Regarding the “Confidentiality” of the Constitutional Committee Deliberations
The UN Special Envoy to the Syrian Crisis Geir Pedersen’s briefing to the UN Security Council last Wednesday, 29 April revealed that the date for the next meeting of the Constitutional Committee will remain pending until convening physically becomes possible, that is, until the world is done with the coronavirus crisis.
“I remain in regular contact with them (the co-chairs from the opposition and the regime) on how to resume the meetings in Geneva as soon as the situation allows,” Pedersen said in point 19 of his briefing.
On the morning of that Wednesday, Brocar Press had quoted what it called a prominent source in the Syrian opposition saying: “The Code of Conduct agreed upon at the beginning of November 2019 provides in its thirteenth clause to respect the confidentiality of the committee’s deliberations, and in the fourteenth clause to refrain from using social media as a means of communication.” The source wondered “how it can be ensured that the member of the drafting committee is alone, and that the accounts are not hacked or that deliberations are recorded?”
On the following day, Thursday, April 30, Ahmed Al-Kazbari – the Constitutional Committee co-chair on the governmental side – made a statement to the Syrian newspaper Al-Watan, in which he confirmed: “It is impossible to hold the meeting online in order to maintain the confidentiality of the talks.”
The UN Wi-Fi
The first thing that Syrians should know about the supposed “confidentiality” of the Constitutional Committee deliberations is that the members of the large body of the Constitutional Committee (150) during their first 3-day meeting in early November, and then the small body members (45) during the two rounds of meetings that were held in the same month, would enter the meeting room with their mobile phones to one of the fastest internet networks in the world – the network that the UN provides in its headquarters. This was partly highlighted by a series of measured leaks designed to sabotage and provoke.
In other words, the extremists on both sides have no real problem with “confidentiality of deliberations,” because this argument appears as no more than a pretext, because the possibility of leaks has always existed, but it can be said that it was “under control” so that the leaking process can be controlled in a way that serves the undermining the work of the Constitutional Committee.
Confidentiality and Trust
Examination of the meaning of the statements made by the two sides regarding confidentiality leads to a truly amusing paradox. The essence of this paradox is that these two sides, through their dread of online deliberations, implicitly acknowledge that the physical talks between them are truly “confidential” talks. In other words, they trust each other and that neither side will leak what is being discussed.
We find this really strange, especially if we recall the spastic and subversive media duel in which the two sides exchanged accusations, where side called the second the “Turkish regime delegation”, and the other called the first the “Iranian regime delegation.” This confirms one of two things, either that the two sides are one “secret” side, or that all the talk about confidentiality and the need to preserve it is nothing more than an excuse that reflects the unwillingness of the extremists on both sides to move forward in the process of the political solution.
Confidentiality and the Constitution
We should add to the previous points two issues that we believe are essential: the first relates to confidentiality itself in connection with the mission of the Constitutional Committee, and the second relates to the possibility of holding a physical meeting.
Regarding the first issue, the common stance of the extremists on both sides indicates that they have an implicit acknowledgment of “the importance of confidentiality of deliberations,” but this assumption itself needs to be seriously considered.
It must be recalled here that the position of the Moscow platform on this issue was from the outset and remains, even before the formation of the Constitutional Committee, and even before the Sochi Conference itself, that the deliberations on the Syrian constitution must be public, in order for Syrians to see and hear what those who supposedly represent them are saying regarding a crucial and fateful issue, in the historical and national sense, as discussing a constitution that will regulate the future of Syria, perhaps for decades to come.
Dreading public discussions cannot be explained, except that it is a fear of Syrians knowing the truth of what the various sides are presenting, and even more the extent of their seriousness and their responsibility toward the people who have been suffering for many years. If discussions were public, there would be no longer room for worthless arguments and debates, which have no function other than to waste time, sabotage, and delay reaching a solution. In short, when the deliberations are public, the Syrian people will be able to know who is who, and what they propose, say, and how they behave – something that seems terrifying to some.
The second issue relates to the physical location of the meeting, which the extremists on both sides are still evading transfer thereof to Damascus, whether by publicly refusing or by avoiding and not declaring a clear position.
It should be recalled here too that the Moscow platform’s position was and remains that transferring the Committee’s work to Damascus while providing all the necessary guarantees, including from the UN, is essential to transform the political solution from a mere idea into a concrete action, and to avoid the time-wasting processes that have continued for years.
There is no convincing justification for any of the extremists to reject this proposal. Those who use fear as an excuse, their argument will collapse if they demand providing the guarantees, especially by the UN, not to mention that the argument of fear is a testament to the state of lack of struggle spirit in those who are claiming to be revolutionaries.
On the other hand, the failure of the other side to show any position on the issue of transferring the meetings of the Constitutional Committee to Damascus, and even going further to clearly suggest within official statements that the Committee will continue its work in Geneva, and to repeat this on every occasion, all this reaffirms the attempts to circumvent the committee by preemptively disowning its results, by saying for example “the government-backed patriotic delegation, which represents a viewpoint close to the government” ... and so on.
The closer the political solution gets, the more exposed the public match between the positions of the extremists on both sides. Although this convergence has become the only tool in the hands of the spoilers, the most important aspect of it is that it opens the eyes of Syrians burdened with worries and pain to major information – information that will play a decisive role in how Syrians exercise their right to self-determination, an exercise that will be key in determining the future of Syria through UNSCR 2254, and soon enough.