There are a lot of controversial points among the Syrian people both at the grass-root and elite levels. These points could be dealt with in later stages of the process at a time when an agreement on them becomes essential to ensure a conclusive building process that everybody agrees upon:
• Prisoners, detainees and missing persons: there are two points here related to the prisoners and detainees that must be addressed in the future to find a solution that is acceptable to all:
– There is a clear difference between the regime and the opposition, including the sheer numbers of people held by the regime. How can there be a convincing mechanism that deals with the regime?
– The location of Islamic Courts should be identified along with their mechanisms and methods. Respect for human rights and compliance with international humanitarian law should be enforced.
• Gross violations and crimes: A definition is needed of what is to be included in ‘gross violations and crimes’. For example, are the following to be included: massacres, targeted assassinations of political activists, indiscriminate killing of civilians, denial of food and medicines, torture, rape, etc.?
• There was an unfinished discussion on the idea of a new national army (called the Military Institute) comprising the regime and opposition forces. There was concern about the composition of a new national army based on concern about what comprises the opposition forces as there are more than fifty parties to the armed conflict. There was concern about how long it might take to build a new national army given the number of armed conflict groups – FSA defected soldiers, civilians with guns and armed gangs and thugs generally – when the country needs a security mechanism immediately. It was suggested that all parties, including opposition parties, should agree not to break up the current national army. An army that supported one side may have difficulty in gaining the respect and support of all. On the other hand there will be disaffected soldiers who refused to follow regime orders and joined the opposition or fled, who may be persuaded to rejoin. It was suggested there needs to be good vetting to get qualified people to stay in or to join the new army. The 30.06.2012 Final Communique from the Action Group for Syria proposes that the military forces and security services, and intelligence service, should continue under the control of the Transitional Governing Body, perform according to human rights and professional standards and operate under a top leadership that inspires public confidence.
• The funding and appointment mechanisms for the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Suggestions made were: (i) to protect its independence this Commission should be part-funded by the new national government and part-funded independently. (ii) Appointments to the Commission could be made by the national government, by local councils, by election. Further detailed consideration of these points are needed, including looking at how similar bodies are appointed, funded and operate in other jurisdictions.
• Maybe the most controversial point is the one related to whether Syria should be organized as a centralized or decentralized state. If the Syrian state is organized as a decentralized state, this will be done on the basis that (i) it does not threaten the unity of the country or create division between people but promotes coexistence and genuine sharing in one united country; (ii) it is done on a geographical and not on a sectarian or ethnic basis; (iii) that regional laws cannot contradict the national constitution or national laws, most particularly those laws that guarantee and protect human rights and equality; (iv) that it is not permitted to promote and prefer one religion, sect or ethnic group over another in any part of the state; (v) that resources in a region are shared with a percentage to the region (e.g. 15%-25%) and the rest to the state to be used for the benefit of the whole country.