Thursday, June 30, 2011

STL Indictments

The Lebanese public life has been held captive to all sorts of speculations regarding whether the STL will ever conclude its investigations and issue indictments in the case of the assassination of Rafic Hariri, a former Lebanese Prime Minister. Over the years there have been leaks, false witnesses, some more leaks, numerous speeches by Hassan Nasrallah , the secretary general of Hezbollah, accusing the STL of being a Zionist conspiracy, an American plot hatched by the CIA, some other assassinations and obviously some more leaks. Even the UN appointed chief investigator prosecutor has changed three times.

Well finally, just as Le Figaro and Der Spiegel had predicted years ago, the 130 page indictment has been handed over to the Lebanese Prosecutor General along with the request to arrest 4 allegedly Hezbollah operatives. It is tempting to say that over the years many have written and speculated about practically every possible conceivable scenario and so it is time to just wait and see what is going to happen. Alas doing so would be similar to avoiding the proverbial elephant in the room since the STL has been the only topic of conversation in Lebanon as well as many other world capitals.

To avoid the topic until the judicial process has had enough time to issue indictments, hold trials and then pass judgments on the accused would have been the order of business in any country that is informed by the concept of “the rule of law” but sadly not in Lebanon where this all important concept is alien.

So what is next and what is the expected time frame? It is very likely that as you are reading this column the STL would be handing its Syrian indictments in Damascus and releasing the names of the Syrian indictees. It is widely believed that the plot to assassinate Rafic Hariri had to have at least high level clearance from the Syrian authorities who were exercised tight control over all aspects of life in Lebanon. Some would even claim that the Syrian role was that of instigator of this sordid affair. The actual planning was carried through by the four individuals already named and indicted in Lebanon. It is also expected that there will be also a long list of foot soldiers/grunts who actually implemented the plan. This means that you should expect the final number of indicted people to be quite large, say over 25.

The Lebanese government was the one who requested the formation of the STL and is the one that had pledged its full support and cooperation with the STL. Actually most of the law used by the STL is based on Lebanese law although the court itself is in The Hague. Hezbollah was part of the cabinet that had initially asked for the establishment of the STL and the previous cabinet that had promised total cooperation with it. But when it became clear that the investigation is moving towards an indictment of individuals connected to Hezbollah the party embarked on a scorched earth policy of vilifying the STL at every possible moment.

Hezbollah has seldom acted as if laws mattered, whether it was the call to disband its military wing, hand over its illegal communication network or allow the Lebanese authorities into its geographic areas. Hezbollah has not shied away from flexing its military muscle to blackmail and intimidate. The latest such incident took place around six months ago when they forced the resignation of the cabinet headed by Sa’ad Hariri and were able to put together a thin majority to nominate Najib Mikati whose cabinet has not won the parliamentary vote of confidence yet. That is expected to take place within the next fortnight otherwise the cabinet will become a care taker one. I mention all of this since many believe that the major reason why the old cabinet was forced out of office; constitutionally; and why a new PM was designated but cabinet formation has not been facilitated is essentially the STL. The previous cabinet had a clear cut obligation to cooperate with the STL while the current cabinet does not have such an obligation so far. I would even suggest that the state of limbo serves HA rather well. It would be much easier for them and their allies to claim that since there is no government then no one is in a position to deliver on the promises of the previous Lebanese cabinet.

Things however could get out of hand and rather quickly. Lebanon has only 30 days to act upon the indictments. If the Lebanese government fails to live up to its international obligations under UNSCR 1757 which was passed under chapter VII then the international community will be in a position to force compliance through sanctions and other means.

It is my considered opinion that Hezbollah is playing a game of chicken that can only backfire on Lebanon if Hezbollah is allowed to proceed with its obfuscations and charades. Hezbollah is acting like a vigilante group who believes that they are always right and that they are above the law. That is a recipe for disaster potentially for Lebanon as a result of the uncertainty and political instability that could result. This misguided policy will also lead eventually to the weakening and even marginalization of the party. If that does occur then that would be the silver lining in this gathering storm.


Prophet said...

For years , people have been asking us,including you, to disregard all leaks and speculations,and not to judge the STL until it hands out its findings , and issue an official indictmennt. Now that it did, It proved that for the first time all
speculations and leaks about a certain case turned out to be "facts" ,and all leaks were intentional.

Der Spiegel told us-Not Predicted as you prefer – that it was Hezbollah who killed Rafik hariri, So did Le Monde. Even Israeli intelligence “told us “ that it was HA,and even named names, who murdered Hariri. If My memory does not fail me, The kuaiti paper Alsyassa,and the Saudi alshrk-al awssat ,both have printed many details way before the investigation was under way.
There is no surprise in this indictment ;It’s been out publically for years. I’ not sure what the fuzz is about .
As you have indicated, even the prosecutor had to be changed three times. The accused were changed few times. First It had to be Syria, and then it had to be the heads of Lebanon’s security establishments-who were jailed based on false witnesses-,and finally It had to be what der Speigel told us, that it is HA. I won’t be surprised if Iran isn’t brought in as a the mastermind of Hariri’s murder.
All of that raised ,and especially now, continues to raise questions about the integrity and secrecy of this whole investigation.
You and I have agreed to disagree on the STL long time ago, and don’t expect you to agree with me now. But it is worth noting that the timing of the release of the indictment is also intentional. politics was, and continues to play a major role in this whole process.
That being said, I predict that this indictment will go no where, except for being used as a political tool to pressure Iran ,Syria, and HA to change their positions on issues that are at the table between the united states and Iran and Syria.
Although , the pressure and the reaction of various Lebanese parties and sects might instigate trouble on the streets, I think it will maintain minimal ,and will be controlled since no one wants to have a civil war.
At the end of day, regardless what Nassrallah Says today, we will see HA lawyers ,in due time, at the international court defending their accused soldiers.

IHTDA said...

I have decided not to form any opinion on the STL till more details are presented. But in your argument (and many others) you discredit an investigation because of leaks. I find this strange because if that's the case then any suspect in any trial can leak information about himself and then claim that the trial is unfair and the charges should be dismissed.
Having said that, the bribery allegations are serious and should be investigated with transparency.

ghassan karam said...

I have repeatedly argued that we should see the process through since that is an essential part of how a civilized society operates.
The leaks that Le Figaro spoke of even prior to Der Spiegel turned out to be true. A leak should not be held against the process. Actually , at times leaks are very beneficial in uncovering attempts to cover up wrong doings.
My only concern has been and continues to be about letting the process go forward irrespective of ones personal feelings about the case, irrespective of whether we approve of the hariris or not and irrespective of whether one agrees with the ideology of HA or not.
My disagreement with SHN in this case are limited to his continuous attempts at defying the state from aerving warrants orperforming its job. SHN has the right to marshall all sorts of legal resources to defend the accused but he has no right to act as a vigilante who believes that he is above the law simply because he has the biggest gun.

ghassan karam said...

You read my mind about the response to those that wish to throw away the baby with the dirty water.
It is also ironic how many of the individuals who are willing to discredit an institution based on leaks are often the same ones who were in support of Wkileaks:-)

Prophet said...

Ghassan, IHTDA,
I posted my earlier comment before SHN made his speech. My last paragraph is clear on this point. I stand by prediction that HA will eventually defend its people in the same court they discredit now.
In civilized society, where people are supposed to take responsibility for their actions, an investigation must maintain its credibility. In this case, the credibility was tainted many times by the investigators themselves, and by the actions and the inactions of the people running the process. whether by the earlier rush to judgment, or the jailing of for officers unfairly , or the legality of the process itself, the results are the same, tainted investigation which would end up with a tainted results ,and the truth will be lost for ever.
Enjoy your forth, ready for some food and fireworks myself.. Peace all


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