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Why the Lebanese Rafik Hariri court needs to be funded until he ends his term

NEW YORK / BEIRUT: With the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) facing a severe financial crisis and the threat of an impending closure, it is imperative to stress the importance of its recent judgment and the critical importance of allowing to the court 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 in particular for Lebanon.

Amid the continued 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 crippling decisions at the UN Security Council. Closing the STL would therefore be an irreversible decision and the resulting damage would be unthinkable.

A new generation in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and the region calls for justice and accountability from its leaders and the international community. Supporting the tribunal and the fulfillment 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 discuss its expansion rather than its closure. It is the first court of its kind to consider terrorism an international crime. Billions have been spent to fight terrorism; the international community cannot shrink from a few millions for the only instrument at its disposal to legally fight terrorism.

The STL delivered its judgment on August 18, 2020, more than 15 years after the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and just two weeks after the deadly explosion at the port on August 4. The judgment convicted Salim Ayyash, but did not blame Hezbollah or the Syrian government.

While the verdict was deemed missing and largely ignored in Lebanon, there have been continued calls for international support to seek justice and accountability for the many unsolved crimes committed in the country, including the port blast.

Wreaths adorn the tomb 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 ruling takes Lebanon down a path of accountability and must be properly interpreted and placed in the context of the establishment of the tribunal by the UN Security Council. A clear understanding of the international criminal justice process, its limits as well as the specific restrictions placed on the STL, is essential to assess the significance of the judgment.

The 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 tenure and the time it took to render the judgment. .

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

There is also confusion between the three distinct objectives of truth, justice and accountability. The STL can only partially achieve them within the constraints of its mandate, its rules and the rigor of its procedures. But that does not detract from the importance of its conclusions and the power of its verdict.

Fifteen years after Hariri’s assassination, justice delayed was seen as a denial of justice; the truth was partial because only one individual was condemned; and accountability and justice without his arrest is unachievable.


* 51% – STL funding by donor countries.

* 49% – Funding by the Lebanese government.

These criticisms of the outcome also reflect the challenges the STL faced from its formation through to judgment. The result was seen as a failure commensurate with the sacrifices made by the Lebanese to achieve it.

The multifaceted and serious crisis the country is going through – a disruption dramatically exacerbated by the Beirut explosion – has also overshadowed the importance of the STL’s judgment, but ignoring the verdict will have serious negative repercussions and it is imperative to seize the opportunity. that it offers. .

The creation of the TSL was carried out against all odds. There was national, regional and international opposition to the tribunal from the start.

Given the extent of the suffering of the Lebanese civil war for which no one has ever been held responsible and the dozens of political assassinations throughout the country’s history, it was indeed difficult to argue that the murder of a man deserved such a legal instrument.

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

Challenges also included defining terrorism under international law and justifying trials in absentia with the knowledge that perpetrators were unlikely to be arrested even if convicted. There were also concerns that the STL would create much more instability and with less tangible results than other similar tribunals.

Looking back and given the current climate of international relations, the STL has been a tremendous achievement and a sophisticated contribution to the field of international criminal justice.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) faces a serious financial crisis and the threat of an imminent closure. (Provided)

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

The STL provided the answer: The terrorist attack that killed 22 people, seriously 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 links between this assassination and others.

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

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

Like the findings of the Yugoslav court, the STL judgment is extremely important to Lebanon as it is a treasure trove of information about what happened not only on February 14, 2005, but also over the months and months. years of the period called Pax. Syrian.

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

Three of the sons of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri (from left to right): Ayman, Saad and Bahaa arrive on February 19, 2005 at the site of the massive explosion in which their father was killed with 14 people in the center of Beirut. (AFP / File Photo)

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

The truth can be difficult to deal with, and each society has its own way of working with difficult memories and episodes in its history. Lebanon has a culture of ‘moving on’, a deeply rooted idea that what is past is past.

But the truth obtained through a process such as STL cannot be glossed over or denied, and addressing it can only strengthen society.

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


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