The battle over forming a new Cabinet in Lebanon, the spillover from the war in Syria and the tense security situation in general are all making the headlines and occupying the public’s attention as 2014 begins. But the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will finally begin its trial proceedings this month, and if the proceedings go smoothly, the case could make a huge contribution to political and criminal accountability in this part of the world.
For nearly nine years, the supporters and the opponents of the STL have had their say, and January 2014 will allow the international justice system to have its say. Obviously, the opponents have been busy casting doubts on the credibility of the STL in a systematic attempt to discredit it.
The proceedings will give people a chance to choose for themselves – having been inundated with reports, rumors, analysis and commentary for years, they will finally be able to watch as the evidence is presented, arguments and counterarguments are made, and the wheels of justice turn.
The most useful political approach to the STL would be one of watching and waiting, and holding off on the passing of judgments until the tribunal completes its work. Even then, an appeals process would mean that a phase two of the STL will follow.
The overall impact of the STL will be profound, on various levels: People will finally discover the truth behind the Hariri assassination, and establishing the precedent of punishment for political crimes could leave a lasting mark on the region.
Whether or not people support the STL, it’s difficult to deny the stakes are high and the benefits for the region are potentially huge.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 13, 2014, on page 7.