The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is set to begin the trial of the suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri next month, and it is hoped that the court developments will finally end the annoying sideshows that have accompanied the long-awaited proceedings.
As Lebanon continues to head in the direction of a failed state because of political paralysis, the weekend saw the issue of paying the state’s contribution to the tribunal take center stage in the drama.
The caretaker prime minister, Najib Mikati, and the caretaker finance minister, Mohammad Safadi, engaged in a disappointing round of accusations over responsibility for the delay in paying Lebanon’s court dues.
They were acting as if they were doing a favor to the country by processing the payment, as each tried to convince the public that the other hadn’t followed the correct bureaucratic routine. They and other politicians often forget the importance of adhering to a government-approved, international commitment that is years old. The STL payment should be routine and not deserving of a commotion within the ranks of the same camp that claims to support the tribunal’s work.
Naturally, a louder sort of noise is coming from the camp that opposes the STL. As the court date draws closer, Hezbollah and its allies are busy making overt and covert attacks on the tribunal. This camp refuses to acknowledge that the STL has moved steadily along with an investigation and preparations for a groundbreaking criminal trial, overcoming all of the stonewalling and other tactics unleashed by those who are afraid of seeing justice being served.
The STL has relied on top-caliber magistrates and other court officials who have given the defense every opportunity to present the strongest case possible – thousands of pieces of evidence and several hundred witnesses are the quantifiable aspect of these efforts.
In contrast, the parties and individuals who have worked tirelessly against the court continue to wield their skepticism and cynicism to detract from its professionalism. This camp sees no shame in having earlier peddling tale after tale about the Hariri assassination – it was the work of Abu Adas, or a group of Australian pilgrims, or Israel, and finally, the late Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, who enjoyed the utmost level of trust from the Hariri family. The sniping and wild theorizing can be interpreted as a sign of Hezbollah’s anxiety over the findings and revelations that will come out in The Hague next month.
The only thing that’s clear is that when the trial finally kicks off, arguments and counterarguments based on tangible evidence – and not verbal jousting and whispering campaigns – will finally occupy the public’s attention and allow the world to judge the credibility of the proceedings.