible for any action or accident affecting civillians, soldiers, or soldiers. - Security and military personnel in the street should be wearing official or regular uniform, with proper insignia displayed, as well as name, rank and unit. If this cannot be immediately available, then those security elements can be replaced with army military personnel without armored vehicles. - Adoption of a mechanism for organized demonstrations to be conducted after a notice submitted to the concerned government official at the governorate, specifying the route and time of the demonstration, with the official’s right to submit proposals for changes on time and place of the demonstration if it would cause any damage, without having the right to cancel it. And of course, the demonstration shall be accompanied by security and military forces for its protection and the protection of public and private property, whereas the security elements shall have no weapons but simply means of protection such as the shield and regular baton; and be stationed in the vicinity of other elements of protection with regular weapons; especially rubber bullets. The security escort may not confront the demonstrators as long as they do not deviate from the specified track and time; and certainly as long as none of the demonstrators has committed any wrongdoing which is clear and proven by the media and security. This method can be applied to several areas to be a model for a civilized demonstration. - Abolition of the ill-reputed and mal-drafted Law of Demonstrations, which was released recently. - After the announcement of this way to demonstrate all over the country, security elements have the right to try to disband by non-violent means any demonstration which does not have the requisite security permission. This option should be limited to stopping the protest and encouraging demonstrators to disperse. - No security or military personnel are to be permitted to humiliate, insult, abuse or beat any demonstrator for any reason, whatsoever. Should circumstances call for detention, this should be conducted in the most humanitarian manner possible. In this regard, Article 69, which exempts security personnel from accountability, should be abolished to allow for trial and punishment of any security or military personnel for abuse in these matters.

- No one in civilian clothes should be allowed to be armed or exercise any security role in the street. - Ending the use of civilian non-security elements in the suppression of demonstrations, such as employees, workers and students and allowing for the punishment of any person committing assault on a protester in accordance with applicable laws. - The immediate withdrawal of weapons from armed gangs who bully civilians, as well as their arrest and trial before the relevant court for crimes committed during the recent protests, and even those committed earlier. - The repeal of Decree 55 which replaced, and was even worse, than the emergency law, while maintaining the work of law enforcement at the disposal of the Attorney General. At the level of the political intellectuals: - It is necessary to find all possible ways to reconcile with the Syrian political intellectuals, and to allow them to work freely in public sphere. Only their involvment will fully dispel the risks that face the country : they must be encouraged to contribute to the country's transition to a democratic civil state and to partner with the Authority to propose options for reform and transformation. It is also a good source of leadership for the country’s next phase which must be based on popular satisfaction, not loyalty to the security apparatus. The public arena should be freed through specific steps dedicated to emphasize the role of these intellectuals: - Issue a clear decision and firm decree from the President of the Republic not to harass or arrest any Syrian citizen because of his peaceful political opinions. With “peaceful” we refer to refraining from any direct call for violence or vandalism or inciting sectarian and religious divisions. - To allow these intellectuals to meet in public and private places in an open way, and not secretly, after notification of a specific government authority. The authorities should not have the right to prevent such meetings nor interfere in their programs or with their members except if they actually threaten civil peace, and if so, this should be dealt with by the public prosecutor. The public authority should provide its consent in writing and in public. - Repeal of all travel bans against all Syrian citizens by the government and security services without the consent and justification of the Attorney General. - Allow the Syrian intellectuals to travel, communicate, meet and consult with

protestors without intervention from the security authorities unless there is a complaint from citizens through the public prosecutor specifying clearly and without doubt that these actions are inciting violence, vandalism or sectarian and religious strife. At the Media level: It is well known to all that modern political life requires a favorable media climate in order for it to be effective and meaningful. Freedom of access to information is necessary for an individual to form a political opinion and develop a clear vision for his or her life. In this regard, and due to the sensitivity of the media issue for the Syrian authority, it can work on liberalizing the media in a gradual and sequential way, starting with: - Lifting the dominance of security services on public information and activities of local and foreign media institutions. This should start by allowing Syrian journalists working in local, Arab and International media institutions to cover the current events, and exploring the variety of views without any security intervention or complication carried out by the Ministry, to allow for these journalists covering the events and protest marches freely. - The appointment of a spokesperson speaking on behalf of the presidential palace on a daily basis about current events, to reflect the presidential point of view. - Stop the media war waged by the state institutions against protesters and demonstrators and opponents of the authority, abandoning its role as a party in the conflict. This entails that the media report news accurately and without bias, and not ignore critical news such as the exodus of Syrians to neighboring countries, which at this time has exceeded over ten thousand Syrian citizens; as well as the killings and disappearances of citizens in unknown conditions of detention. - Stop the work of all unauthorized radio stations and newspapers, and not to impede the right to file judicial complaints against them for violating the law and inflammatory practices against Syrian groups and personalities. - Do not impede filling of legal complaints against “Ad-Dounia” channel for its inflammatory role against Syrian groups and personalities, and explicit calls for violence and inciting sectarianism. - The allocation of two daily pages for opinion in one of the major newspapers, and the appointment of an independent professional Editor of these pages where his reference should not be to the security authorities nor chief editor of the newspaper. His reference may be a specific public government institution.

- The allocation of a daily live talk show for two hours on the Syrian satellite TV channel. A highly professional broadcaster should be appointed for this program, who can be from outside the official media institutions, with an editorial team composed of journalists from official media organization and others from outside. At the level of satisfaction of the street (Public) of its right, No national reconciliation, which is necessary for the transition to a civil democratic state, can start without healing the wounds of the demonstrating public and what they have endured in terms of killing, torture and the crushing effect on their social environment; this could be done through: - Providing a clear and frank apology and regret for what happened in the country, and the accountability of executive bodies and personalities who failed to accommodate the movement of legitimate protest, and even hard-line rhetoric in the street. - Providing material and moral compensation to the families of victims, injured and the wounded who were killed during the recent events. This would include a care for all those wounded and detained at protest events. - The release of all detainees involved in protest events, without the need to refer them to a court, unless it is proven that they were complicit in the murder of any Syrian citizen whether civilian or military. These cases should be submitted to a special trial court established to decide on these issues, where assigned judges should be known for their absolute integrity and independence from the executive and security services. Trials to be conducted openly and in the presence of local human rights observers.

Preliminary picture of the transition: After conducting these steps that constitute the preliminary stage of the transition in as short a time as possible in order to generate confidence between the Authority and the public, and between them and the intellectuals, the authority may present a draft policy setting out the transitional phase. This policy should outline adequate procedures and mechanisms for transition to a democratic civil state.

Ideally, this trend and vision would be announced by the President in a speech addressed directly to the people with good conscience and not in the third person. This speech should be supported with the concrete material achievements presented above. The speech shall include prospects for the next reconciliation phase based on a participatory approach with all being partners in establishing the rule of law and citizenship rights and with all being equal and are equally accountable to an independent and fair judiciary. This phase can be established initially through the announcement of decisive actions to reduce the dominance of the Authority and the Baath Party over the state and society, such as: - Announcing the dissolution of the National Progressive Front and return all its funds, property and holdings to the state, not to the Authority. - Announcing the dissolution of Students, Youth, Avant-garde, Writers, and Women Unions and others, and re-establishing them as part of the Baath Party only (if the party wishes so; except the Youth Union and the Avant-garde Organization), and be funded according to the Societies Act in force now. All their property, funds and holdings should be returned to the state, not to Authority. - Promise that the Baath Party shall be subject to the Political Parties Law, which is to be released very soon, and that its property, assets and holdings will be returned to the State before then so it can be funded in accordance with the law. - Serious preparation for lifting the ownership or control of the Party on the statefunded publications or media. These institutions shall be returned to the State. - Allowing the opportunity for all Syrians to form unions or associations, according to the laws in force, without any interference from the Baath Party or security agencies, where licenses are limited to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, whereas these institutions shall be regulated according to the Associations Law, which will be issued later. - Announcing the formation of an Anti-Corruption Commission to fight corruption and corrupt people, comprised of legal and public figures from outside the Authority. This Commission should be entrusted with proposing administrative mechanisms and actions to prevent corruption and its restrictions. National Legislative Assembly: A legislative body should be established for drawing the transition phase, especially in light of the end of the legislative session of the People’s Assembly. In this regard, suggest establishing a National Legislative Assembly as follows:

- The Assembly is composed of 100 members, with the Baath Party having 30 members, and 70 indepdent members. - The President will appoint the members of the Assembly following extensive and intensive consultations through meetings with political, economic and social figures from outside the Authority. - These meetings are to be conducted through the following mechanism (for example): The President meets with the first ten people to be nominated by the National Action Committee, and those shall nominate ten others, until the number of candidates whom the President meets and appoints reaches seventy candidates. - It is assumed that these figures represent all regions of the country. - The President calls the Assembly to hold its first meeting within five days of its designation. This session shall be dedicated to elect the President of the Assembly and approve the By-laws and rules of procedure of the Assembly based on a draft prepared in advance by all the members and submitted for public discussion. This By-law should take into account the urgent needs and requirements of the country. - The Assembly shall establish its program priorities in consultation with the President. - The Assembly shall form Committees necessary to facilitate the work of its members. - The Assembly has the right to form any special advisory committees of experts from outside its members, especially involving legal experts and economists. - The Assembly shall have an independent budget allocated from the public treasury. - The Assembly has full authority to issue the appropriate legislation to ensure the recognition of public freedoms necessary for the beginning of a free and sound political life in order to prepare for legislative elections. This may include the possibility of amending the Constitution or changing it according to the requirements of drafting a Political Parties Law and law for elections and media as well as determining key issues such as: the duration of the legislative session; the number of members of the People’s Assembly; the duration of the presidential term; the maximum number of terms a President may serve; as well as any other laws needed to cover the transitional period. The transitional period would be limited to a certain period according to the decree of formation of this

Assembly, which must end with the election of a new legislature following a period not to exceed six months. - Considering the current government a caretaker government until after the parliamentary elections from the moment of the formation of the National Legislative Assembly. - The Assembly shall issue laws to ensure the separation of powers, particularly the judiciary with its restructuring and development of regulatory work. - The Assembly shall establish a supreme body of elections with the law and its powers, terms of reference and the nature of its relationship with the executive and judicial authorities. - The President of the Republic ratifies laws passed by the Assembly in accordance with clear democratic mechanisms and drafted by legal professionals specialized in constitution and legislation; those mechanisms are issued by a presidential decree before the formation of the National Legislative Assembly. During the period between the initial measures and the appointment of the Assembly, and the commencement of its work, it is necessary to complete the reform program as it relates to freedoms and the media, so that the media will be completely independent from the executive authority and freedoms will be protected and guaranteed by the President. In addition, it will be necessary to restructure the security services and determine their responsibilities and functions clearly and accurately. -----------------------------From our point of view, this road map which includes general ideas may make capable of harnessing this historic opportunity for the country that heralds our entry into a phase of modernity and civilization through the free and creative contribution of all Syrians in public life. For any reason and under any pretext whatsoever, we shouldn’t miss this moment in history that our country has been waiting for for several decades. It would be a serious mistake to consider it a political struggle for power, when it is actually a revolution in every sense of the word - at the cultural, social, moral, ethical and political level - as long as we all contribute towards pushing it to a creative destination far from any factional or partisan or selfish considerations. ------------------------

This paper is being submitted for public circulation and discussion by all available means. Suggestions and comments will be collected for consideration in redrafting the paper with the aim of facilitating a secure and peaceful transition to a civil democratic state. Louay Hussein and Maan Abdul Salam On behalf of the National Action Committee

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