Should Syria have a truth commission?
March 17, 2014
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This editorial presented the argument that Syria must have a truth commission in order to put Syria on the right path towards reconciling their nation from the horrors that it has endured in the last 40 years. Talks in the Geneva II Conference on Syria are ongoing, however the author, Ayman Al-Yassini, does not hold the opinion that international justice will be enough. The horrors that the Syrians have endured have stemmed for the environment of fear and insecurity that has recently been ended and was created by many intelligence agencies that oppressed the people and reported directly to President Bashar Assad, agencies that were given nearly free reign to arrest and detain who they please without giving information to the imprisoned. In addition to the lack to a fair and speedy trial, evidence of torture and murder has been found in detention centers throughout the country.
Al-Yassini writes that only the public revealing of the truth in a truth commission will Syrians first be able to begin the process of accountability, and then of healing and reconciliation. Al-Yassini adopts a relatively standard definition of truth commissions, writing that a truth commission “would provide justice for all victims, and would act as an effective form of retribution against the perpetrators of such crimes.” However, he does not take into account the problems that have befallen truth commissions in the past. Al Yassini claims that a truth commission will provide justice for all victims, yet rarely have truth commissions in the past been as inclusive. How far is the Syrian government willing to go in terms of reconciliation? How much jurisdiction would the government have over the commission? One of the criticisms of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is generally seen as the model for those to come, was that it paid little attention to crimes of violence. In the case of the fatal tortures of youth and women, would a Syrian Truth Commission take the measures it needs to?
Ultimately, I think Al-Yassini’s editorial is a simple proposal that wasn’t thought out completely, but might be a good idea in getting Syria on the right track to peace.