Mr. Ahmed Tu’mah, prime minister of the Syrian interim government, and David Tolbert, head of the International Center for Transitional Justice, used the 8th AlJazeera Forum second day’s keynote speech to address obstacles to democratic transformation in Syria and transitional justice, respectively.
The Syrian crisis is now often described as “complicated” by analysts, with political, diplomatic, economic, social and legal dynamics making it difficult to untangle and understand what is happening within the country as well as regionally. Mr. Tu’mah focused on four key obstacles to democratic transformation in Syria: first, the regime continues to use violence in order to suppress the opposition; second, overt foreign intervention and support to the Assad regime, particularly from Iran and Russia; third, the difficulty in addressing the massive humanitarian crisis resulting from the ongoing attacks on civilians; and finally, the opposition’s inability to unify not only in order to remove the regime but also to apply any proposed political solutions.
For Mr. Tolbert, the focus was on solutions to some of these problems through the application of transitional justice principles in Arab Spring countries. He spoke about the necessity of moving towards a culture of holding human rights violators accountable for their actions as well as recognizing victims’ rights.
In many of the post-revolution countries, including Libya, Egypt and Yemen, victims and their families did not have any recourse and could not identify or pursue perpetrators. However, Mr. Tolbert gave the example of Tunisia as a country where post-revolution policymakers consulted human rights experts in order to provide victims with a safe environment, ensuring transitional justice and avoiding obstructions that could hinder the revolution’s objectives. He concluded his speech by saying, “Human rights violations do not affect victims alone; rather, they affect society as a whole. Therefore, it is the duty of post-revolution governments to implement institutional reforms ensuring these violations are not repeated”.
The keynote speeches served as a springboard for the rest of the day’s sessions on internal and external obstacles to change in the Arab world, including roundtables, workshops and training sessions.