The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has issued its indictment to the Lebanese authorities today. STL was formed in The Hague by the United National Security Council in 2007 through the 1757 Resolution. Its remit is to investigate and try the responsible for the assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister then Rafiq Hariri, and others who died with him on February 14th 2005.
This indictment has been long awaited by Lebanon, and been the pivot of the Lebanese political life for the past 6 years or so (with STL in general). The STL confirmed this move on their website:
The Pre-Trial Judge, Daniel Fransen, confirmed an indictment relating to the assassination of Rafiq Hariri and others on 28 June 2011. The indictment and accompanying arrest warrant(s) were transmitted to the Lebanese authorities on 30 June 2011. This announcement follows a declaration by the Lebanese authorities that they have received a confirmed indictment.
It’s worth mentioning that this is the only international court (among other five) responsible for trials in a terrorist act case. All other ‘terrorist’ acts had the tendency in the past, to be dealt with in a military invasion, one-sided intelligence operation, or something else (believe it or not!). The indictment, according to the media leaks, names individuals linked to Hezbollah; this was more or less expected since the famous 2009 article in Der Spiegel, which indicated that the suspects could be linked to Hezbollah rather than to the Syrian regime.
With all the media hype this afternoon, I noted the following observations:
Quiet reaction: the announcement was relatively quiet. Future Movement leader and the victim’s son Saad Hariri issued a press release, instead of going on the record live like many other politicians did. Hezbollah didn’t wish to comment; they said that they have nothing to do with the STL, and their stance is known (i.e. an American-Israeli tool to fight them); this position was clearly echoed by Hezbollah’s channel Al-Manar in its prime news show this evening.
No ‘physical’ reaction too: there was a lot of anticipation of possible chaos, military clashes, disruptions, demonstrations or anything similar. Nothing happened as such (not yet anyway), but it seems Hezbollah will just ignore the whole thing for now. Luckily, there were no ‘celebratory’ events too on the March 14 side.
Leaks again: the STL said the indictment will stay confidential for the moment; but four names were leaked while the STL delegate was even still in the Justice Palace in Beirut. The leaked names (Hezbollah-linked) to the media were Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Hasan Aineysseh and Assad Sabra.
Redundant Ministerial Policy Statement: The statement which has just been agreed (through mediocre sneaky wording) by the government became redundant straight away. The Lebanese government has a big challenge to overcome now; can they arrest the suspects as they should be doing? Interior Minister Marwan Charbel said naïvely this evening on Future TV with the host Paula Yaokobian: ‘We will apply the law, and you will see…’. When asked about the fact that Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah said he will not accept any of his men to be arrested, the minister said: ‘I haven’t heard that’, and then he followed it by: ‘what if these men are not from Hezbollah’. I think this man can be really dangerous in this position!
No info on names for Iranian or Syrian ‘masters’: although it was reported that the STL will be visiting Syria to inform them about the relevant Syrian names (as they did in Lebanon), but this move is still vague. This will just add more complexity to the Lebanese government potential response or action.
An American is there…: one named suspect is reportedly holding an American passport, although the American Embassy in Beirut did not wish to comment. As if the Lebanese government doesn’t have enough on its plate with the alleged CIA spies case within Hezbollah; surely more hurdles to this government, and its Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
Names bourse: Mustafa Badreddine’s name, previously leaked in different media reports in the past year, was ‘mentioned’ in the indictment today according to the media leaks, but not Abdul Majid Ghamloush for example. Ghamloush was mentioned in the same previous reports with Badreddine. One of the them was last year’s Aljadeed TV ’Truth leaks’ programme which focused on Ghamloush’s movement near the seafront in Beirut on February 14th 2005. But it seems names are changing all the time.
If you are fond of this subject, I recommend a The Special Tribunal for Lebanon: A Primer article by QifaNabki. It gives a detailed. academic analysis, with more distant background to the STL discussions during its life course (with links to previous relevant articles).
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon indictment is here now, and not a speculation subject anymore. It will be one of the most challenges this government can face. Actions and not words are required at this stage, and these actions could be really explosive. Personally, I hope Hezbollah – assuming they are innocent – accept to play the legal game, by appointing a defence team and challenging the STL evidences; I understand this is my wishful thinking though.