Launching RN Forum on Syria: How to ensure the success of nonviolent revolution under international law


RN is concerned with the transformation of the extraordinary revolution of Syria’s people into a violent, sectarian civil war. As in Libya, the responsibility for this bloody drift lies squarely with the brutal entrenchment of the dictatorial regime, and its use of violence against unarmed protestors. Nearly one year has passed since the mothers of the disappeared and prisoners of conscience demonstrated in Marja place behind the Ministry of Interior in the heart of Damascus. They were beaten, dragged by their hair, and put in jail. Then came the horrendous stories of the tortured children of Deraa. Ten months into an unprecedented nonviolent revolution, the Syrian government continues killing, arresting, torturing and disappearing its citizens. With few exceptions, notably its likeminded sister rulers in Moscow and Tehran, it has lost all political legitimacy in the world. It is now time for this loss to be formalised in law.

Since before the Marja demonstration, RN has been engaged in the search for measures to protect the dominantly nonviolent revolution in Syria. With the increase in defections, and the organisation of armed defense in the neighborhoods, the risk of a repetition of the Libyan model is great with the attendant dangers of a drift into chaos and lawlessness in a post-Asad regime.

The attached study by Danny Auron [1. Danny Auron, BA (Hons.), JD, LLM Candidate at Harvard Law School.] is a précis from a larger work in progress. This is the first in a series of reflections on how to help nonviolence win the day in Syria.

Auron articulates a compelling theoretical logic for the international community to immediately ‘derecognize’ violent, oppressive regimes on the basis of their manifest illegitimacy. Such derecognition, coupled with the increased recognition of the provisional opposition, creates tangible ways that encourage nonviolence rather than armed struggle as the preferred resistance strategy.

He highlights the fact that “International law presently withholds recognition from governments installed by force or illegal means (ex injuria jus non oritur), but not from governments that remain in power with the same techniques. It accords benefits of recognition to armed belligerents who appear to have popular support and reasonable success, but not to non-violent movements with the same basis. In light of R2P and the prioritization of non-violence, this illogical arrangement must cease.”

Part of an extensive analysis developed under the direction of RN Chairman Mallat in a seminar class at Harvard Law on the ME Nonviolent Revolution, Auron provides a legal argument to support immediate derecognition of the current regime that is ruling by brutal force against the popular will of the people. Increased recognition of the SNC by various governments in the free world, in parallel with the SNC’s emphatic espousal of a policy of nonviolence, allows individual countries to take real action such as the surrendering of Syrian embassies abroad to the SNC, rather than see them seized by angry Syrians, especially since such recognition does not require a UN resolution. This and other such measures in open support of the opposition would encourage Syrian diplomats to defect, and show the determination of the democratic world in bringing the Syrian nonviolent revolution to success.

RN hopes this first study for our forum contributes to the urgent debate over the future of democracy and nonviolence in Syria and the rest of the Middle East.



Link to study

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