Yes, The Special Tribunal Can Accomodate Both Sides.


By Ghassan Karam

It has been obvious for a while that the case against the perpetrators in the former Prime Minister Hariri 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 rests is circumstantial, evidence that 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. This was the explicit material evidence presented by Mr. Nasrallah in addition to the important implicit evidence that he has only alluded to. Mr. Nasrallah has 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 UNIIIC and the STL. Most of the complaints by Hezbollah and its allies tend to be related to the Mehlis aera of the UNIIIC and 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 doe s 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, 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 culling through the evidence to support that hypothesis. There is no place for reverse engineering in the judicial system.



17 responses to “Yes, The Special Tribunal Can Accomodate Both Sides.”

  1. Jonathan Hall Avatar
    Jonathan Hall

    A very good suggestion. Contemplating the possible consequences that flow from many people viewing the STL as illegitimate has been a bit depressing, so a constructive solution for trying to gain some credibility is much wanted. Although both the formation and the work of such a commission would come under painfully politicized media scrutiny, at least it wouldn’t be tasked with any final judgements. The problem for Hizbullah, however, is that, having taken such a strong stance against the Tribunal, they can’t easily begin to cooperate with it, and such a step would be highly cooperative.

    1. Jonathan Hall,

      Nothing is going to be easy. Nasrallah has toned down his opposition to the STL by suggesting that he is only showing evidence that if used could change the trajectory of the investigation. I read that as a willingness to find a way to cooperate.The suggestion by Minister Harb and PM Hariri and even Bellmare are steps in the right direction.

  2. Sebouh,

    A court of law is expected to review the evidence and make an assessment what is relevant and what is not. If each side is to stress that the court should vioew things its own way then there will never be an acceptable solution to anything.

  3. VOICE OF TRUTH Avatar

    ya ghassan,

    “there is an elegant solution which rests on the formation of a special lebanese judicial commission to study all the details…”

    “allou ma metet ma shift min met???”

    what kind of lebanese commission are you talking about, that will have the guts to study the details presented regarding the hariri assasination case and take a stand on the validity of each one separately????

    ghassan, i see no problem at all with your suggestion if you were absolutely sure of heznallah”s innocense and could make a solid case against the israelis. that would actually diffuse all the tensions and present the least damaging solution for the country.

    but on the other hand, which commission, composed by whom in lebanon, after reviewing all the details, would dare to issue any findings or recommendations pertaining to the hariri assasination if those findings short of accusing hizballah did not help their case in any shape or form???

    the corrupt and weak lebanese judiciary to start with, is the mother of all the problems plagueing lebanon since…well before the inception of lebanon.

    from the start and soon after the assasination happened, the lebanese government with its judiciary institutions were glad to dump such a sensitive and critical case on the stl, whose hq happened to be in europe for security reasons, knowing fully they will never reach the level of competency of an international tribunal appointed by the un and that no matter what they do, they will always be accused of being partially motivated by one side or another.

    1. Voice of Truth,

      I think that you are missing the point. What is being suggested is the need for a development that will remove the threat of sedition by offering the party that feels left out a credible way of integrating its voice. A commission does not start from scratch. It will look into the allegations that important evidence has been overlooked. This commission will refer its work to the STL and the STL will have the final say.

      What is interesting is that it looks like the position of the Hariri government is practically the same thing. They are suggesting that the STL gets the info from HA so that they can review it.

  4. VOICE OF TRUTH Avatar


    i absolutely agree with you on the second paragraph; the stl should keep its mind open and preferably receive all recent infos pertaining to the hariri case straight from the source be it from h/a if they collected it or whomever collected it first hand, without intermediaries

    and keep the analysis and synthesis under its supervision.

    you surely know what happens when information is passed from one hand to another.

  5. “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 mere fact that he KNOWS he has this tool “THREATEN his own people”….he will always use it when it suites him. This is why a country with two armies will NEVER work and is a ticking time bomb!

    1. Sami,

      You will get no argument frm me on this issue. I have always, for yeaqrs, maintained the incompatability of a democratic state and illegitimate militia.

  6. I agree with you Ghassan,for one cannot argue on this issue!This is the problem!No state can function properly with an armed group that acts like a state itself with its own policies and strategies!

  7. right now we have a demotatorship country until HA dismantles which will hopefully be in the near future that we will once again become a democratic country.

    the LAF and israeli incident showed that HA was playing ball with lebanons guidelines.

    HA’s evidence was not convincing though so maybe now that the STL said it will study HA’s evidence, HA needs to strengthen its evidence if any cos that monologue was frankly disappointing.

    i wonder if the STL will eventually interrogate any israeli spies caught at the time of harriri’s murder.

  8. Jean Haddad Avatar
    Jean Haddad

    Sorry to jump in, but there is a reason why Nasrallah has softened his position avoiding civil strife as it is not in Hezballah interest to get them out in our streets. Remember the enemy is next door waiting for an occasion of an internal disturbance. To look into the evidences presented by hezballah this will drag the investigtions toward long roadtrip that will lead us nowhere. At the end of the day STL still has 2 options: original plan or interrogating Israelis. Whatever the response from STL probably will never satisfy hezballah. Having Said that, it is question of gaining time, slowing the STL process, calming the lebanese people as Hezballah is a national unit and they are will to collaborate then definetly avoiding a civil strife. but my question is what does it look like the second epiosde of this crisis? I beleive the long term goal of Hezballah are much bigger than STL indictment or whatsover. NO matter how mcuh Hezballah composed of Lebanese and aim to defend lebanon as they say. Is still the Iranian card are on their top list.

    Thanks For George Bush in promoting Iran after eliminating Saddam.

    1. Jean,

      I share your suspicion of whether Iran is the major actor behind the scene when it comes to Hezbollah but no matter we have an opportunity to calm the domestic tensions by allowing both sides to vent and I think that we should take advantage of it.

      As far as Bush, Saddam etc.. these are the the unplanned consequences of most major acts.

  9. Jean Haddad Avatar
    Jean Haddad

    Ghassan, thanks

    my issue has always been the outcomes in the long term which it worries me the most. It sounds like someone is sentencned to death penalty but we don’t know when it would happen but probably he will die bedore it incurs from thinking. The worst thing we live is this mental fatigue. We are damn tired.

    1. jean i absolutely share your frustration and ghassan you as well as we always have to look at all possibilites in politics. nothing is as plain as it seems.

      i do believe though at the end of the day, the lebanese will not allow for extreme thinking and they might actually ban the veil like syria did just to avoid extremism from knocking on our doors. iran in lebanon will become a toned down version of theiran in iran. it will never be allowed to show its true self.

      just an opinion.

  10. “This is why a country with two armies will NEVER work and is a ticking time bomb!”

    Two armies is better than NONE, especially when the neighbor takes others lands..

    I would take three armies that fight better than one that does not!! In a divided country, two armies works when they both fight the same enemy.

    The real enemy is the shadow of colonial hegemony that stalks every facet of Lebanese life.

  11. Lebanon is ALWAYS the victim.. It has been that way since at least the 70’s when I was there and began paying notice of their plight.. Weak and defenseless, it is open season on Lebanon for the stronger.. Lebanon never seems to be included in any treaty and when Israel attacked Lebanon in 2006 the army hid in the barracks… Don’t blame them though, Israel had total air dominance. What were they [anyone] to do as Israel bombed their men, women and children and destroyed their country with their American made weapons. Lebanon has no deterrence against the murderous neighbor who can kill her citizens and wreck the infrastructure at will. Worse still, Israel sees wrecking havoc on Lebanon as establishing their own deterrence against her real and potential adversaries.. As things currently stand, only a well stockpiled nuclear adversary could moderate the behavior of Israel. Why does Israel conduct behavior that makes her neighbors covet a nuclear deterrent to her deadly and costly temper tantrums? Lebanon has no stomach for the fight and will continue to be Israel’s hapless victim until some modicum of balance returns.

  12. prophet Avatar

    I agree with Ghassan’s suggestion that a commission looks into the information HA leader presented.

    HA leader hinted to a commission, in one form or another, during his press conference.

    He said something to the effect that he wanted the government to look into the information he was presenting. He didn’t trust the STL, but He indirectly hinted that this information should be presented, by the Lebanese authorities, to the STL. That also was a clear signal that HA would consider cooperating, if STL showed a sign of seriousness by considering the information presented by Nasralla, and thus seriously looks in the possibility of Israel’s involvement in Hariri’s murder. HA might me putting the STL into a test before deciding to cooperate directly.

    Ghassan’s suggestion is very similar to what Nassralah indirectly asked for.

    He asked for some kind of committee. He said either a Parliamentary or Judicial commission to study this information.

    Another demand He had, was the examination of what is widely known as, the false witnesses.

    The Government, in its first meeting after his press conference, asked the justice minister to look into this issue, and present a report on his findings.

    It was no accident that HA ministers and their allies didn’t object to having the (LF) Justice minster looking into an issue, which HA leader himself demanded. Again, this could be a test to the government and to the justice department.

    Your suggestion of forming such a committee might be in the works already.

    There are already speculative media reports predicting the expected indictment to be just another routine report instead of an actual indictment.

    If your suggestion becomes a reality, then those media reports might turn out to be true that it’s just a report, and not an indictment yet. It would mean that the STL indictment will be delayed until further notice.

    I’m either, desperately optimistic, or just falling for the wishful thinking Fantasy, that things are being worked out behind closed doors by regional, and international players.

    If Special commission is to be formed, judicial commission or parliamentary one,

    Wouldn’t be a good idea for such a commission to be headed by the president himself? I say the president for many reasons. One simple reason; the Lebanese justice body is bruised by corruption, impotency, and influence of various poetical parties along with many other accusations. That makes it a not-so-trust-worthy institution to handle such a task. The president is a person, so far, trusted by most factions.

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