Controversies of the Hariri Court

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There is a hue and cry in Lebanon and beyond because some known and unknown media have published partial or full lists of witnesses for the international Hariri tribunal. The tribunal is tottering, according to a headline of Al-Akhbar.

The circumstances of the formation of the tribunal are beyond dispute: it was a US-Israeli decision to punish the enemies of both countries. The Hariri family, a mere tool of the House of Saudi, could only follow orders. You will be hard-pressed to think of one initiative by Rafik Hariri or his descendants that was not the product of the Syrian or Saudi intelligence services or both (in coordination often with the US ambassador in Lebanon). The US wanted a tribunal in Lebanon as a tool of foreign policy, just as it did not want a tribunal in Pakistan (after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto) in order to save Gen. Musharraf. Wikileaks only exposed part of the ways in which the US interfered in every aspect of the court, just as the Hariri family prepared false witnesses who later were protected by pro-US regimes when their falsehood was exposed.

The court was formed in Lebanon during a time of deep political divisions. The US government ordered the Siniora government to produce bogus political documents, without even the token consent of the then-president of the republic to expedite the process. At first, the Siniora government lied to the Lebanese people by claiming that the court was not “international” per se but that it was of “an international dimension,” as if there is such a category in international law.

Recently, an anonymous Lebanese website published a long list of witnesses in the Hariri investigation and prosecution. Many names were known before, but many new names were added. Some Lebanese journalists criticized the practice of copying names from sites that are not verifiable. The spokesperson of the Hariri court, who usually likes to talk to the press without saying really anything, said that the list was “not accurate,” which is a term employed by US diplomats to coyly authenticate some published documents.

But is there a moral problem in exposing names of “secret witnesses”? Well, it sure depends on the case. It can’t be said categorically that all courts should be respected and that all witnesses in any court have to be respected and protected. Lebanon and its neighbors still suffer from a savage Israeli occupation and the US introduces Israeli interests and agendas in all its interventions in the region. Should the French people have respected Nazi courts? Should occupied people respect the courts that are set up by foreign occupiers? In all those cases, witnesses of such courts are dismissed (and historically punished) as collaborators. But is the Hariri court any different?

Not really. The court is not even Lebanese and the Lebanese people – deeply divided – are not under any obligation to respect a court that 1) reflects the narrow interests of one political faction which usurped power with the assistance of the US, at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Israel; 2) has proven over and over again its political agenda; 3) has lacked any modicum of credibility especially with the attrition in its ranks and the blatant political statements of the notorious Detliv Mehlis; 4)has ignored the leaks and the corruption in its work that included the sale of secret evidence tapes; 5) that is itself responsible for the leaks of the names and is responsible for any harm that may befall those witnesses because it failed to protect its own files; 6)has proven to be a mere tool in the hand of a political faction in Lebanon; 7) has refused to investigate its own work and has not cooperated in cases brought against it by formerly accused Lebanese generals; 8) many of its witnesses are mere political witnesses and can’t be said to be impartial; 9) the Israeli “assistance” in its work has been exposed.

For all those reasons, it is clear that the Hariri court is now operating not only outside the jurisdiction of Lebanese laws, but even against Lebanese laws and sovereignty. It is a convenient tool in the hands of the Saudi-Israeli alliance in the region. The Lebanese, or those who oppose the political faction behind the court, are under no obligation to participate in a process that aims at their own exclusion, marginalization, and even repression. All bets are off.

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