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Lebanon reacts to issuance of Hariri tribunal indictment | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – 6 years, 4 months, and 16 days after the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and 21 others, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon [STL] has issued the long-awaited indictment and arrest warrant for this crime which shook Lebanon and the entire Arab world, with members of Hezbollah reportedly among those named. STL Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare handed over a copy of this indictment to Lebanese Attorney General Said Mirza, with reports indicating that this included arrest warrants for 4 figures with ties to Hezbollah, namely Mustafa Badreddine, Salim Ayyash, Assad Sabra, and Hussein Anaissi. The STL has given Lebanon 30 days to respond to the indictment; however the whereabouts of the alleged Hezbollah members named in the indictment are currently unknown. Hezbollah affiliated Al-Manar TV dismissed the indictment as being “politicized”.

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri – son of the slain former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri – described the indictment as being a “historic moment for Lebanon” and called on the Hezbollah dominated Mikati government to cooperate with the STL. In a statement issued by Saad Hariri, he stressed that “after many years of patience, of struggle…today, we witness a historic moment in Lebanese politics, justice, and security.” Hariri, who is currently living in Paris, added that “the cabinet should implement Lebanon’s commitments towards the international tribunal, and has no excuse in escaping its responsibilities.” He also stressed that “we are not seeking revenge; rather we put our faith in God.”

The March 14 Alliance and Future movements both called on the newly formed Lebanese government – headed by Prime Minister Najib Mikati – to respond positively to the STL indictment, denying that the STL or the timing of this indictment was politicized. Future movement MP Okab Sakr told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the March 14 Alliance’s dealing with the indictment falls outside of the concern of [political] dominance, or revenge, and away from the logic of conspiracies.” He added that “the Lebanese judiciary and political community must respond to this indictment as befits the Lebanese people’s unanimous position towards respecting the STL.”

Sakr also stressed the necessity of “moving away from [viewing this] as a divisive indictment…but rather [viewing it] as a uniting one.” He also called for this indictment to be viewed “calmly and away from accusations of treason; its goal is to respect the blood of the Lebanese martyrs and citizens” adding that “we also recognize every party’s right to defend itself to the last.”

MP Okab Sakr also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “we all condemn the killers [of Rafik Hariri] in a clear manner, nobody wants to politicize this issue or allow the killers to remain at large, therefore these are points of consensus that we can deal with in a calm manner.”

He also stressed that “this indictment does not mean that any trial is pre-judged and certain figures being accused [of Rafik Hariri’s assassination] does not mean accusations being leveled at any political party.” Sakr also warned of “the danger of hiding behind politics” with regards to dealing with the indictment, stressing that “hiding behind sectarianism is even more dangerous.”

As for the manner in which the March 14 Alliance will deal with the STC indictment in the forthcoming period, MP Okab Sakr stressed to Asharq Al-Awsat that “[former] prime minister Saad Hariri’s statement dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s, and this is as far away as possible from any prospect of mobilization [of armed forces] or inciting strife.” He added that “a roadmap [on how to deal with the indictment] is being drawn up, and this stresses the necessity of obtaining the justice that all Lebanese want, and to achieve their primary demand of protecting the blood of our martyrs.”

As for Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, on Thursday he issued his long-awaited ministerial statement – which put forward the policies of the newly-formed Lebanese government – and which failed to clearly spell out whether his government would continue to cooperate with the STL or not. In this ambiguous statement, Mikati said that “the government confirms that it will follow the progress of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which was set up in principle to see justice served in a manner that is neither politicised nor vengeful, and as long as it does not negatively affect Lebanon’s stability and civil peace.”

This ministerial statement was immediately subject to criticism from a number of Lebanese political parties, with Secretary-General of the March 14 Alliance Fares Soueid, being quoted as saying “they (the Mikati government) consider that justice would undermine stability and national unity. They picked stability and national unity over justice…while we consider that stability cannot be at the expense of justice.”

As for Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, in a televised press conference following the issuance of the STL indictments, he stressed that “justice should not come at the expense of stability.” The Progressive Socialist Party leader told reporters that “let us allow matters to move smoothly: let the government do its job, [and] the judiciary do its job.” He added that “as much as justice is important for the martyrs and the wounded, so too is civil peace and stability for our hopes for the future” stressing that “civil peace is more important than anything else.”

Jumblatt also questioned the timing of the issuance of the indictments, telling reporters that “it is puzzling that the indictment coincided with the formation of the [Lebanese] Cabinet” adding that “this Cabinet is committed to international resolutions and would not place Lebanon in confrontation with the international community.” He also stressed the importance of logic in political discourse, rather than emotion. Jumblatt also said that he was sure that the newly-formed Lebanese government was committed to the STL – contrary to the opposition’s belief that the Hezbollah dominated Mikati government might denounce the tribunal – adding that “[Rafik Hariri] was committed to civil peace and never discriminated between the Lebanese. He always preserved Lebanon’s stability…if Hariri was with us today, he would have taken a position that coincided with the vision of preventing civil strife in the country.”

As for Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea, he told reporters that “the martyrs can now rest in peace because justice has finally been done following the issuance of the indictment.” He also stressed that “any attempt to escape the judgment of the STL represents a betrayal of Lebanon.” Geagea added that the charges issued by the STL are against individuals, not any political party or country. He also called on “the families of the martyrs of March 14 to act wisely and to follow the court’s proceedings calmly” adding that “vengeance has never been an option.”

Whilst Kataeb leader Amine Gemayel called on Lebanese security forces to arrest those named in the STL indictment as soon as possible, stressing that “we will not accept any negligence with regards to this issue.” Gemayel also warned that the Kataeb party will confront anybody that attempts to obstruct the implementation of the STL indictment, stressing that “We will stand in their way and use all the available democratic means to prevent this.” He added that the government’s ministerial statement “employed ambiguous terms when addressing the issue of the STL, and we ask for transparency and the execution of the [arrest warrants].”