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Lebanon: The Tribunal and the Village - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Strange political occurrences take place in Lebanon, such as the decision taken by Israel to return Ghajar village. This [acceptance of a] Lebanese demand passed by unnoticed, with muted reactions. We did not hear of any efforts, or negotiations in preparation to restore this piece of land. Meanwhile, the overriding theme dominating the Lebanese scene for the past few months has been the International Tribunal and its impending indictments, which everyone has been anticipating for weeks and months.

On the subject of Ghajar village, this was a matter of sovereignty, and the fact that the land was considered occupied. Thus the Lebanese population adapted their stances accordingly, and their international and regional relations, in light of the fact that this village was originally part of the Syrian Golan Heights.

On the subject of the International Tribunal, this relates to the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister [Rafik Hariri]. It has regional and international significance, rather than just local, political bearings. The tribunal is intended to be in the interests of all, to uncover the truth of this crime, and then deal with the repercussions of its indictments. No one knows the content of these charges yet, considering all that has been leaked is just speculation, making it difficult to deal with facts until decisions are issued.

The irony here is that the argument put forth by those in Lebanon, who are against the International Tribunal, was that the tribunal’s decisions threatened Lebanon’s national interest and stability. Yet such passionate viewpoints do not apply to other issues that relate to Lebanon’s sovereignty, and interests. These include giving adequate attention to the restoration of its territories, or providing an opportunity for genuine stability, through an atmosphere that allows the economy to grow without the constant threat of violence, or to allow the budget to be implemented, without constant objections to its financing of the tribunal.

Over the past months, since the first report suggested that the tribunal intended to charge members of Hezbollah with involvement, in one way or another, in the assassination case, and the subsequent bizarre case of the ‘false witnesses’, there has been a campaign against the tribunal and its impartiality, in anticipation of its rulings. Yet these rulings have only been speculated, in an attempt to cease the tribunal’s activities, or its funding, or at the very least, to prevent indictments being issued.

The question we should ask those who are leading the campaign against the tribunal, whether they are acting out of their own volition, or as tools in the hands of other powers, or because they believe the decision could threaten acts of violence, sectarian clashes, and a renewed use of arms, is: If you succeeded in ceasing the work of the tribunal, and the issuance of its decisions, would things stabilize? The logical answer is no. Uncertainty would increase, and the sense of injustice would be greater for those who have suffered from this wave of assassinations. It is difficult to imagine that such killings were all just coincidences, and not related to the initial crime. Lebanon and its factions will continue to be trapped in a vicious cycle, without being able to move on from the assassination aftermath.

In contrast, if the tribunal is allowed to make a decision, which is subsequently dealt with, having quietly investigated all the details, this would allow all parties, and the Lebanese community as a whole, to go beyond this stage and look towards the future. Even if there is a need to take people to court to face their fate, if found guilty, this will give a new spirit to the community, and to new generations, who have heard or read about the history of political assassinations that have taken place since the 1970s, where no one was held accountable, and no serious investigation was conducted.

Even if members of Hezbollah are charged, as the party claims will happen, according to leaks and reports, this does not mean that the entire Shiite sect took the decision to carry out the assassination, or that Hezbollah represents all Shias. The responsibility here lies with individuals, who may subsequently be charged. Everyone, including those who support the Tribunal, must deal with such individuals in this way. There process involves lawyers, pleas, and the need for evidence; therefore the length of time between prosecution and conviction is long. It is in the interests of everyone to wait for the ruling, deal with it, and then cooperate with it, in order to overcome this stage, and build a stable future which everyone can benefit from.

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim

Ali Ibrahim is Asharq Al-Awsat's deputy editor-in-chief. He is based in London.

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