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Calls for Accountability of the Lebanese Judiciary

May 3, 2009

Following the release of the four generals last week, the Opposition has begun a campaign to hold the Lebanese judiciary “accountable” for their allegedly injustice detention of nearly four years.  As al-Hayat reports, yesterday evening during the Council of Ministers session Opposition Ministers Ali Qanso, Talal Arslan, Mario Aoun and Gebran Basil raised the issue with their counterparts in the Majority.  Their basic complaint is that the detention of the generals was a political decision taken by the certain Lebanese judges and thus the judiciary is politicized. On the other hand, the Majority Ministers replied that the Opposition’s campaign against the judiciary is itself a political move.  They argue that the release of the Generals itself demonstrates that the Tribunal is not politicized.  However, there appears to be a tacit consensus amongst the ministers to wait until the Judicial Council meets on Tuesday to issue its position on the detention of the generals before substantive action is taken by the Opposition Ministers.  Thus, depending on what position the Judiciary itself takes, we will either see the calls for resignations subside or escalate.  My sense is that this is that the latter is more likely.

Meanwhile the Muhammad Raad, head of Hezbollah’s political bloc says:

الطريق لمعرفة من قتل الرئيس الشهيد رفيق الحريري هو في محاسبة من ضلل التحقيق ولفق الأكاذيب وغير المسار باتجاه لا يوصل إلى معرفة الحقيقة

The way to know who killed Rafiq al-Hariri is in the accountability of those who led astray the investigation and frabricated lies, not in the direction that does not lead to knowing the truth.

For his part, Mustaqbal MP Ahmed Fatfat argues that the detention of the generals was taken at the behest of the Prosecutor Detlev Mehlis who acted on the basis of Lebanese law.  Thus, the Majority position is that

The Lebanese media is rife with talk of accountability for the judiciary.  Specifically,  Prosecutor Said Mirza and Military Court Judge Saqr Saqr appear to be the targets of the outcry, with some calling for their resignation.  Curiously though, in his Friday night address Nasrallah did not address the matter of accountability.  Moreover, neither MP Raad nor the Opposition Ministers, as far as I know, singled out either Mirza or Saqr Saqr specifically.

Jamil Sayyid, following the warm reception his release received from the Opposition seems to be placing himself in their service.  In an interview with Associated Press Sayyid stated his case for the politicization of the judiciary:

Sayyed said he felt especially bitter toward Lebanon’s judicial system which, he claimed, had allowed itself to be politically manipulated in the case.

He added that he saw no reason why the militant group Hezbollah and its allies, which have treated the generals as heroes, should not exploit the situation now.

“Our detention was politically motivated and was exploited for four years by the majority,” he said, referring to the Western-backed ruling alliance in parliament headed by Hariri’s son Saad.

“So it is perfectly normal that the tables are turned now.”

Sayyed also accused Saad Hariri of having pressured Lebanese judges to keep him and the three other generals behind bars.

“The judges would tell us ‘we have nothing against you, but if we free you Mr. Hariri will cut off our heads’,” he said.

There is no sign that the issue of the detained Generals will go away soon.  The Opposition is likely to continue using the case as an argument for political nature of Tribunal and thereby try to undermine March 14’s commitment to “the truth” as little more than a political ploy.  While this hurts March 14’s election prospects, a protracted campaign against the Tribunal in light of the release of the generals will further damage the credibility of the Tribunal.  Regardless of one’s political orientation the Tribunal remains the best means to bring the perpetrators of the Hariri assassination to justice.  Thus, “the truth” will likely continue to elude Lebanon.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jad Aoun 05.03.09 at 17:49

Well honestly, we are back a square one. We seem to be no closer to the truth than we were back in 2005. Now with the release of the generals, there needs to be accountability with what went wrong and what exactly is the information that lead their arrest in the first place.

People want answers and I think they deserve it, regardless of which side of the political divide they are on.

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