BEIRUT: UN chief Ban Ki-moon described Friday Hizbullah’s call on the Lebanese to boycott the UN-backed court as a deliberate attempt to obstruct justice, as the Prosecutor for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) denied accusations that his investigators had breached doctor-patient confidentiality.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement reiterated its support for the court while the United States vowed to stand by his government “to resist obvious intimidation.”
A spokesman for Ban said “acts of interference and intimidation are unacceptable.” “Any call to boycott the tribunal was a deliberate attempt to obstruct justice,” added the spokesman.
In a brief televised speech Thursday, Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said two UN investigators, who were obstructed from carrying out their investigations by a crowd of women at a medical clinic in Beirut’s southern suburb, violated ethical, religious and humanitarian norms by asking for a gynecologist’s patient records.
“Statements in relation to the recent attack against staff of the STL alleging that the investigators examined gynecologist’s patient records in breach of ethical, religious and humanitarian norms are false,” STL Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare’s office said in a statement.
“As the medical doctor interviewed by representatives of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) confirmed in her media interviews, the investigators were not seeking any medical information from her,” the statement added.
The OTP statement said the visit had been in line with legal norms and had been approved by the Lebanese authorities as well as the doctor, who received approval from the Beirut Order of Physicians to meet with investigators.
“In contrast to the legality and legitimacy of the meeting, STL staff members were assaulted by the attackers and had STL property stolen,” it said.
Commenting on Nasrallah’s remarks, Bellemare’s office said calls to boycott the tribunal were deliberate attempts to obstruct justice.
In the meantime, STL President Judge Antonio Cassese conveyed to Ban and Hariri the tribunal’s “great concern” with regard to the incident.
“This most regrettable incident will not be allowed to jeopardize the work of the tribunal in discharging its truth-seeking mission for the Lebanese people and the international community,” the statement quoted Cassese as telling Ban and Hariri in separate letters.
“It is our firm intention not to bow to any act of interference and intimidation in carrying out our mandate in an independent and fair manner,” he added.
On the Lebanese front, the Future Movement denied Hizbullah’s claims that investigators were seeking to examine medical records but said they were rather looking for phone numbers in relation to the probe, “as confirmed by the doctor in charge of the clinic.”
Following its meeting headed by Hariri, the Future Movement bloc reiterated in a statement its commitment to the STL.
“Justice is the basis of stability and there is no conflict between them since both factors constitute the essence of the democratic and political system which we adopted in Taif.”
The statement added that “we cannot talk of a parliamentary system without justice that safeguards freedom of expression, in light of a series of political assassinations.”
US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Hizbullah took into consideration the party’s narrow agenda rather than the interests of all Lebanese.
In more severe terms, Phalange Party leader Amin Gemayel said Nasrallah’s statements indicated that the party regarded itself above state institutions. “Nasrallah’s stances were aimed against President Michel Sleiman and Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the executive authority,” Gemayel said.
In one of his latest remarks over the STL’s work, Sleiman, who in his inaugural address expressed support for the STL in line with Lebanon’s commitment to international legitimacy, said in September that the court should regain its credibility among the Lebanese by distancing itself from politicization.
Jumblatt, a former pillar of March 14 who realigned alongside Hizbullah and its allies, questioned whether the investigators’ actions served justice and stability or aimed to hinder the Syrian-Saudi rapprochement to preserve stability in the Arab world.
Commenting on the clinic’s incident, political sources told The Daily Star the incident had been planned by Hizbullah to justify its leader’s position after the party received information indicating that the indictment would be released soon.
Parliamentary sources said Nasrallah’s position would lead to an escalation of the political conflict if his stances are to be followed up by ministerial and parliamentary discussions.