Why Lebanon’s Rafik Hariri tribunal must be funded until it completes its mandate

Pictures of slain former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, national flags and lighting candles are seen during a demonstration held by some 200 lebanese protesters in downtown Athens. (AFP/File Photo)
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Pictures of slain former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, national flags and lighting candles are seen during a demonstration held by some 200 lebanese protesters in downtown Athens. (AFP/File Photo)
Why Lebanon’s Rafik Hariri tribunal must be funded until it completes its mandate
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Updated 06 June 2021

Why Lebanon’s Rafik Hariri tribunal must be funded until it completes its mandate

Pictures of slain former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri, national flags and lighting candles are seen during a demonstration held by some 200 lebanese protesters in downtown Athens. (AFP/File Photo)
  • The STL was launched in 2009 to prosecute those behind the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri
  • Closing the tribunal could have dangerous implications for Lebanon and international criminal justice as a whole

NEW YORK CITY / BEIRUT: With the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) facing a severe financial crisis and the threat of imminent shutdown, it is imperative to highlight the significance of its recent judgment and the critical importance of permitting the tribunal to complete its mandate.

Shutting down the STL now, on the eve of its second major trial, would send a wrong and dangerous message with implications for international criminal justice as a whole and especially for Lebanon.

Amid the continuing assassinations in Lebanon and the region, the STL is a unique demonstration of how a rules-based international order can act through multilateral initiatives as a force for justice.

Such an institution would be difficult to create today, with tit-for-tat vetoes paralyzing decisions at the UN Security Council. Shutting the STL down, therefore, would be an irreversible decision, and the resulting damage would be unthinkable.

A new generation in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and around the region is calling for justice and accountability from its leadership and the international community. Backing the tribunal and the completion of its mandate supports these aspirations for a better future.

Read the full report on Arab News Research & Studies by clicking here

The STL is needed more than ever and we should be discussing its expansion rather than its closure. It is the first tribunal of its kind to consider terrorism as an international crime. Trillions have been spent to battle terrorism; the international community cannot balk at a few million for the only instrument it has to fight terror legally.

The STL issued its judgment on Aug. 18, 2020, more than 15 years after former prime minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination and just two weeks after the deadly Aug. 4 port blast. The judgment convicted Salim Ayyash, but stopped short of blaming Hezbollah or the Syrian government.

While the verdict was found lacking and largely ignored in Lebanon, there have been continuous calls for international support to achieve justice and accountability for the many unaddressed crimes committed in the country, including the port explosion.




Wreaths adorn the grave of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri (portrait), on the ninth anniversary of his death, in Beirut on February 14, 2014. (AFP/File Photo)

The STL judgment takes Lebanon down the path of accountability, and needs to be properly interpreted and seen in the context of the tribunal’s creation by the UN Security Council. A clear understanding of the process of international criminal justice, its limits as well as the specific restrictions placed on the STL, are essential in evaluating the importance of the judgment.

Disappointment with the verdict is based on a combination of unrealistic expectations, a lack of understanding of its rigorous procedures, as well as legitimate concerns about the narrowness of its mandate and the length of time it took to reach the judgment.

Read the full report on Arab News Research & Studies by clicking here

There is also confusion between the three separate objectives of truth, justice and accountability. The STL can only partially achieve these within the constraints of its mandate, rules and the rigour of its procedures. But that does not diminish the significance of its findings and the power of its verdict.

Fifteen years after the Hariri assassination, justice delayed was viewed as justice denied; truth was partial as only one individual was convicted; and accountability as well as justice without his arrest is unachievable.

INNUMBERS

* 51% - STL funding by donor countries.

* 49% - Funding by Lebanon government.

These criticisms of the outcome also reflect the challenges that the STL has faced from the time of its formation to the issuing of the judgment. The result was seen as a failure to measure up to the sacrifices the Lebanese made to obtain it.

The multifaceted and severe crisis that the country is going through — an upheaval dramatically exacerbated by the Beirut blast — has also overshadowed the significance of the STL judgment, but ignoring the verdict will have serious negative repercussions and it is imperative to grasp the opportunity it provides.

The creation of the STL was achieved against all odds. There was domestic, regional and international opposition to the tribunal from the start.

In view of the scale of suffering during the Lebanese civil war for which no one has ever been held accountable and the dozens of political assassinations throughout the country’s history, it was indeed difficult to argue that the assassination of one man warranted such an expensive and complex legal instrument.

Read the full report on Arab News Research & Studies by clicking here

Among the challenges were also those of defining terrorism under international law and justifying trials in absentia with the knowledge that there was little chance of arresting the perpetrators even if convicted. There was also grave concern that the STL would create far more instability and with fewer tangible results than other similar tribunals.

With hindsight and given the current climate in international relations, the STL was an immense achievement and a sophisticated contribution to the field of international criminal justice.




The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) facing a severe financial crisis and the threat of imminent shutdown. (Supplied)

Lebanese protesters demanded “the truth” in 2005 after the Hariri assassination. In simpler and less controversial terms, they wanted to know who did it.

The STL provided the answer — the terrorist attack that killed 22 people, badly injured more than 200 and devastated a significant part of Beirut was carried out by a well-organized and disciplined group of individuals. The next case will also examine the connections between this and other assassinations.

The judgment, which is publicly available on the tribunal’s website, consists of 2,641 pages of important and judicially tested facts about Lebanon’s recent past. This is much more than any historian, investigative journalist or political analyst usually has at their disposal to form an opinion.

Read the full report on Arab News Research & Studies by clicking here

Like the findings of the Yugoslav tribunal, the STL judgment is incredibly important for Lebanon because it is a treasure trove of information about what happened not only on Feb. 14, 2005, but also in the months and years during the period referred to as Pax Syriana.

The tribunal’s rigorous process also means that every fact mentioned in the report is undeniable and established “beyond reasonable doubt.”




Three of the sons of slain Lebanese former prime minister Rafik Hariri (from L to R): Ayman, Saad and Bahaa arrive Feb. 19 2005 at the site of the massive explosion in which their father was killed along with 14 people in central Beirut. (AFP/File Photo)

This makes the report far more important politically than the judgment itself and, in parallel, can deliver significant political results, ultimately leading to the establishment of accountability as a principle for the first time in the region.

The truth can be hard to deal with, and every society has its own way of working with difficult memories and episodes in its history. Lebanon has a culture of “moving on,” a deeply ingrained idea that what is past is past.

But the truth obtained through a process such as the STL cannot be brushed under the carpet or denied, and dealing with it is bound to make society stronger.

What happens in Lebanon never stays in Lebanon but has repercussions around an entire region suffering from similar assassinations and terrorist crimes.


East Libya forces say 2 helicopters crashed, killing 2

East Libya forces say 2 helicopters crashed, killing 2
Updated 32 sec ago

East Libya forces say 2 helicopters crashed, killing 2

East Libya forces say 2 helicopters crashed, killing 2
  • The self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces said the helicopters collided in the air over the village of Msus
  • The crash came as they have been battling Chadian fighters in Libya’s southern areas on the border with Chad
CAIRO: Forces loyal to a powerful Libyan commander said two military planes crashed on Sunday over a village in eastern Libya, killing at least two officers.
The self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces, led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar, said the helicopters collided in the air over the village of Msus, 130 kilometers (81 miles) southeast of the city of Benghazi.
A two-officer crew, including Brig. Gen. Bouzied Al-Barrasi, was killed in the crash, while the second helicopter crew survived, the forces said in a brief statement. It did not give the cause of the crash and said the helicopters were on a military mission.
Mohammad Younes Menfi, head of Libya’s Presidential Council, mourned the two officers.
Haftar’s forces control eastern and most of southern Libya. The crash came as they have been battling Chadian fighters in Libya’s southern areas on the border with Chad.
The clashes erupted last week and could further destabilize the wider Sahel region, after Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno was killed in April in battels between his government and Chadian rebels.

Erdogan to meet Greek Kyriakos Mitsotakis next week

Erdogan to meet Greek Kyriakos Mitsotakis next week
Updated 20 September 2021

Erdogan to meet Greek Kyriakos Mitsotakis next week

Erdogan to meet Greek Kyriakos Mitsotakis next week
  • Regional rivals have been at odds over a host of maritime issues in the Mediterranean and migration

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that he would meet Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly next week in New York.

The NATO members and regional rivals have been at odds over a host of maritime issues in the Mediterranean and migration.
Mitsotakis said on Friday that Turkey was an important partner in tackling any new migration challenge to Europe and needed support.
Speaking at a news conference before departing for New York, Erdogan said Turkey, which hosts some 4 million refugees — most of whom are Syrians — was “suffering the biggest burden and the heaviest downsides” of migration, adding that Turkey would take the necessary steps if its counterparts did not.
The Turkey’s president also said his country was ready for talks with Armenia but added Yerevan needed to take steps toward opening a controversial transport link through its territory.
Armenia and Turkey never established diplomatic relations and their shared border has been closed since the 1990s.
The ties have deteriorated due to Turkey’s support for its regional ally Azerbaijan, which fought with Armenia last year for control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
But earlier this month, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said Yerevan was prepared to hold discussions on repairing relations with Ankara.
“If he (Pashinyan) would like to meet with Tayyip Erdogan, then certain steps should be taken,” Erdogan said.
He was referring to the creation of a transit corridor that would have to go through Armenia to connect Azerbaijan to its Nakchivan enclave that borders Turkey and Iran.
“We are not closed to talks (with Armenia), we will hold the talks,” Erdogan said.
“I hope that not a negative but a positive approach will prevail there,” he said. “God willing, the problem between Azerbaijan and Armenia will be overcome with the opening of the corridors.”


Morocco’s Justice and Development Party decries ‘violations’ at polls

Abdellatif Ouahbi, president of Morocco's Authenticity and Modernity party (C), gives a speech after his party came in second in parliamentary and local elections, in Rabat on September 9, 2021. (AFP)
Abdellatif Ouahbi, president of Morocco's Authenticity and Modernity party (C), gives a speech after his party came in second in parliamentary and local elections, in Rabat on September 9, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2021

Morocco’s Justice and Development Party decries ‘violations’ at polls

Abdellatif Ouahbi, president of Morocco's Authenticity and Modernity party (C), gives a speech after his party came in second in parliamentary and local elections, in Rabat on September 9, 2021. (AFP)
  • Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has named businessman Aziz Akhannouch to lead a new government after his National Rally of Independents, considered close to the palace, thrashed the Justice and Development Party, winning 102 seats

RABAT: Morocco’s moderate Islamist Justice and Development Party, which was thrashed at last week’s elections, on Sunday denounced “violations and irregularities” at the polls.
The party had headed Morocco’s governing coalition for a decade but saw its support collapse at the Sept. 8 vote, dropping from 125 of parliament’s 395 seats to just 13.
Local elections held the same day confirmed the party’s crushing defeat.
The party “denounces the violations and irregularities” at the polls, including “massive use of money,” “manipulation of reports” and “names crossed off the electoral lists or appearing twice,” it said in a statement following Saturday’s extraordinary session of the party’s national council.
These “forms of electoral corruption ... led to the announcement of results that do not reflect the substance of the political map and the free will of the voters,” the statement added.
Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit has said the voting process took “under normal circumstances” apart from isolated incidents.

SPEEDREAD

• Interior Minister Abdelouafi Laftit says the voting process took ‘under normal circumstances’ apart from isolated incidents.

• On voting day, the Islamists had alleged ‘serious irregularities,’ including ‘obscene cash handouts’ near polling stations and ‘confusion’ on some electoral rolls, with some voters finding they were not listed.

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has named businessman Aziz Akhannouch to lead a new government after his National Rally of Independents, considered close to the palace, thrashed the Justice and Development Party, winning 102 seats.
On voting day, the Islamists had alleged “serious irregularities,” including “obscene cash handouts” near polling stations and “confusion” on some electoral rolls, with some voters finding they were not listed.
The National Rally of Independents has started coalition talks, but the Justice and Development Party has announced that it would switch to its “natural” position as the opposition.
The party “is at an important turning point,” outgoing secretary-general Saad-Eddine El-Othmani said Saturday at the party’s closed-door meeting.

 


Iranian oil fails to end Lebanon’s fuel wars

Lebanese police stand guard in front of the central bank building, where anti-government demonstrators protest against the deepening financial crisis, in Beirut. (AP/File)
Lebanese police stand guard in front of the central bank building, where anti-government demonstrators protest against the deepening financial crisis, in Beirut. (AP/File)
Updated 20 September 2021

Iranian oil fails to end Lebanon’s fuel wars

Lebanese police stand guard in front of the central bank building, where anti-government demonstrators protest against the deepening financial crisis, in Beirut. (AP/File)
  • Lebanon has not asked for fuel from Iran, says PM Mikati
  • Maronite patriarch calls on government to end the smuggling of Iranian fuel from Syria

BEIRUT: Armed men opened fire at a gas station in the Bekaa valley on Sunday and threatened to kill the owner as Lebanon’s fuel wars continued to spiral out of control.

The incident in the town of Beit Chama came amid long queues at gas stations, frequent power cuts and a 20-liter canister of gasoline selling on the black market for 500,000 pounds ($327) when the official price is 180,000 pounds.

The fuel shortage has not been eased by the arrival last week of tanker trucks of diesel from Iran, smuggled across the border from Syria in a deal brokered by Hezbollah in breach of US sanctions. A third tanker is at sea on its way from Iran to the Syrian port of Baniyas.

Neither the arrival of Iraqi fuel to Electricité du Liban nor that of Iranian diesel has yielded positive results yet.

In his Sunday sermon, Maronite patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi denounced the smuggling of Iranian fuel from Syria. “The state cannot be built on practices or positions that contradict its entity and institutions,” he said.

Al-Rahi said the new government under Prime Minister Najib Mikati should “work as a united national team to stop the collapse and confront the continuous attack attempts against the state and its democratic system.”

“The state cannot be built on practices or positions that contradict its entity and institutions,” he said, adding that the recent entry of fuel tankers and the obstruction of the investigation into the Beirut Port explosion were “among such practices.”

Al-Rahi expressed the hope that the new government would “work as a united national team to stop the collapse and confront the continuous attack attempts against the state and its democratic system.”

He urged the government to “carry out reforms, mobilize the financial and economic cycle, solve the fuel and electricity crises, and close the smuggling crossings on the border.”
The state cannot be built on practices or
positions that contradict its entity and institutions.
Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi
Lebanese Maronite Patriarch

Meanwhile, Mikati dismissed fears that Lebanon faced US penalties for breaching US sanctions by importing Iranian oil.

“The Lebanese government didn’t approve this … so I don’t believe it would be subject to sanctions,” Mikati told CNN on Saturday in response to a question about Hezbollah bringing Iranian fuel into Lebanon

“I am saddened by the lack of Lebanese sovereignty," he said.

A source close to Mikati told Arab News on Sunday: “The state of Lebanon has not asked Iran for fuel. This position had been officially expressed and has not changed.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh commented on Mikati’s statements to CNN, saying on Sunday that sending Iranian fuel to Lebanon “happened according to a standard purchase process by Lebanese merchants. If the Lebanese government also wants to buy fuel from Iran, we would be happy to oblige.”

HIGHLIGHTS

 

• On Monday, PM Mikati’s government is expected to receive parliament’s vote of confidence with approximately 100 votes out of 128. It is expected that a vote of no confidence will be limited to the MPs of the Lebanese Forces bloc and several independent MPs.

• The Lebanese are still floundering with a series of never-ending crises, the foremost of which is the fuel crisis. Long queues at gas stations have remained the same, and the power rationing hours have not improved either.

On Monday, Mikati’s government is expected to receive parliament’s vote of confidence with approximately 100 votes out of 128. It is expected that a vote of no confidence will be limited to the MPs of the Lebanese Forces bloc and several independent MPs.

Politicians, meanwhile, were preoccupied with the repercussions of Halliburton winning a contract to explore oil and gas in the disputed maritime border area between Lebanon and Israel.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to “take urgent and immediate action before the Security Council and the international community to verify the possibility of a new Israeli attack on Lebanese sovereignty and rights because any exploration contract with Halliburton or other companies in the disputed area undermines the framework agreement sponsored by the US and the UN.”

Lebanese-Israeli negotiations over the disputed area were held under US auspices and stopped in April after the Lebanese delegation insisted that negotiations start from Line 29 of the border, which enlarges the size of the disputed area to 2,290 km instead of 860 km.

This area was based on a map sent in 2011 to the UN, but Lebanon later considered this map to be based on wrong estimates, so it demanded an additional area of 1,430 square km, including parts of the Karish gas field, in which a Greek company works for Israel.

The current Lebanese proposal is known as Line 29, and Israel has accused Lebanon of obstructing negotiations by expanding the disputed area.


Syria’s defense chief meets Jordan’s army commander in Amman

Syria’s defense chief meets Jordan’s army commander in Amman
Updated 19 September 2021

Syria’s defense chief meets Jordan’s army commander in Amman

Syria’s defense chief meets Jordan’s army commander in Amman
  • Meeting was “to increase coordination in the field of border security”: Hala Akhbar news site
  • Petra said Huneiti and Ayoub discussed border situation in southern Syria and fighting terrorism

AMMAN: Syria’s defense minister met Sunday with Jordan’s army chief in Amman after after Syrian troops captured several rebel-held areas near Jordan’s border, state media reported.
The Hala Akhbar news site, which is linked to Jordan’s military, reported that the meeting between Jordanian Gen. Yousef Huneiti and Syrian Gen. Ali Ayoub was “to increase coordination in the field of border security to serve the interests of the two brotherly countries.”
The recent push by Syrian troops in the country’s south is the biggest since government forces captured wide areas along the border in 2018, including the Nassib border crossing.
The crossing with Jordan was reopened in 2018, months after it fell under Syrian government control. Syrian rebels had seized the site in 2015, severing a lifeline for the government in Damascus and disrupting a major trade route linking Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the oil-rich Gulf countries.
Ayoub’s visit came nearly two weeks after Syrian forces entered the rebel-held district of the volatile southern city of Daraa as part of a truce negotiated by Russia to end weeks of fighting. In the days that followed, Syrian troops captured rebel-held parts of several villages near Daraa.
The latest push by Syrian troops brings all parts of southern Syria under full government control.
Petra, Jordan’s state news agency, said Huneiti and Ayoub discussed border security, the situation in southern Syria, fighting terrorism and confronting narcotics smuggling.
Syrian state TV said the visit came at the invitation of Jordan’s army commander, adding that Ayoub was accompanied by top army officers. It said the talks focused on “fighting terrorism and border control.”
Jordan is a close Western ally and has long been seen as an island of stability in the turbulent Mideast. The kingdom hosts more than 650,000 Syrian refugees.
Earlier this month, ministers from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt said after meeting in Amman that Egyptian natural gas should reach Lebanon through Jordan and Syria as soon as next month, after maintenance of pipelines and the review of a deal interrupted 10 years ago.