The Large Body of the Constitutional Committee met for the first time on October, 30 2019 and continued for a week at the United Nations Office at Geneva, in sessions convened by UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen with the backing of major powers. The delegations included the Syrian Government, the Syrian Opposition Commission, and the Civil Society delegation. The co-chairs Ahmad Kuzbari, and Hadi al-Bahra delivered opening remarks. The members of the Large Body adopted by consensus The Code of Conduct and Initial Procedural Practices of the Co-Chairs of the Constitutional Committee.

The Small Body of the CC convened in Geneva for a week-long round of Syrian talks which ended without an actual meeting of the 45 delegates together,  because the co-chairs were unable to agree on an agenda for the Constitutional talks.

The third round of negotiations was held among the 45-members of the Small Body. It was co-chaired by Hadi Albahra and Ahmad Alkuzbari who said very clearly that they thought there were quite a few areas of commonality. This session started in late August with a break of several days due to some members testing positive for COVID-19.

Note: Although the differences over the agenda from November 2019 were resolved by March 2020, this third round was delayed because of  COVID-19 restrictions.

The fourth round of the CC meetings was announced by the Deputy Special Envoy Kwala Matar in her briefing to the Security Council on November 20th, 2020. The Small Body convened in Geneva for a week from 30 November to 4 December, 2020.

The fifth round of the CC convened again in Geneva for the week of January 25th, 2021 which started with hopes to agree and discuss some of the constitutional principles. However the two Co-Chairs were not able to work well together via the SE and they did not agree to sit down together and discuss the work plan and the agenda. The SE’s brief to the Security Council after this round was not made public.

In the first five rounds of the CC the 45 members of the Small Body discussed national articles such as: the principles and the country, rights and freedoms, the rule of law, the Legislature, the Executive authority, the Judiciary, the constitutional court, amendment of  the constitution, independent bodies, the security institutions, the army and the police, and the general and transitional procedures.

After nine months suspension, the Small Body convened for a week for the sixth round of the CC meetings. This was the first time that the two co-chairs sat with  UN envoy Geir Pedersen at one table. On the first day, the Small Body discussed the principle of: “Sovereignty, Independence and Territorial Integrity” that was presented by the Government. The second day was dedicated to “The Army, Armed Forces, Security and the Intelligence”, and this was presented by the Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC) delegation. On the third day, participants discussed the “Rule of Law” that was presented by a part of the Civil Society Delegation. The fourth day’s  discussions focused on “Terrorism and Extremism” and that was presented by the Government delegation. The agreement for the fifth day was to concentrate on bringing forward the principles that were discussed to reach some kind of provisional agreement, or partial agreement on part of it or on a whole principle, or if not agreeing to agree on what they disagreed on. None of those options were achieved.

The Constitutional Committee held this round on March 21, 2022 for five days in Geneva. Each day, the Small Body discussed one of the following four principles: “Basics of Governance”, “State Identity”, “State Symbols”, and “Structure and Functions of Public Authorities”. The Opposition Delegation presented its first paper on the basics of the Governance that called for “a republican system of government in the country based on the rule of law, respect for human dignity and the will of the people, and a full commitment to building a free, just and cohesive society”. And added that “In addition, individuals should freely and democratically choose who exercises authority on their behalf, from local to national levels of government. All of this must happen within a pluralistic society, meaning a society influenced by a number of different viewpoints and not unilateral tyranny”. The Opposition delegation presented a paper on organizing the tasks of public authorities. It stated that the powers in the state should be organized on the basis of the separation of the three powers, and they should be exercised within the limits established by the Constitution. They were also committed to implementing fundamental rights and freedoms stipulated in the Constitution. Part of the Civil Society delegation presented the principle of the Syrian National Identity which identified the importance of the state name and the inclusion of  the diverse cultures in forming the state. The delegation suggested keeping the current name of the state. The Syrian Government delegation presented the State Symbols identified by the flag, the national anthem, the official language, and the currency of the Republic. On the fifth day, all delegations offered at least some revisions to some of the texts presented. Some of these embodied amendments indicated an attempt to reflect the content of the discussions and narrow differences while others contained no changes.

The eighth round of CC meetings were convened in Geneva on May 30, 2022, for five days. The “Small Body” discussed four principles in the first four days which were suggested by different delegations.

The first principle discussed was the unilateral coercive measures imposed on the Syrian people. This principle suggested that the constitution include the state’s commitment to seek to lift unilateral coercive measures and to demand that the countries that imposed them (sanctions) pay appropriate compensation.

The second principle was about preserving and strengthening state institutions. It ensures that the authorities of the institutions are defined by the constitution and that undermining or threatening them internally or externally is an act punishable by law, emphasizing the responsibility of the army to protect the homeland.

The third principle focused on the supremacy of the constitution and the hierarchy of international agreements “The constitution is the supreme law of the state and no law or administrative instructions contrary to it can be issued. The principle also emphasized that international treaties establish obligations on the state and create rights for Syrian citizens, including commitments to international human rights conventions and treaties that should have  higher precedence than the national laws, while the constitution takes precedence over any international treaties and laws”.

The fourth principle was on transitional justice, and  the importance of having the state’s commitment to peace building  by adopting a comprehensive approach to transitional justice. It also recommended that the Syrian state address past mistakes, war crimes, crimes against humanity and gross violations of human rights and ensure no repetition of human rights violations. Also, the approach must include the establishment of an independent transitional justice body that would oversee the implementation of a coherent and comprehensive set of judicial and non-judicial processes and measures based on national consultations.

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