Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sedition: Nasrallah, Yes; Hariri, No.

In a democracy very few things, if any, justify sedition. Disagreements and dissatisfaction with policies can be opposed vigorously and dealt with through the ballot box during the next electoral cycle. That is the role of the loyal opposition.

Unfortunately this has never been the case in any Arab country including Lebanon since practically each of the countries is ruled either by an absolute monarchy or a one party dictatorship. Change under such circumstances does not take place without a violent revolution. Lebanon is an exception among the Arab countries. It is an almost democracy but not quite, at least in the sense that numerous political ideologies are represented in the Chamber of Deputies and even in the makeup of its government. Lebanon has managed to escape the strong one man dictatorship that has characterized Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Tunis just to name a few.

This very special delicate balance between the illiberal Lebanese political parties has led to a relatively liberal state, a state that recognizes more political and social individual rights than any other Arab state. Actually the latest Freedom Index, a sophisticated survey that has been conducted for over sixty years shows that the only two Arab countries that earn the Partially Free label are Lebanon and Kuwait. All the others are grouped under Not Free countries.

This tradition is in danger of suffering a major setback. Hezbollah and its allies have resorted periodically to measures that border on outside rebellion by occupying major public areas of Beirut for months at a time, instigating periodic road blocks and disrupting civilian life through the burning of rubber tires, occupying by force parts of Beirut and the mountains and even instigating a devastating war that has cost the country a heavy price in blood and treasure. As if all of that is not enough, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah has recently given two speeches and promises at least another one in the near future in which he has thrown the gauntlet to challenge the legitimacy of the Special tribunal for Lebanon, STL.

The STL was set up in 2007 under the auspices of the United Nations and due to a request by the Lebanese government for help in investigating the assassination of Rafic Hariri and others. Hezbollah was part of the Lebanese government that approved the establishment of the STL. Rulings by judicial systems rarely please everyone; actually they never do since judicial pronouncements on substantive issues are bound to be subjective to some extent. That has always been the case and always will, all over the globe. What promises to be unique in the current Lebanese case is not the possibility that one party or the other will find fault with the STL ruling once it is pronounced, it is that Sayed Nasrallah is busy laying the ground work for civil strife if the STL indictment goes against his party members. Compare this totally irresponsible behavior that is the product of a non democratic mind set with the calm, mature, statesman like behavior of Sa’ad Hariri. Mr. Hariri has been working hard to ascertain that irrespective of what the STL rules Al Mustaqbal and its allies are willing to accept such rulings. Mr. Hariri is guided by the national interest, the rule of law and democratic institutions when Hezbollah and its allies are driven by personal agendas and motivations that are bent on demonizing the other and that are based in authoritarian thinking.

The sordid affair that took the life of Rafic Hariri five years ago has to end. The only respectable and democratic way to accomplish that is to accept the STL ruling no matter what it turns out to be. The position of Hezbollah through its General Secretary, Hassan Nasrallah, to damage the legitimacy of the institution prior to an indictment and a ruling is preposterous. It is nothing but a cynical effort to reject any outcome that is not favourable to the party; Hezbollah will fight a ruling against its members but will accept a ruling that is favourable to them. What if all parties are to adopt such a position? Then no matter what the ruling turns out to be one group or another would give itself the right to use force and call for destructive behavior. Such attitudes and practices cannot be tolerated in a democratic setting. What we ought to do is follow the sensible democratic path being championed by Saad Hariri. That is democracy and responsible behaviour.


Simon said...

it's funny how democracy only applies to one side, and not the other!
this post screams anti-hezbolla, full of subjective, one-sided arguments.

the biggest joke of all: " ... democratic path being championed by Saad Hariri. That is democracy and responsible behaviour."

you see nothing wrong with hezbollah being targeted by the STL, only few years ago the accusation was in full swing against Syria!

ghassan karam said...

The post is against Hezbollah but only because Hezbollah is anti rule of law. The STL is not against Hezbollah and obviously was not anti Syrian. Don't just make statements that are not based in facts. You are confusing the UNIIIC with the STL and furthermore you might even be confusing the STL for its prosecutorial arm. The important parts of the STL have not yet issued a ruling regarding either the prosecution or the defense besides the release of the four generals who were taken into custody by the Lebanese authorization the recommendation of Mehlis the first head of UNIIIC.
Part of being democratic is a commitment to te rule of law and respect for institutions no matter which way the cookie crumbles. Hezbollah had agreed to the formation of the STL. It is expected to wait for the STL to issue indictments and then to make a ruling. If the ruling can be shown to be in contradiction to the law then Hezbollah has the right to appeal the case and the results of the appeal would then be binding on all.That is the only way a civilized society can work. An excellent example of the way things are expected to work would be the Bush vs Gore at the US Supreme court. Most Democrats believe very strongly that the elections were stolen by the Supreme court on behalf of Bush. Yet once the ruling was made, it became the law of the land and Gore made an immediate appearance in which he accepted the ruling but disagreed with it.

Anonymous said...

ghassan -- do you expect hariri to accept the indictments if they name HA members, in spite of nasrallah's threats? chapter VII or no, it's hard to imagine hariri risking a new may 7.

ghassan karam said...

I thinkthat the thing to do is to accept the indictments and then go to the STLchamber for a ruling. I dont agree with those that say an indictment is sufficient. The accused must get their day to defend temselves. But I would not push it any further. No need t be judgemental about this. We need to learn as much as we can about who did what to whom and move on. Forgivness is not easy but it sure takes a strong individual to do it. I hope that Hariri will be satisfied with the STL ruling. Enough is enough. Life has to be resumed .Which is the better path sedition or acceptance of an STL ruling. Its a no brainer in my book, take the ruling and close the book .

Anonymous said...

hi again,

ghassan, i am with you 100% on this issue. i guess i'm just less optimistic that hariri will choose to support the STL and let justice take its course in the event HA members are indicted. i worry what would happen to lebanon if the government reneges on its commitments and joins HA & co in denouncing the court.

i very much hope i will be proven wrong.

ghassan karam said...

Anon 6:53,
The way I see it from where I am standing is that the worst outcome for Lebanon would be a major victory for Hezbollah. What I mean by this is that it looks to methat Hebollah is essentially an authoritarian regime that cannot and will not accept the otyher since it is based on a theocratic view of the world, In my vision there is no room, absolutely no room for personal religious belief in the public square.


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