Friday, 26 May 2017

Pledges on Syria

Syrian groups in the UK have proposed a set of pledges on Syria to candidates in the 2017 General Election. Jonathan Brown, Chair of the Lib Dems for Free Syria and standing as a candidate in the General Election for Chichester, has responded below.

If elected MP, I pledge to:

1. Affirm the democratic right of Syrians to choose their own future free from dictatorship and terror.

Yes. Liberal Democrats believe in democracy, the rule of law, and self-determination.

2. Call for the UK to track and publish details of military aircraft flights by the Assad regime and Russia that may be responsible for unlawful attacks on civilians.

Yes. During the last Parliament, Liberal Democrat MPs raised this issue on a number of occasions with the Government in relation to Syria. This included writing directly to the Secretary of State for Defence and also tabling Parliamentary Questions asking why the Ministry of Defence decide to withhold this information, despite it being readily available for commercial flights. However, the Government refused to disclose this information.

3. Call for drone aid airdrops to besieged civilians to provide immediate relief and add pressure for full ground access.

Yes. In March 2016 Liberal Democrats called for the creation of humanitarian corridors and no-fly zones over Syria.

4. Call for the UK to help enforce an end to attacks against civilian targets by the Assad regime and its allies.

Yes. In addition to the above, in March 2016 Liberal Democrats called for the support of moderate opposition groups in Syria and where possible their protection from abuses by the Assad Regime and Russia.

5. Call for widened sanctions against the Assad regime and its supporters for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Yes. We will also work to deter the use of chemical and conventional attacks on civilians and demand humanitarian access and the release of political prisoners and their families.

6. Call for the UK to pursue all avenues to bring perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity to justice, including through universal jurisdiction as well as international legal mechanisms.

Yes. Liberal Democrats believe strongly that full investigations must take place into breaches of international humanitarian law in Syria and we strongly support measures to gather information of such crimes so that all available information can be used as evidence.

7. Call for the UK to pursue a ‘Uniting for Peace’ vote in the UN General assembly recommending action to protect civilians.

Yes. We will seek new ways to bring an end to the conflict in Syria, working within the UN to break the deadlock in the Security Council.

8. Demand the highest standards of accountability of all our Coalition partners for air strikes taking place in Syria.

Yes. Liberal Democrats demanded the government honour its commitment to provide regular updates to Parliament on the status of military operations in Syria.

I hope other candidates—standing for all parties—will pledge to support Syrians too.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Manifesto Drafting Suggestions – Liberal Democrats for Free Syria

The following has been submitted by Liberal Democrats for Free Syria as part of the Liberal Democrats’ snap General Election manifesto writing process. Although it builds on policy made by conference, this document itself is not official party policy.

Liberal Democrats believe passionately in universal human rights and the rule of international law. We have a proud history of opposing wars of choice such as Iraq and an equally proud record of supporting humanitarian intervention to prevent genocide and other crimes against humanity.

The international response to the systematic slaughter of Syrians by the Assad regime and its allies has been feeble. The international coalition against ISIS is hamstrung by a failure to coordinate properly with Syrian opposition groups—both armed and civil society organisations including the Local Coordination Committees. Coalition tactics result in ever more numerous civilian deaths and are no answer to the root cause of the violence and chaos in which terrorist groups thrive: the widespread attacks upon civilian lives and infrastructure being committed by the Assad regime.

The Liberal Democrats will:
  • Put human rights and the protection of civilians at the centre of our foreign policy.
    We will support aid drops to besieged populations, extend the de-facto No-Bombing Zone which exists over much of north-eastern Syria to other regions and deter the use of chemical and conventional attacks on civilians.
  • Seek new ways to bring an end to the war.
    We will push for a ‘Uniting for Peace’ resolution of the UN General Assembly, bypassing the veto-locked Security Council which has failed in its primary responsibility of maintaining international peace and security. We will push for existing UN Security Council resolutions on Syria, such as the demand for humanitarian access and the release of political prisoners and their families, to be enforced.
  • Promote accountability for breaches of international law.
    We will publish flight tracking data on aircraft which attack civilians to enable targeted sanctions and prosecutions. We will demand higher standards of our coalition partners in avoiding civilian deaths and investigating casualties. We will pressure Iraq, Iran and Lebanon to cease support for the sectarian militias propping up the Assad regime just as we act against countries and individuals who fund extremist terrorist groups. We will tie aid and reconstruction money to the application of legal, security and governance standards ensuring that it will not be funnelled to or through the regime.
  • Give new life to the principle of self-determination.
    We will continue to support civil society organisations in the parts of Syria free from regime and ISIS control. We will support the development of accountable security forces able to provide protection to the civilians in areas which have rejected rule by the Assad regime and the so-called Islamic State.
  • Put dignity into our refugee policy.
    We will accept our fair share of the most vulnerable refugees and enable them to participate fully in our national life. We will promote safe and legal alternatives to the exploitative people smugglers and push for improved conditions and opportunities for refugees in the region. And we will put renewed effort into seeking a peace which will enable refugees to return home in safety.
Jonathan Brown
Chair, Liberal Democrats for Free Syria