By Press TV
By Seyyed Mohyeddin Sajedi
The indictment by the international tribunal of several people for the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri has brought the new Lebanese government led by Prime Minister Mikati face to face with a situation, which will entail dealing with difficulties both inside the country and abroad. It also raises many questions about the link between this and the developments in the Middle East.
The international tribunal tasked with investigating the killing of Rafiq al-Hariri, the former prime minister, has handed subpoenas to Lebanon’s prosecutor general’s office which reportedly include the names of four Hezbollah members.
This tribunal was set up under the UN Security Council Resolution 1757 and Article seven of the United Nations Charter, and requires the governments of countries to cooperate with the panel. Former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, the son of the slain prime minister, and political parties allied with him have described the indictment as a victory for justice which will eventually cast light on the assassination case and bring its perpetrators to justice.
However, no names have been officially announced. Media outlasts close to the March 14 Movement also immediately denied their reports that a few Syrian names were in the indictment. The son-in-law of slain Hezbollah commander Imad Mugniyah, Mustafa Badruddi — also known as Sami Isa — along with Salim Ayash, Asad Sabra and Hassan al-Anisi are the ones that unconfirmed reports say the tribunal has summoned to The Hague.
These people are neither suspects, nor criminals or convicts, and their conviction or exoneration will be decided at the hearing. Some media reports describe them as witnesses. More individuals will possibly be added to the list as the scope of the international tribunal’s activities encompasses assassinations that occurred after Rafiq al-Hariri’s murder in Lebanon.
Immediately after the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri in 2005, the first prosecutor probing the case, issued arrest warrants for four senior Lebanese officers. These four stayed in jail for years without any charges and were later released without any legal justification. Meanwhile, the United States accused Syria of involvement in the assassination despite it holding no evidence against Damascus.
Hezbollah and Lebanon’s March 8 Movement believe this tribunal is basically political. Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly announced its refusal to hand over any of his party’s members. The impartiality or political orientations of the tribunal has constantly been a subject of dispute over the last five years in Lebanon and outside the country.
The names mentioned to have appeared on the tribunal’s indictment had been earlier published by the US and Israeli media and this caused the tribunal to be further viewed as a means to pressure Lebanon, Hezbollah and their regional allies, Iran and Syria.
The important question about Lebanon is why the court has issued indictments at a time when the Western-backed minority faction members are not included in the new Lebanese government.
Isn’t this attempt aimed at influencing the activities and programs of the Lebanese government that is still insisting on the necessity of liberation of the Lebanese lands occupied by Israel? Why was the former Lebanese government not provided with the court’s verdict that was ready six months ago?
Can the relationship between the announcement of the court’s ruling with the political developments in the Middle East and North Africa, especially Syria’s internal affairs and reducing its role in Lebanon, be overlooked?
Syria was first introduced as the main suspect in Hariri’s murder, but the then Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri acquitted Damascus of having anything to do with his father’s assassination.
In a meeting with the Hezbollah Secretary-General, Saad Hariri had said that the investigations will eventually involve certain Hezbollah members and it would be better if Nasrallah introduces them to avoid any accusations directed at Hezbollah — which was rejected by Nasrallah.
The Netherlands-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon considers itself independent in probing Rafiq al-Hariri’s assassination, but critics say that the publication of the names of suspects who were probably involved in Hariri’s assassination has called the impartiality of the STL into question. Even a former commander of the Israeli Army said two years ago that the court rulings would cause a chaotic situation in Lebanon.
Hezbollah says that accusation directed at its members are aimed at creating a rift among the Lebanese people, encouraging sectarian strife in Lebanon, and covering the effects of Israel’s defeat in the 33-day war against Lebanon. Accusing the Shia Hezbollah of assassinating Sunni Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri is enough to encourage sectarian strife in Lebanon.
Concurrent with the court’s ruling, the Lebanese government announced its working agenda that has to be ratified in Lebanon’s parliament next week. The agenda refers to its cooperation with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon which is deemed as insufficient by the minority faction.
According to Lebanon’s law, the Lebanese government should surrender the indicted individuals to court within one month. The four suspects as named by the court are living clandestinely and it is not easy to have access to them due to their role in anti-Israel campaigns and Israel has always wanted to assassinate them.
If the Lebanese government fails to hand them over to the Netherlands-based court, they will be tried in absentia. From a political standpoint, accusations launched against Hezbollah might pave the way for exerting more pressure on Israel and even for more attacks by Israel.