A point for justice

Former Lebanese Cabinet minister Michel Samaha. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

There has been a tendency to jump to conclusions in the aftermath of the arrest of Michel Samaha, whether by those who support the former government minister or those who condemn him.

The golden rule in such cases should of course be to reserve judgment until the judicial process has run its course. In a country like Lebanon, however, doing so is blighted by the constant leaks and counter-leaks, which are then attacked in the media by either side whenever they do not suit their agenda.

But regardless of what the final outcome of the case is, a few key facts and indicators for the future can be seen in the proceedings so far.

Firstly, in a positive sign, the operation has been conducted in a highly transparent way.

Those in the highest positions have been kept informed of each step of the process, including those parties that naturally tend toward support for Samaha and his policies, a fact that has succeeded in stopping protests erupting on the street.

This has given the judiciary the chance to deal with this case without any major meddling, yet.

Secondly, it is important to note that the Lebanese judiciary has achieved a first with this case, asserting its independence after decades of Syrian occupation and continued influence at every political level.

The judiciary has with unprecedented directness implicated the highest possible level of Syrian officials in a large-scale and seriously threatening operation.

To many observers this sequence of events could suggest it is only the tip of the iceberg. The decision to tackle this case could open a Pandora’s Box, paving the way for several mysteries surrounding a multitude of security incidents in Lebanon to be addressed. Only time will tell if this will be the case.

This case should prompt the government and its security apparatus to be extra vigilant, now knowing there are regional powers, notably Syria, who are interested in sowing dissent and creating havoc in the country at the best of times, let alone as the Syrian regime comes under immense pressure. Should that pressure force the regime’s collapse, neighboring countries will unavoidably feel some aftershocks. The strongest of these is likely to hit Lebanon, which must therefore do its best to protect itself against the worst effects.

All cards are on the table in the aftermath of the case against Samaha and the two Syrian officials accused alongside him. Although the whole situation has been a political disaster, it should now be clearly confined to the judicial process, which can then be fairly scrutinized by political factions on either side.

In order to maintain the success security forces had in uncovering the original plot, the judiciary must see this case to the end. They must first clearly establish the facts, and then rule according to them, with transparency regardless of the political affiliations of all involved.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 13, 2012, on page 7.




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