Assad’s 30-year killing spree in Lebanon

The crimes of Assad and his ally Hezbollah are finally being internationally prosecuted

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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In 1987, Mahdi Amel was assassinated by men working for Syrian intelligence chief Ghazi Kanaan. While expressing his condolences during Amel’s funeral, Kanaan, the assassin, sarcastically told the leader of the Communist party: “was it necessary for you to pay this price?”

Within that same year, Hafez al-Assad killed Lebanese Prime Minister Rashid Karami and two years later, he killed Lebanese President René Moawad. All those who dared to say no continued to pay with their lives; the appetite for murder of both Assad’s regime and Hezbollah kept growing for the next twenty years.


Finally, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was created to investigate the crimes of the Syrian regime and Hezbollah, the regime’s executive arm; this might represent one page in the last chapter. Before killing Hariri, the crimes of Assad’s regime in Lebanon have lasted for more than 30 years, since the seventies. Hundreds were killed, among them presidents, prime ministers, ministers, religious and civil society leaders, intellectuals, partisans, along with Christian, Sunni and Shiite citizens.

Divine justice

Finally, the crimes of Assad and his ally Hezbollah are being brought to international trial, although divine justice preceded the hearing when the Syrian people rose up against the regime in its own backyard.

We do not need tribunals to understand that Assad’s regime and Hezbollah killed Rafiq Hariri. From the very first moment of the explosion, we knew who killed him

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

In fact, we do not need tribunals to understand that Assad’s regime and Hezbollah killed Rafiq Hariri. From the very first moment of the explosion, we knew who killed him because the assassins, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah, did not hide their intentions; all the families of the thousands of victims who were killed before Hariri’s assassination knew who killed their relatives for thirty years.

The difference is that Hariri’s assassination symbolized the topmost appetite for murder, the assassins’ insolence and their fearless defiance against the world. The series of assassinations against Hariri’s allies was accompanied by a campaign of lies stating that the assassins belonged to a Salafist group, to Israel, or even that the assassination was for personal matters.

Defensive coalition

The assassins formed a coalition to defend themselves, cause bloodshed, and implicate their allies. Parliament speaker Nabih Berri closed down the parliament to prevent the majority from taking any governmental decision, and the murderers used President Emile Lahoud against Hariri. Moreover, Hezbollah’s militia and its apparatus threatened the Lebanese parties that dared to denounce the crime, and consequently, most figures of the targeted team had to stay at the Intercontinental Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut due to fears of assassination. The assassins have even used security forces to spread terror and falsify evidence.

The assassins were neither from Israel, nor Salafists, and personal causes were not the reasons behind the assassinations; Hariri's killers are the ones who killed Gebran Tueni, Samir Kassir, George Hawi, Walid Eido and dozens of political leaders and intellectuals. All those who were killed were from the same political group, and the assassins are from the opposing team, Assad’s regime and Hezbollah.

Accusing them does not require fingerprints, witnesses or confessions - it was a state of open war, during which the killer was honest about his crimes and threats as he carried on the assassinations from 2005 until the killing of the most recent victim, Mohammad Chatah, former minister and Hariri’s comrade.

Symbolic trial

The tribunal is just a symbol that will last for months or maybe a year before it hands down the judgments. It will not impose the sentences against the convicted criminals. Despite this anticipated powerlessness, the trial is a political condemnation reminding the world of what the assassins have done.

The crimes in Lebanon are not limited to the assassination of Hariri and twenty other figures, but rather a long series of crimes that started in the seventies when Hafez al-Assad’s regime began terrorizing the Lebanese parties up until taking over the country. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is also a historic trial for those who killed Kamal Jumblatt, René Mouawad, Rashid Karami, Mehdi Amel, George Hawi and all the innocent people whom relatives could not deliver justice to them. This tribunal is against injustice, criminality and the mentality of the militia and gang rule.

The article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Jan. 18, 2014.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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