Global Policy Forum

Tribunal Names 4 in ’05 Killing of Lebanese Leader

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has issued four arrest warrants for the 2005 murder of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Though the identity of those indicted is confidential, it is widely believed that two of the four indicted are members of Hezbollah. Lebanon’s new Hezbollah-dominated government has condemned the STL on several occasions and asserts that it will challenge any arrests made by the special tribunal. This New York Times article points out that Lebanon will most likely enter into a period of extreme political instability if Hezbollah members are arrested.

By Nada Bakri

June 30, 2011

A United Nations-backed tribunal investigating the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister delivered indictments to prosecutors here Thursday, naming four men — including two suspected members of Hezbollah — in a killing that remade the country’s politics and unleashed years of discord.

The indictments in the 2005 killing of the former leader, Rafik Hariri, were handed to the state prosecutor, whose responsibilities include serving the arrest warrants.

Neither members of the tribunal nor the prosecutor, Said Mirza, commented on the meeting, but judiciary officials confirmed the names of the four Lebanese men, two of them believed to be senior members in Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim militant group and single most powerful organization in this Mediterranean country of four million.

One of them is Moustapha Badreddine, a brother-in-law of Imad Moughnieh, a shadowy Hezbollah commander killed in 2007 and blamed for some of the group’s most spectacular acts of violence. Among those attacks was the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut, which killed 241 servicemen.

Mr. Mirza issued a statement in which he confirmed the indictments and said that his office would study the necessary steps that should be taken. According to legal experts, Lebanon has 30 days to serve out the arrest warrants. If the suspects are not arrested within this period, the United Nations-backed tribunal would then make the indictments public and summon the suspects to appear before court.

Hezbollah, which has long acknowledged that its members would be named in the eventual indictments, has denounced the court, calling it politicized and a tool of the United States and Israel. It wants Lebanon to end its cooperation with it, including withdrawing Lebanese judges and stopping funding for it.

Saad Hariri, Mr. Hariri’s son, whose government collapsed earlier this year when Hezbollah’s ministers and their allies walked out of it, called the indictment a “historic moment in Lebanese politics, justice and security.”

Mr. Hariri also urged the new government, which is dominated by Hezbollah and its allies, to honor Lebanon’s commitments to international resolutions. Najib Mikati, Mr. Hariri’s successor, issued a policy statement on Thursday for his newly appointed cabinet saying he would honor all international commitments.

The indictments suggest that Lebanon could be entering another period of uncertainty, and the fate of the four accused could determine the longevity of Mr. Mikati’s government. Hezbollah effectively holds a veto over his tenure and has previously said that it would not stand by as its members are accused.

Mr. Mikati said his government will deal “responsibly and realistically” with the indictments. “Today we are facing a new reality that we must be aware of,” he said, “bearing in mind that these are accusations and not verdicts.”

“All suspects are innocent until proven guilty,” he added.

Lebanon is roughly divided between those who endorse the court’s work and those who see it as a sham. The division mirrors a divide in the country that predates Mr. Hariri’s assassination, and cuts across Lebanon’s unresolved questions of identity, loyalty to foreign powers, posture toward Israel and the relative strength of Sunni and Shiite Muslims in a country of 18 religious sects.


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