Maya Zankoul

We are used to thinking about tribunals as having all the means, and the power, necessary to shed light on criminal acts. This fundamental idea is even more indispensable when it is at the service of an international mandate, and a fortiori in the case of crimes against humanity. Such an ideal was inscribed into the establishment of the international tribunal in charge of the Hariri assassination. However, in the case of Lebanon, a stricter approach prevailed. Why? And to render what justice?

On February 14th 2005, a car bomb containing an estimated minimum of 1,000 kg of TNT tore through former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s motorcade along Beirut’s luxurious seaside promenade, the Corniche. The attack took Hariri’s life as well as that of 22 others, blasting a 10-meter wide crater in the street and damaging buildings a quarter-mile away from the explosion. The death of the man credited with rebuilding – in a literal sense - and restoring Lebanon’s confi dence after a decade and a half of civil war had a ripple effect, which inundated not only the Middle East, but the world. Speculation abounded with regards to the individuals, or states, responsible, ranging from Israel to Iran to Al-Qaeda. It didn’t take long for the international community to turn its gaze towards Syria, who fought for years to maintain dominion over Lebanon. Hariri had been notably embroiled in some not-soinconspicuous differences in the later months of his life with his neighbors: a frequently-cited episode was Hariri’s visit to Damascus in August 2004 regarding a three-year extension, via constitutional amendment, of Syria-friendly President Émile Lahoud’s term in office. The exchange allegedly included an unequivocal warning from Syrian President Bashar Assad: “President Lahoud is me. Whatever I tell him, he follows suit. This extension is to happen or else I will break Lebanon over your head…” Following his parliamentary bloc’s approval of the extension and his subsequent resignation, Hariri adopted a hard line towards Syria and its political supporters in Lebanon, planning an electoral win with his Future Movement and refusing to “work with people who stab me in the back”. A mere five days – February 10th– after Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN envoy overseeing the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, which called for free and fair elections in Lebanon and the withdrawal of foreign troops, warned Hariri to be “very, very careful,” his convoy was torn to shreds along the sumptuous seafront landscape he had helped build.

(Photo © Maya Zankoul)

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