Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Yes, The Special Tribunal Can Accomodate Both Sides.



It has been obvious for a while that the case against the perpetrators in the case of former Prime Minister Hariri's assassination lacks the proverbial “smoking gun” ,which is not surprising for a very well organized and sophisticated operation that took place more than five years ago. Many of the news leaks however, have suggested that when the indictments by the office of the prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon , STL, are to be issued in September that the indictments will name some Hezbollah party members on the basis of circumstantial evidence.

Hezbollah seems to take these allegations very seriously otherwise Sayed Nasrallah , its Secretary General, would not have threatened civil strife but then softened his position to suggest that he is only presenting evidence that has not been considered by the prosecutor of the STL. The bulk of the Hezbollah evidence is circumstantial. It suggests that Israel could have organized the hit against Mr. Hariri. Mr. Nasrallah showed video of the intercepted feed from Israeli Unmanned Vehicles that criss crossed the sky of Beirut and Lebanon but seemed to show that the UMV had a specific interest in the routes usually used by Mr. Hariri. This was the explicit material evidence presented by Mr. Nasrallah in addition to the important implicit evidence that made it clear though that the reason for all the Hezbollah related cell phone traffic in the immediate area of the explosion on February 14, 2005 was due to the fact that Hezbollah operatives were at that stage in pursuit of Ghassan Al Jid who is an Israeli collaborator and who has managed to flee the country to Israel. As you can see the strength of the Sayed Nasrallh presentation rested on showing a potential interest in the exact movements of the former prime minister in addition to providing a rationale for the presence of Hezbollah operatives in the immediate vicinity of the scene of the crime.

Mr. Nasrallah has the right and even the obligation to defend his party and its members against all and any accusations. No one should cast any doubts on the validity of such a claim. Defense though should be within the accepted judicial institutions and only after the indictments are made. Hezbollah and its many supporters however claim that they have earned the right for a preemptive defense, if you will, since the STL record is full of wrong accusations based on false witnesses. They thus claim that the STL is therefore politicized and is actually an “Israeli court” whose only aim is to discredit Hezbollah. That is a weak position since it fails to distinguish between the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) and the STL. Most of the complaints by Hezbollah and its allies tend to be related to the Mehlis era of the UNIIIC when the STL had not been created yet.

So what is to be done at this point? Should the claims by Nasrallah be totally dismissed or should they be taken into consideration. I believe that under different circumstances these accusations could be dismissed but it would be a grave error to do so under the current set of circumstances that is prevalent in Lebanon. This does not mean that the STL should be discredited but neither does it mean that a major proportion of Lebanese society should be allowed to feel slighted and treated unfairly. There is an elegant solution which rests on the formation of a special Lebanese Judicial commission to study all the details that Mr. Nasrallh has voiced and then refer its conclusions to the STL.

Such a move will be within the current statutes of the STL in general and Article 4 in particular which does not preclude such investigations provided that the results of these inquiries are referred to the STL. Under such circumstances the rule of law would have been preserved, both sides would have had their say, the Lebanese factions will accept the final rulings of the STL and then we will have this sordid affair behind us. What is crucial is to preserve the principal that the evidence leads to a determination and that in the field of law there is no place for deciding on an outcome first and then look for evidence to support that hypothesis. There is no place for reverse engineering in the judicial system.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...
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prophet said...

Ghassan,
Thank you for a good piece. I Just don’t think it’s accommodations we’re looking for here. It’s the truth and maybe justice that is required here. I doubt we will have either. I’m not even sure our politician really want to know the truth either.
I still think the STL has to rebuild its reputation. I’m not sure most Lebanese can distinguish between the UNIIIC and the STL. So much has happened since the assassination of Hariri. The country went through so much turmoil. All political and sectarian leaders used the assassination of Hariri, to hold a stronger grip on their people, by means of scaring them of the other side.
Even during election campaign, some used the assassination to gain more votes. We almost had a civil war because of the false and political accusations, first against Syria, and then against the Syrian allies in Lebanon. The heads of four Lebanese security establishments went to Jail with out due process or any evidence against them. So much fabrications were taking place during the first stage of the investigations that most Lebanese distrust the whole process now.
I always thought Israel should be considered as a suspect. It had the motives, and the means to kill Hariri. I’m not one of those who blindly defends Syria at all, but I truly believe Syria had the most to loose .The same goes for HA. But again, what do I know? Lol

ghassan karam said...

Prophet,
Ideally we should not be , as a country, in this position. But the political leaders are always trying to game each and every opportunity for self interest and not for communal good.
Lebanon , I am afraid, will be sending a terrible message if it is to obstruct and dismiss international judicial rules especially when such special and unique institutions were set up in response to a Lebanese request; its laws written with Lebanese input to essentially apply Lebanese law with the help of Lebanese judges.
Some issues in the world ought to be sacrosanct. I never doubted your motive and of course Israel should be investigated if the evidence leads there. Any country should be investigated if the evidence leads there
Sometimes, as a result of the emotions and the heat of the battle if you will, participants in a discussionmake erroneous conclusions about the other side.In the same way that you have assured me that you are not a knee jerk defender of Syria let me assure you that I am not interested in defending any of the parties, none.I have serious problems with all of them
; Israel, Syria, Hezbollah and the whole Lebanese political system. My only interest has always been is the integrity of the principle, the system of rule of law. I can care less who is going to be indicted or whether anyone is to be indicted if the judicial system that we have fails to find out who was behind the crime.
Usually such sophisticated operations as the Hariri investigation are so well planned that the real truth will never be uncovered conclusively. The plausable deniability is built into these operations. What we can find out is who pulled the trigger but as we well know the foot soldiers often have no clue about the who is behind the operation and why it is being planned.
That is why there was no need in dragging this issue for five yearsduring which it has been used as a political football by both camps. Mr. Hariri is dead, we should try to learn about what happened but there is a state to be run and the welfare of 4.5 million people hangs in the balance.
It is crucial that we accept the findings ,not of the indictment but of the final court rulings and move on.

Prophet said...

Ghassan,
I really appreciate you taking the time and responding to my comment.
I share your concern for the 4.5 millions caught and dragged into this. I also share your sympathy for the lack of integrity in our political system, and for the disregard for the law and order.
I Find it much easier navigating through the crazy streets of NY City, than understanding Lebanon politicians and their hypocrisy.

 

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