Indicting Hezbollah

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The website of the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon shows the pictures of four men wanted for the assassination of statesman Rafik al-Hariri 29 July 2011. (Photo: REUTERS - Special Tribunal for Lebanon - Handout)

By: Fidaa Itani

Published Sunday, March 11, 2012

A delegation from the defense office of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) arrived in Beirut this week.

According to the protocols of the tribunal, this office’s mission is to defend the four men indicted by Daniel Bellemare, as well as a fifth defendant who will join them shortly.

In order to carry out their work properly, the defense team will have to revisit all information pertaining to the assassination of Rafik Hariri.

It will be the duty of the defense to re-investigate all the data gathered so far and to construct a complete account of the crime.

The gathering of information is useful in defending the accused. All official Lebanese authorities and all government departments are obliged to cooperate with this office.

They are legally bound to provide the defense with all the information and data it requests and offer it all available evidence and assistance to complete its work in Lebanon and build a defense for the men, whom the tribunal says are supporters and members of Hezbollah.

Lebanon will once again be completely exposed, vulnerable to searches, investigations, and information and data gathering directly or indirectly connected to the crime.

Once again, the argument over the legal jurisdiction of the STL and the office in charge of defending those accused of the crime will be reignited.

But perhaps the argument this time will be more sterile, because the fact is that this office is in charge of defense and therefore it is in the interests of the alleged suspects, with Hezbollah at the forefront, to cooperate with them.

Almost everything that can be written about the international tribunal has been written already. Everything that can be said has been said – for both those who support and are against the tribunal. All arguments have been exhausted by the two sides.

But the tribunal carries on working to the rhythm of regional and international politics, disregarding the positions held by the Lebanese. It continues to represent the Western face of a temperamental justice.

Western domination of the STL can be seen in the structure of the court itself and its officials. Out of 362 international officials, only eight of them are from Brazil, China, India, Russia, and Indonesia.

These countries represent more than half the population of the world and two of them have permanent seats at the Security Council, but their citizens only make up 2.5 percent of officials at the court.

The tribunal’s decisions and activities have moved away from “justice,” to reflect events in the region. Sometimes, they go quiet, allowing the voices of the Arab revolutions, particularly in Syria, to rise.

When the sound of bullets in Damascus can no longer be heard, or if the crisis there takes a back seat, the tribunal becomes active in order to fill the void of events in Lebanon and the region.

Sometimes, it seeks to target the Syrian regime, but mostly it pours all its effort into maligning Hezbollah.

This court was not supposed to indict political parties, organizations, or forces. It was meant to indict individuals.

This is not a special feature of this particular tribunal, all international courts have followed this approach of indicting individuals. However, little by little, the STL began to veer off its course, until it came to implicate Hezbollah in the crime.

When the charges were issued, they said “all the accused are supporters of Hezbollah.” Furthermore, in reference to the background of the defendants, the text states that “in the past Hezbollah has been involved in terrorist [or criminal] operations.”

Referring to specific defendants, the charges against them are said to be “based on their membership in Hezbollah,” implying that belonging to the party is a crime in itself. Consider also that the indictment includes a pre-judgement of Hezbollah as being involved in “terrorist (or criminal) operations” in the past.

On February 8, the outgoing prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, requested an amendment to the indictment. He wished to add new charges, one of which was belonging to a terrorist or criminal organization.

What is happening now, indicates more and more that things are heading toward a collective indictment of Hezbollah for the assassination that took place in 2005.

The court seems to be seeking to undermine Hezbollah’s reputation with accusations that could destroy its image. At least this is what a large portion of people in this country and the region hope to see.

In its annual report, the STL has clearly indicated that the head of the organization bears responsibility for the actions of the accused individuals.

Now, the tribunal has sent the defense team to Lebanon in a fresh attempt to get the attention of Hezbollah, forcing the party to defend itself before the court, thereby forcing it to take part in a game that will lead to its indictment.

Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah has already said that the tribunal will not be able to lay their hands on the defendants, who are members of Hezbollah – “not even in 300 years.”

This will provide the tribunal with a pretext to point to Hezbollah’s involvement in hiding the accused and thereby enter the phase of indicting the organization.

As soon as the international community feels the need for the sort of justice that puts the head of the resistance on the block, the judgement will be issued and the sentence will be carried out.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar's editorial policy.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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