Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon sets judicial standards | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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(Top L to R) Judges Walid Akoum, Janet Nosworthy, David Re, Micheline Braidy and Nicola Lettier preside over the courtroom of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague, The Netherlands, January 16, 2014. The trial in absentia of the four suspects accused of killing Lebanese statesman Rafiq al-Hariri opened in The Hague on Thursday, nine years after the bomb attack in which the former prime minister and 21 others died. REUTERS/Toussaint Kluiters/United Photos (NETHERLANDS – Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW)

In Lebanon, murder has been adopted as a means to govern and wield power in public life. The country has the highest percentage of political assassinations in the world, taking into consideration its size and short history.

Ever since Lebanon’s creation, an enforced harmony was established, with murderers who spread their culture of death taking the lead. These killers eliminated their victims in any way they could, either using explosions, assassinations or permanent abduction. A formula granting murderers a post in public and political life was fixed. Meanwhile, all the victim had to do was die and fade away silently. If some survived for some reason, all they had to do was accept the fact and thank God they were alive.

All this was adopted under a formula that asserted that murdering rivals was the peak of patriotism.

However, the core of this formula was shaken a few days ago by the spectacular realism the Lebanese and the rest of the world demonstrated through the workings of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), which began its trials for the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The prosecution presented a live audio and visual representation of the events that led up to the crime that took place on February 14, 2005, and presented evidence that five Hezbollah members were involved in monitoring Hariri and preparing the explosion that killed him. We watched the movements of the accused for months before the crime and saw authenticated data of their communications.

The show that the STL prosecutors put on resembled the work of investigative journalists. But isn’t investigation a practice of both journalists and judiciaries?

And just like journalism can deviate from its role, the judiciary can too, tampering with its major task of achieving justice. This is what happened in all previous assassination cases that hit Lebanon—the judiciary was incapable of fulfilling its role and its hands were tied.

But this STL is the first time a serious and efficient judicial route has been taken for a crime described as terrorism. The Lebanese and the Arabs have not experienced trials that are this efficient until now. To be more accurate, the public’s interest has never been held by any trial before because the idea of justice, in its procedural and judicial meaning, and not in its spiritual meaning, has not been that common in our states.

The STL now breaks with all this. Calmly yet forcefully, based on the data, someone has narrated our story in this country for us—or, rather, documented our story as part of the wider region. When I looked into the history of the tribunal, I realized why it had been the target of massive political and media campaigns over the course of the last nine years. Of course, these campaigns have now resumed, with some returning to the rhetoric of “resistance” that keeps repeating that the tribunal is politicized and hasn’t presented anything new. Accusations that the trial was boring also recently emerged.

The course of justice may be long, and even boring, but this is the nature of justice. Unlike murder and violence, speed and excitement are not features of justice.

The Lebanese people’s story concerning this tribunal has not ended yet. It will certainly see more chapters unfold. Everything that has happened in Lebanon during the past nine years is directly or indirectly linked to the STL. The tribunal may not bring security quickly to Lebanon, but it’s certainly a real introduction to the concept of accountability.