01/06/2012 Newsnight


Presented by Gavin Esler. Is the Syrian leader a war criminal? Paul Mason is in Spain to look at the economy, and the new artwork in London by Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei.

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Tonight, U makes its organisations promise a full inversion -- United


Nations organisations promise a full investigation into killings in


Syria. And point the finger at the Al-Assad regime. Has he committed


war crimes. We ask ourselves, why you kill with him. As every day


brings further atrocities, is Britain correct to suggest that


Syria is on the brink of civil war. We speak to the UN Secretary-


General for human rights, along with Paul Wolfowitz, and a friend


of the Syrian Government. The old financial wisdom is if


there is a queue at a bank, join it. It is happening in Spain, where the


money is pouring out, is the EU ready for another major crisis. In


London, the Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei's latest work, under


constant surveillance at home, we have an exclusive interview with


the man regarded as one of the Chinese Government's greatest


critics. I like to come to London to say it. My current condition is


not allowing me to travel. Good evening, the United Nations


top human rights body has condemned the Al-Assad regime in Syria, for


the massacre of more than 100 civilians in Houla last week. 49 of


the victims were children under ten. The UN is suggested Syria is guilty


of war crimes and wants an independent investigation. The real


power at the UN lies with the Security Council, where Russia


seems to be determined to stand but its ally. There are more reports


that Syrian Government forces attacked 12 people on their way


home from work. Three massacres in one week, ten


men killed yesterday, ten corpes discovered on Tuesday, at least --


copss, at least 100 people killed in Houla last Friday, many of them


children. Are these deaths the tipping point for the outside world


to intervene in Syria. The latest grizley video posted on-line by


activists, are they say 11 bodies of plant workers and their driver,


forced off a bus and killed by the regime. They stopped at a


checkpoint. It is a group belonging to the Government, and paid by the


Government. Probably professional killers. That can't be verified.


But the role of the shabiha militia in the previous two atrocities, has


been coroborated by UN observers. It all points, many believe, to an


ever- more deadly sectarian divide. The exact make-up of Syria's


population isn't known. But roughly, 70% are Sunni Muslim Arabs, 12%


Alawites an offshoot of Shiaism, 9- 10% Kurds, and 6% Christian.


Earlier this year Christian leaders told Newsnight they were worried


about where the uprising will lead. It is all law Wights, like these in


Homs, are the group that have gained most from the Al-Assad


family, the all law Wights too, and have the most -- all -- alawites,


and have the most to lose. They don't want to spread light on the


on going conflict. The regime would like to wrap itself in the Syrian


national flag, and doesn't want to expose the sectarian dimension. The


revolutionaries don't want the world to perceive the Syrian


revolution as one between Sunnis versus Alawites. The massacre in


Houla is blamed by locals on killers from neighbouring Alawite


villages. They call them shabiha, ghosts, the term for thug paid by


the regime, most of them are Alawite, it is not clear in Houla


whether they were shabiha or not, they are identified, primarily, by


their religion. We know them by accent, most of them are Alawite.


But these people, you call shabiha, Government thugs, aren't they


simply ordinary villagers, neighbours of your's? Yes, yes, our


neighbours for 100 years, we ask ourselves, why, why, we live


together. We didn't hurt anyone of them, why? Why you stand like that


with this regime? Why you kill with him? I find it very hard to believe


that someone would accept payment to go and kill women and children.


People sometimes get payment to fight, that's normal. But to kill


women and children, that reflects a deep-seated hatred for the rival


community. It reminds us of what happened in Bosnia, and also what


happened in Rwanda. There is a very deep hatred within Syrian society


that has been papered over for a long time. Today, the United


Nations human rights council condemned Syria for the massacre.


Though Syria itself blames anti- Government terrorists. TRANSLATION:


It's now a familiar pattern for armed terrorist gangs to carry out


massacre, immediately before UN Security Council meetings, or a


visit to Damascus by the UN Special Envoy, precisely to lead to special


sessions, hostile to Syria, like this one today.


But the UN has found no effective way of putting pressure on the Al-


Assad regime, despite its warnings of civil war.


Outside observers have been predicting civil war in Syria for


the best part of a year already, it is an unequal struggle still, that


doesn't quite justify that term. The opposition controls no major


stretch of territory, it is vastly outgunned by Government forces, and


its leadership is riven with political division, while the


regime remains remarkably united. The best weapon we have is RB J,


made by Russia. This, this used against tanks, what we have from


the free army, and their weapons, it is just for defending, our


defence, our families. The danger is not even just the


civil war within Syria, but then you have to look at who is arming


their position, where is the money coming from. And is it likely that


a war in Syria will spill over and become a regional conflict.


This week's killings can only fuel a cycle of revenge. But it may


prove not a tipping point, but just part of the slow descent into chaos.


In New York, we have the UN assistant secretary-general for


human rights. In Washington we are joined by the former US Defence


Secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, and we have the Syrian businessman in


favour of regime reform, and not change.


Are you absolutely clear that the Syrian Government is, in some cases,


deliberately organising the killing of civilians? I am now not


referring to this latest incident. For this latest incident the


available data pointing out to the responsibility of the pro-regime


forces, it concerns the use of heavy artillery, but also the


alleged activity of the shabiha militia. It has still to be


investigated. On previous cases it was established beyond a doubt that


there were grave widespread violations of human rights, that


may amount to crimes against humanity. That may amount to crimes


against humanity, conducted by the regime? By various people acting on


behalf of the regime, the crimes of humanity always have their


individual perpetrator. Right, but if you believe that there are war


criminals, or potentialal war criminals, realistically, what can


you do, -- potential war criminals, realistically what can you do, with


the International Criminal Court, and Russia not wanting to do, that


they are in a pivitol position in the Security Council. In other


words, nothing will happen? We did, as the office of human rights,


encourage the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria, to


the ICC. If I may remind you, that today's resolution of the human


rights council, recognise collects the invitation of the High


Commisioner to refer the case to the International Criminal Court.


don't think anybody is doubting your good faith in this, but when


do you actually expect anything to happen, given the position of


Russia, which it can use its veto? Russia definitely has a high


leverage in Syria. What is important is that this leverage is


put to the positive impact on the developments. I think that the


votes that were supporting the resolution of the human rights


council resolution today are quite indicative. They were there were 41


votes for the resolution, just three against, and two abstentions.


But -- But those massacres were carried out under what was supposed


to be the Kofi Annan ceasefire. You have to accept that the world, full


of good intention, can't do it? sharing completely that frustration.


The result of such a from us straigs is also the forth coming


initiative on -- -- frustration is also the forthcoming initiative on


Syria. Joining us from Washington is Paul Wolfowitz, what concrete


measures do you think the US do Co Do, if there was a political will


to -- could do, if there was a political will to do it, and if the


Allies would follow? Kofi Annan said a few years back, in the


greatest hour of need the world failed Rwanda, the United Nations


couldn't muster the will to help them. And after the massacre in


Srebrenica, it was said it would forever haunt the United Nations.


We have another charade going on, where the international community


does nothing, while people were slaughtered. The recent massacre


was terrible, but put it in the context of 10,000 personnel killed


since all of this began. It is time to say this regime is serious only


about killing its people, and until the world gets serious about


helping the opposition to organise, the killing won't stop. The key is


to stop the killing. That will happen when Assad's killers decide


the future doesn't lie with him but with a new regime. The world wants


rid of Bashar Al-Assad? That is the problem we are having, the world is


very much preoccupied with the removal of President Al-Assad, it


is not looking at the prosperity of the Syrian people. The prosperity


of the Syrian people would be improved significantly if Mr Assad


was not encouraging them to murder his own people? The United Nations


sometimes gets it wrong, and with this Houla massacre, we have the


names of people killed, we know that the two families targeted and


slain in cold blood, are pro- Government families. One of them is


the extended family of a newly- elected MP of the region. As you


well know it is a pattern of behaviour. Not just this regime,


his father, it is family tradition of the Assads, to murder people who


get in their way Thousands were killed -- In, thousands were killed


in 1982. Why would anyone believe that heavy weapons are being used


against people, women and children? The fact of the two families tells


you it was not the Government. UN has got it wrong, and you are


sitting in London with me and they are in in country? The two families


did not fund the rebels or they were part of the newly elected


person, people didn't like that. you worry with the sectarian make


up of the country, do you worry that any intervention could further


destablise things and lead to sectarian warfare? You have


sectarian warfare now. You have a civil war right now as one of your


speakers said earlier, it is a civil war where only one side is


armed. There are very bad outcomes that come out of all of this, the


longer the bloodshed goes on the worse the bloodshed will be. As


long as the world tolerates it and sits on their hands, it will be


left to extremists from the outside to come in and radicalise the


situation. There is no magic solution, I think it would be a


better outcome if the international community, and there are many


others besides the United States who I think are ready to step in,


notably Turkey and Saudi Arabia. They could come together, not only


to strengthen the opposition, which is essential, but also to get them


to commit to a subsequent regime that would protect minorities,


protect the Christian community, even protect the Alawites. That is


what it should be. As you rightly said, stopping the killing,


undoubtedly, should be the first priority, in order to dough that,


would that take some kind of military activity, safe haven, and


perhaps the use of force. That, presumably is what puts the Obama


administration off contemplating it? Well, you know, the Bush


administration, in 1992, was off contemplating arming the Bosnian,


so that conflict went on for three body years. -- bloody years, it sat


on its hands while Saddam slaughtered the Shia, and we had


him in power for another dozen years. It may seem like the right


course, but you pay a heavy price. I think creating conditions where


the Syrian army can abandon Assad really should be the objective.


Mr Simonovic, do you worry that perhaps the UN people in Syria have


got had wrong, and, in fact, some of these massacres are not being


carried out by people paid for, or supporting the regime, but the


result of other kinds of feuds? got from the Syrian Government


saying they have proof that the Houla massacre has been committed


by the terrorists. But if this is so, why not let the International


Commission of Inquiry, which has been established which the human


rights council in. And establishing fact beyond any doubt. So I think


this is an open invitation to the Government, if they really believe


that the truth should be established. To enable


international organisations qualified to do so to be active in


this way. Mr Simonovic, just want to ask, we are running out of time,


I wondered if you fear listening to Mr Wolfowitz there, that we might


see another verb nies nieceia and Rwanda, people -- Srebrenica, and


people wanting to do things, but not able to do it? What I believe


very strongly, is there must be a clear perspective for Syria, for


various ethnic groups. And that their human rights must be


guaranteeed. There must be power sharing arrangements with the


ethnic and religious representations in such an


arrangement. I think that the problem of Syria at the moment is


that many people feel insecure and this is the reason why we do not


succeed in implementing the ceasefire, and other things


envisaged in the announcement. Thank you all very much.


It was worse than expected, US job figures that sent markets tumbling


today. But America's unemployment level would be the envy of some


eurozone countries. In particular, Spain, a quarter of the population


is now out of work. There is a real sense of apprehension, even fear in


Spain, about what might be happening to the country's banks.


And whether, after all the problems with Greece, the European Union


might be able to offer adequate help, or not. Our Economics Editor


is in Seville tonight. How are things there? Gavin, if Spain is


now the new frontline of the euro crisis, it is places like this,


Seville in the autonomous region of Andrews will you see ya, a poor --


Andulucia, a very poor area, if the region's fortunes means knuckling


down to what the central Government is telling them to do, the old


friend, austerity. The wider issue becomes clear once you stand took


in Spain and look at the numbers. The Spanish Government revealed


yesterday that 100 billion euros had fled the country, in the first


three months of this year. Spain is running a budget deficit at 8.9%,


and rising. One troubled bank, Bankia, is now calculated as


needing a bail out of 29 billion euros, and the rest of the banking


sector, crippled by bad mortgage, needs in secs of 60 billion.


Unemployment is 24%, GDP is set to fall 1.7% this year. The European


Union has a bail out fund of around 200 billion euros to play with,


together with the IMF. Bail out is not a word the Conservative


Government in Spain wants to hear. What do you see as absolutely the


core problem they face? They face two problems. Two crises. There is


the hot crises of the banks, and the old cold crisis of the


shrinking economy. Consumer spending here has fallen


by 10% in a year. Imagine the effect on shops, on the market


stalls, on the cafes behind me on the river front. That is one thing.


You can cope with it. If you have to then on top of that do austerity,


especially in a place like this, the poor region. It becomes hard,


people get sacked, more people get sacked. Now, then you get the banks.


One of the bosses of the Spanish banks said today that the situation


is absolutely citka. Each time they calculate how much it will cost to


bail the banks out it goes up, something has to happen soon.


Germany they think maybe Angela Merkel has spent so much political


Capaldial and lun -- capital and money on Greece, what else can she


do? I think we are a couple of weeks to play with. But this is the


problem, actually, what they tried to do this week, what they have


mooted. They are in danger of getting a bail out sequence right.


First of all, they are trying to do something early, with banking


system that is savable. Maybe it is 100 billion, maybe 150 billion,


that is safeable, because Europe and the IMF have that money. They


are saying, let's pump the money straight into the banks and


stablise them. Remember, these are banks of major economies, you can't


let them go down. However, that's not what the Germans want to do.


That is the problem. It is all, we are back to the two list, things


that work, things that are acceptable to Germany. The problem,


of course, is if you do pump money straight into banks, you can't then


knock on the door of the Prime Minister, Mr Rajoy, and say do a


lot of austerity, do what we demand, do more, which is what happened in


Greece. We are at a place where the Spanish could redefine what a


European bail out means. It is almost led by the country itself.


It is a little bit more humane. But the inability to agree on that is


what is stopping it. Hold your breath, for a bit. We are not going


to get a bail out in the next few days. For the last 12 years


Serpentine Gallery Pavilion has commissioned a summer pavilion.


They chose the team responsible for bay ying's famous Bird, the artist


on that team -- Bird'S Nest stadium. The artist on that team is Ai


Weiwei. He's known for his strong and


outspoken criticism of the Chinese Government, and also his art. His


latest project was Art Under Severe Pressure.


The lower level of the pavilion, cut more than a metre deep into the


earth, is lined with cork. A nod to the archaeology of its 11


predecessors below, it is filled with a shallow water, creating a


mirror for the sky. The artist, Ai Weiwei, was not present for the


unveiling and the creation of the work. Due to problems back home, he


may never see his creation. Because of his criticisms of the Chinese


Government, Ai Weiwei has been under constant surveillance and is


forbidden from leaving Beijing. He was arrested last year on


accusations of tax evasion, and this artist contributed to this


extraordinary project, by using Skype. The pavilion's architecture,


Ai Weiwei says, is not only about space and shape, but the


circumstances we find ourselves in, our mental state. And our political


background. Another Chinese Government critic,


the blind activist, change change change, has fled the country and


taken up an academic post in the United States. He said the Chinese


Government is slowly moving on human rights, largely because of


the internet and Twitter. He said this from the freedom of exile. The


power of social media is something Ai Weiwei deploys in his protests


against the Chinese thords, and they, in turn, seek to limb --


authorities, and they, in turn, seek to limit his activities. I


asked him if there was any chance he could come to London to see his


work? I would like to come to London, to be able to see it. As an


architect we are responsible to what we have been intending to do.


And also we would like to see how other people enjoy our art or


criticise it. But, of course, my current condition is not allowing


me to travel. What's your current condition? What's life like for you


every day? My current condition is that my current condition of myself


is not very clear. It is funny say, it is that I'm still leaving --


living under house arrest. It is kind of probation, but I never


really faced formal arrest or formal accusations. That's my


current condition, which forbids me to travel. My action has been


carefully watched. By the authorities. My phone was tapped.


You know, all my activities are regulated.


Life is not very easy. In terms of your art, how important is Twitter


as a medium for your art. You have a massive following on Twitter?


course all my internet activity is forbidden. But I still manage to


jump on computer, in China you have to get on through -- twitter is not


allowed in China, you have to get on through special technology, so I


can do that. I can focus on other art activities. Do you think the


west is doing enough to encourage these trends in China, or is the


west rather frightened to speak out, because of China's economic power?


Yes, this is a very clear phenomenon of the west. Also the


west should remember to promote and to protect the basic rights, and to


insist on human rights. It was said in New York yesterday that there


was optimisim that things would get better in China, do you share that?


We all share the same hope. Within China it is changing, and there


will be more dramatic changes. I don't think any state can


sacrifice those very essential ways, like freedom of expression, or


freedom of communication, to achieve real social development. We


can see China today, still lacking of creativity, still lacking of


real competition, trying to get its values from very short-sighted acts.


It is not going to be a long lasting result.


As you know, Cenvancheng has left China, are you going to remain?


still Chinese, I still have to solve the problem here, in China.


Despite the difficulties you face every day? Yes, those difficulties


are sometimes severe and unbearable. But still, it gives some meaning to


be here. Because those difficulties are not only to me, but also to a


lot of people here. Thank you very much.


For a word about what's coming up on the review show after Newsnight,


here is Kirsty. With almost as much fanfare as the


Jubilee, Ridley Scott's return to sci-fi after many years with


Prometheus. I will speak to Tracey Emin about her exhibition in


Margate. We will talk about elite Olympic athletes, and tracing the


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