Lebanon still seeking the truth

The assassination of former PM Rafiq Hariri didn’t only prompt popular anger, but it instigated the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to find the culprits

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“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788 – 1860)


When analyzing a political crime in the absence of a final judicial verdict, the obvious thinking process comes to mind. Who was the victim? What did they do? Who did they provoke? The same applies to the martyrs of Lebanon from the March 14 political coalition.

Let us go back to Aug. 2004. Lebanon is witnessing unprecedented political turmoil, and its pro-Syrian regime President Emile Lahoud is about to get his mandate extended.

On Sept. 2, 2004, the United Nations adopts Resolution 1559, stating: “The Security Council declared its support for a free and fair presidential election in Lebanon conducted according to Lebanese constitutional rules devised without foreign interference or influence and, in that connection, called upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon.”

In the face of the U.N. resolution, and on the very next day of its adoption, the Lebanese parliament - considered largely unrepresentative of the people - votes by 96 to 29 in favor of extending Lahoud's mandate by three years, despite nationwide opposition.

A main opposition figure at that time, Walid Jumblatt - head of the Progressive Socialist Party - stood against this extension. MPs of his electoral bloc, others from the Future Movement, and independent figures voted against. They were popularly called “The List of Honor.”

On Oct. 1, 2004, Marwan Hamadeh, a minister and prominent member of Jumblatt’s party (and the List of Honor), survived a car bomb attack in Beirut, but his bodyguard was killed. The blast was only the beginning of a series of assassinations of Lebanese politicians and journalists, mostly anti-Syrian regime figures.

Lebanon’s civil society was silently boiling. One after the other, prominent political figures were joining the national opposition to the Syrian regime’s occupation of Lebanon, which was until then constituted mainly of Christian parties and some secular democratic groups. One key personality was about to give the opposition its biggest political boost: former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

On Feb. 14, 2005, a terrorist attack took place in downtown Beirut, killing 23 people and injuring over 200. The target was Hariri, who was killed along with former Minister Bassel Fleihan. Hariri’s political and economical weight, not only in Lebanon but also regionally and internationally, prompted popular anger; it was the last straw.

People took to the streets to demand the Syrian regime’s withdrawal from Lebanon, and to seek justice for Hariri and his companions. Lebanon’s biggest popular revolution gathered people from different backgrounds and communities under one political umbrella. The pro-Syrian regime Lebanese government resigned, and Syrian troops left Lebanon in April 2005.

Free parliamentary elections took place in June 2005, and the March 14 coalition - named after the popular uprising that took place on that date - won the majority of seats. Hezbollah continued siding with the Syrian regime. The party and its allies have consistently resisted any attempt to seek an international trial for Hariri.

However, having little faith in Lebanon’s ability to investigate his assassination, and by popular demand, the new government requested officially the establishment of an international body to carry out the investigation and trial. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon was established in 2007 by the U.N. Security Council, and inaugurated on March 1, 2009.

Related cases

The murder of political figures in Lebanon did not stop after Hariri’s assassination.

Only last month - on Dec. 27, 2013 - Saad Hariri's political advisor and former Minister Mohamad Chatah was killed by a car bomb in Beirut. Since Hariri’s assassination, 13 people have been victims of assassinations or assassination attempts in Lebanon. All are believed to be committed to the same political agenda.

The STL has established jurisdiction over three attacks relating to the Hariri case: Hamadeh, George Hawi - the former Communist Party chief, killed on June 22, 2005 - and Minister Elias al-Murr, who survived an assassination attempt on July 12, 2005.

The list continues

On June 2, 2005, and as parliamentary elections were ongoing, journalist and intellectual Samir Kassir was assassinated in Beirut by a car bomb. He was a fervent opponent of the Syrian regime, and a passionate defender of the rights of the people in Syria and Palestine.

May Chidiac, a journalist with the Lebanese Broadcast Corporation, survived an assassination attempt on Sept. 25, 2005.

On Dec. 12, 2005, Gebran Tueini – an MP, and the editor and publisher of the daily paper An-Nahar - was killed by a car bomb.

On Nov. 21, 2006, Minister Pierre Gemayel of the Christian Kataeb party was assassinated by gunmen.

On June 13, 2007, MP Walid Eido, a prominent figure of the Future Movement, was killed in Beirut by a car bomb.

Three months later, another member of the Kataeb party, Antoine Ghanem, was assassinated using the same technique. As well as journalists and political figures, security forces were also targets.

On Jan. 25, 2008, a bomb in Beirut killed terrorism investigator and Internal Security Forces Captain Wissam Eid, who was working on telecommunications data relating to the Hariri case.

Wissam al-Hassan, head of the information branch of the ISF, was assassinated on Oct. 19, 2012, by a car bomb in Beirut.

Army Brigadier General Francois al-Hajj was killed by a car bomb on Dec. 12, 2007.

A year earlier, ISF inspector Samir Chehade survived a car bomb attack, and now lives in Canada.

Although these two last figures are not considered part of the March 14 coalition, it is believed that the attacks against them might be linked to the other political assassinations of that period. Some of these cases might become part of the trial at The Hague at any point if a direct judicial relation is established between these attacks and Hariri’s.

Justice… to be continued

What most of these figures have in common is their outspoken opposition to the Syrian regime and to Hezbollah’s armaments. They are, or were, also pillars of the four main powers of the republic: legislative, executive, military and media.

It remains up to the STL to demonstrate its ability to find the truth, share it transparently, carry out a fair trial, and finally establish justice for all these cases… almost a decade later.

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