Syrian Experts to Consider Means of Bringing Assad and Regime Officials to the ICC

The National Preparatory Committee for Transitional Justice (NPCTJ) held its first meeting in Cairo, Egypt on March 27-28, 2013, where the establishment of the committee was officially announced. At the meeting, the NPCTJ declared its intent to build programs and future plans for conducting a comprehensive transitional justice program in Syria. The National Preparatory Committee for Transitional Justice includes judges, lawyers, former political prisoners, and human rights activists in Syria. Publicly announced members include:

Mr. Jamal Suliman (Actor and Public Figure)
Dr. Hazim Nahar (Human Rights Activist, chief editor of “Almishkat” Magazine)
Mr. Radeef Mustafa (President of the Kurdish Committee for Human Rights – Al-Rassed)
Ms. Rajaa Al-Tally (Center for Civil Society and Democracy in Syria)
Dr. Radwan Ziadeh (Director, Syrian Center for Political and Strategic Studies, and Damascus center for human rights studies)
Judge: Talal Houshan (Council of Free Syrian Judges)
Lawyer: Muhannad Alhosni (President, Syrian Organization for Human Rights)
Dr. Walid Saffour (Chairman, Syrian Committee for Human Rights)
Mustafa Osso – (Member of the Board of Trustees of the Kurdish Organization for the Defense of Human Rights and Public Freedoms in Syria “DAD).
Anwar al-Bunni (Director of the Syrian Center for Legal Studies and Research in Syria)
Habib Issa (Lawyer, former political prisoner and well known human rights activist)
Daad Mousa (Lawyer, Human rights activist)
On the first day of the meeting on March 27, 2013, committee members were presented with other transitional justice initiatives that were established by other centers and organizations. Committee members reviewed these initiatives, discussed them, and confirmed the necessity of working in concert with them. Also, during the meeting members decided that the NPCTJ is an independent, non-partisan entity.

Additionally, NPCTJ members agreed on the administrative structure of the committee, including the establishment of a Secretariat, and the selection of a president, executive director, and spokesmen. Members also discussed methods of communication between members while selecting a headquarters which will ultimately be inside Syria. In addition, members agreed to develop an NPCTJ website, write statements about human rights violations in Syria, and report on other issues relevant to justice and national reconciliation. Furthermore the members discussed forming an international advisory board of the Committee. The international advisory board would contain experts who have worked in the field of transitional justices in different countries around the world. The names of the international advisory board were presented and reviewed to be invited for further meetings. Finally, members agreed that the NPCTJ shall proceed with a number of public activities to prepare for establishing the principle of transitional justice and to apply that along with reconciliation programs in Syria on the national level. The activities to be conducted can by summarized as follows:

Exhaustive research on the current capacity of the Syrian judiciary and national police force and major research on how to pursue justice on the international level with help from the international advisory board. The NPCTJ will consult with defected Syrian judges and lawyers, defected members of the police force, leaders of local governance councils inside Syria, and international experts while conducting this research.
Comparative research. Committee delegations will be deployed to Morocco, South Africa, Argentina, Czech Republic, and Chile on fact-finding missions to inform dialogue and preparations for transitional justice programs in Syria. This will include research on reparations. Members of the NPCTJ will meet with members of the Truth and Reconciliation committees of each of the respective countries along with local members of the judiciary and academic experts.
Public hearings. As part of preparation for the establishment of a truth commission, the NPCTJ will hold a number of public hearings in which family members of victims of the Syrian conflict will have a space to relate their experiences. These hearings will be broadcast to as wide as an audience as possible via Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya television channels and the internet. The purpose of the hearings will be to educate and inform the Syrian population and the world-at-large regarding the ongoing human rights violations inside Syria. Public hearings will relate stories and experiences with a particularly emphasis on empowering marginalized portions of the population.
Documentary films. The NPCTJ will commission and screen a number of films sharing the personal stories of victims of the Syria conflict as part of a broad effort to document and acknowledge regime crimes while educating and informing the Syrian population and the world-at-large.
Human rights violation database. For the purpose of building a fuller picture of the Syrian conflict, the NPCTJ will oversee the integration and preservation of a number of human rights violation databases already maintained by Syrian and international non-governmental organizations. Partners will include the Syrian Justice and Accountability Center (SJAC), the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR), and others. This database will ultimately be used as an invaluable resource during any reconciliation process but will also be used for prosecuting individuals responsible for perpetrating crimes during the Syrian conflict.
Training. The NPCTJ will seek to empower defected Syrian judges and lawyers by conducting training workshops on international human rights law standards. It is imperative that those who will eventually be running the Syrian judiciary are as educated as possible prior to taking office in a post-Assad transition. The NPCTJ will attempt to train to as many individuals as possible in international rights and conflict law, in addition to normal transitional justice training. The NPCTJ hopes to train at least 100 Syrian judges and lawyers in its first year of operation.
On the second day of meetings, Thursday March 28, 2013, the Committee held a meeting with the head of the legal committee of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the lawyer Mr. Haitham al-Maleh. The discussion during the meeting focused on the cooperation between the NPCTJ and legal committee of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. Mr. Haitham al-Maleh spoke about the responsibilities and the tasks of the legal committee as follows:

Preparing legal cases and documents for the referral of war criminals and perpetrators of human rights violations to fair trials.
Working to recover, on behalf of the Syrian people, stolen public funds and resources.
Working to achieve transitional justice in Syria.
At the end of the meeting, a joint memorandum of understanding was signed between Mr. Haitham al-Maleh (acting in his capacity as Chairman of the Legal Committee of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces) and the National Preparatory Committee for Transitional Justice.

In the same day, the NPCTJ established a number of internal sub-committees for dividing up the responsibilities of the various members. These include:

Accountability Committee
Reparation Committee
Remembrance Committee
State institution reform and training committee
Truth committee
Reconciliation and civil peace committee
Finally, a delegation from the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies met with the NPCTJ committee members. During the meeting, NPCTJ committee members presented CIHRS with its work, its agenda, its activity, and discussed possible cooperation with CIHRS. Later an agreement was reached to create communications between NPCTJ and CIHRS in order to exchange experiences and to cooperate on any aspect regarding transitional justice.