Analysis: Lebanon needs both unity and justice

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By: James Zogby

Lebanon and its friends around the world are on edge waiting for indictments to be issued related to the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq al Hariri. The investigators working on this case are apparently nearing the completion of their inquiry and are preparing to submit their findings to the International Tribunal–possibly within a matter of days. Based on what are claimed to be “leaks”, there have been suggestions that the indictments will charge members of Hizbullah in the crime. In response, there has been a flurry of diplomatic activity in an effort to calm tensions, while Hizbullah, for its part, has paralyzed the work of the government and issued vague, and not so vague, threats saying that they will not allow any of their cadres to be charged. This has roiled the country with many fearing a return to civil strife or worse.

Before any more threats are issued, fingernails are bitten, or anti-anxiety pills are swallowed, let us consider a few points.

First, no one knows what the investigators may have found. We do not know whom they will indict or what evidence they will present to back up their findings. All that is being discussed right now are rumors, from a variety of questionable sources, based on information claiming to come from “leaks”.

Given this, it is not the Tribunal but the campaign to discredit the work of the investigators that must be questioned. How and why, we must ask, is there such an intense effort to denounce what we still don’t know? Since no one has yet been indicted, and the evidence is still unrevealed, mobilizing a campaign against the Tribunal is, at best, premature, and, at worst, risks raising suspicions about the motives of the campaigners, themselves.

It is important to also remember that indictments, when they are issued, are just that, indictments – not judgments or verdicts. The sealed work of the investigators will go to a pre-trial judge who will then take between six to eight weeks to review the findings and then make a determination as to whether or not they create sufficient grounds to merit prosecution. Only if the judge agrees to proceed will arrest warrants be issued. Note that it is only at this point that the names of those to be indicted may become official and public.

What should then follow is a trial at which time the prosecution will reveal the evidence on which the indictments have been based, and the indicted individuals will be able to contest all this – either by challenging the prosecution’s evidence or presenting evidence of their own in an effort to prove their innocence.

This is the process that should be followed. It is open, transparent and fair, providing justice for the society at large and guaranteeing the rights of the accused to confront and challenge in open court the charges against them.

Fearing the worst, there are those in Lebanon who suggest that the country cannot afford to allow the work of the Tribunal to proceed. They say that Lebanon must make a choice between unity and justice. This, I believe, is a false choice, since Lebanon must have both if it is to survive as a nation and flourish as a democracy. With the memory of Lebanon’s long war still too fresh to be forgotten, and with too many Lebanese leaders having been assassinated in just the past few decades, the threat of violence or bullying cannot be allowed to define the way the country resolves its disagreements. If Lebanon is to remain whole and prosper, it must put away threats and agree to resolve differences in public debate, through the ballot box, or in open court.

Our polling clearly establishes that most Lebanese, across factional and sectarian lines, agree. They seek national unity and reconciliation, and they demand justice for the killing of Rafiq al Hariri, those who lost their lives with him, and those who were murdered in the years that followed. The people are right.

The slogan “unity or justice” should be rejected as establishing a false dichotomy. Lebanon needs both.

Dr. James J. Zogby is the author of Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us, and Why it Matters (Palgrave Macmillan, October 2010) and the founder and president of the Arab American Institute (AAI), a Washington, D.C.-based organization which serves as the political and policy research arm of the Arab American community.

Huffingtonpost

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2 responses to “Analysis: Lebanon needs both unity and justice”

  1. PROPHET.T Avatar

    Mr. Zogby sounds like He’s been living on a different planet for the past five years.
    He does not seem to be aware of the fact that, during the last five years, the UNIIIC has gone through three different commissioners, and many contradicting reports. He does not seem to know that, the UNIIIC acted like Santa clause in the way it through accusations.
    First, all accusations were directed against Syria; All based on false accusations and discredited witnesses.
    Then, they accused the heads of the Lebanese security establishments; four generals were forced out of their jobs, and landed in jail, with no evidence or charges against them, for four years. All based on fabricated testimony by false witnesses.
    None of these seem to alert Mr. Zobey to any questions regarding the credibility of this investigation.
    Discredited witnesses, false accusations, dead-end investigations and three separate, failed prosecutors in 5 years, and Political influence from every western country don’t mean a thing to Mr. Zogby. None of that is worth mentioning !!!
    These Accusations, mostly unsubstantiated, have affected the whole political landscape. It altered the results of two national elections. It cost many lives. It divided the whole country into two camps. None of that is worth mentioning by Mr. Zogby!!
    Based on those accusations; some Lebanese leaders started sharpening their knifes to take revenge of Syrian leadership, from the four officers and their families,and from the whole opposition group, before they took an 180 degree turn and denounce the whole tribunal business as politicized.
    Hariri found out after five years that Syria was innocent, and made his Pilgrim to Damascus. Not to forget that He denounced all the “false witnesses “that damaged Lebanon’s relationship with Syria…..’False witnesses”? What are those? Do they exist? Who should we ask?
    Mr. Zogby does not realize that this is the land of the conspiracy theory. I won’t mention the wikileaks, and its revelations, which he elected to ignore.
    It’s very simplistic ,and naïve to say; let’s wait for the indictment to come out, and then judge. The indictment is out already. The evidence based on Cellular records,
    Telephone company infiltrated at highest levels which means “Evidence” compromised ,or fabricated.
    Mr. Zogby should know that most Lebanese, fairly or not, believe that this investigation has lost its credibility long before it reached any conclusions. In the old days, when a girls lost her virginity, she was done; now days, it can at least be explained.
    If a UN established tribunal allows four security officers to be jailed with no charges against them, some thing is wrong is here.
    If this tribunal accuses Syria for four years of committing a crime with no evidence, something is wrong.
    If this tribunal, and most likely is, bows to pressure from members of the UN Security Council, some thing is wrong.
    This tribunal has wasted every opportunity to salvage its credibility.
    People have the right to question this tribunal and the way it conducted its investigation.
    Mr. Zogby dismisses all published information about the case, as leaks. How naïve is that from some one like Mr., Zobgy? Don’t know how much faith Lebanese have in the UN and its resolutions? Do you really think Lebanese would bet much on the UN?

  2. PROPHET.T Avatar

    Mr. Zogby sounds like He’s been living in a different planet for the past five years.
    He does not seem to be aware of the fact that , during the last five years , the UNIIIC has gone through three different commissioners ,and many contradicting reports . He does not seem to know that, the UNIIIC acted like Santa clause in the way it through accusations. Accusations against Syria, and against the heads of the Lebanese security establishments, who ended up in jail with no charges against them for four years. None of these seem to alert Mr. Zobey to any questions regarding the credibility of this investigation .Accusations, mostly false, which affected the whole political landscape for four years. He does not seem to know that this tribunal has acted upon false testimony to jail the four officers, and yet it has protected those witnesses.
    Mr Zogby does not realize that this is the land of the conspiracy theory. I won’t mention the wikileaks, which he elected to ignore.
    I understand that in a democracy, the scenario Mr. Zogby outlined is the ideal and proper one to follow in a criminal case, given that the investigation’s integrity is intact. Some one need to tell Mr. Zogby that most Lebanese, fairly or not, believe that this investigation has lost its credibility long before it reached any conclusions.
    If a UN born tribunal allows four security officers to be jailed with no charges against them, some thing is wrong is here. If this tribunal accuses Syria for four years of committing a crime wit no evidence, something is wrong. If this tribunal ,and most likely is, bows to pressure from members of the UN security council, some thing is wrong with its credibility and independence.
    This tribunal has wasted every opportunity to salvage its credibility.
    People have the right to question this tribunal and the way it conducted its investigation.
    Mr. Zogby dismisses all information published about the case as leaks. How naïve is that from some one like Mr., Zobgy? Come on Mr. Zogby, THE INDICTEMNT IS OUT ALREADY

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