Thursday, July 7, 2011
Bellemare Vs Nasrallah
By Elias Harfoush
There is nothing new about Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s denial of the responsibility of his fellow Hezbollah members who were accused of having carried out the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri. There is also nothing new about him informing those concerned that no one will be able to reach the latter, even if in 300 years. On the other hand, it would be naïve to believe that Prosecutor Daniel Bellemare expected that as soon as the arrest warrants were out, the four accused would head on the first plane to The Hague. Justice is not the decision-maker at this point, but rather power. Power is the one preventing justice from reaching the accused, and allowing the accused to accuse those seeking the implementation of the law of being politicized, agents and conspirers against the resistance.
The campaign which the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and its indictment are facing is not any different from what was faced by the other international criminal courts. Indeed, in Serbia, Cambodia and Rwanda, and before that in the Lockerbie case, and now with the pursuit of the Sudanese president and those responsible for the crimes of the Libyan regime against its oppositionists, the international judiciary was always subjected to accusations of politicization amid talk about an international conspiracy against the regime facing the charges made against it or against officials in it. This regime often felt empowered over the tribunals and the judges, based on its strength and the foreign protection it enjoys. It thus abstained from dealing with the accusations and the pursuits, before surrendering to the judiciary during periods of weakness or whenever it needed to rejoin the cover of international legitimacy. This often happened in many areas around the world, the last of which is currently being seen in the trials of the Serbian war criminals in the previous Yugoslavia wars.
In the Lebanese case, we are witnessing a more complex situation, considering that the Lebanese state is not the accused as it was the case of the Belgrade government for example, or even the Libyan regime in the Lockerbie case and its current crimes. The accused are elements – even prominent leaders – in the most powerful party on the Lebanese arena which is now an inherent part of the political decision-making process via Najib Mikati’s government. However, the Lebanese state is the one responsible for the implementation of the international arrest warrants and for cooperation with the tribunal based on the binding Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. This means that it can also become an accused if the Security Council were to find that its dealings with the indictment and the international tribunal are lacking or not serious enough.
In the face of the accusations of the tribunal and the questioning of its credibility and integrity by Hezbollah’s secretary general, Bellemare found no way to respond except by reconfirming the fact that the investigators working with him are acting autonomously and with good faith, are only seeking the truth, and that the results of the investigations solely rely on facts and credible evidence. He then reminded the accused and the detractors that the right place to challenge the investigation and the evidence was before the tribunal and not via the media outlets. The same was reiterated by the director of the Defense Office, Francois Roux, who invited the four accused to call him or visit him in his office (!), reminding them that legally, they had now become “fugitives from international justice.”
It might be useful to ask at this level: Are these judges that “naïve”? Do they really expect four men – some of whom are pursued by many states around the world without ever being found – to stand before their court? Naïveté is not the factor mobilizing international justice, but rather the reliance on the weapon of the law which always prevails in the end. This is due to the fact that the other weapons’ expiry is linked to the circumstances which imposed them, while all the previous experiences with courts throughout history confirm that. At this level, the STL is no exception. The accused might temporarily feel empowered over justice, but the accusations will remain and they will not be freed by a party, a sect or a family, only by an attorney and the judiciary. “It is defense time” as it was said by Francois Roux to the accused in the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri.
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 06/07/2011