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Middle east

Special tribunal for Lebanon begins work

Video by Rachel MARUSAK , Julien FANCIULLI

Text by Marc DAOU

Latest update : 2009-03-01

The UN-sponsored Special Tribunal for Lebanon began its trial of late Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri's alleged killers on Sunday in the Hague. The prosecutor has 60 days to request the transfer of the suspects from Lebanon.

All eyes in Lebanon turn to The Hague on Sunday, when the Special Tribunal for Lebanon begins its trial of the suspected killers of late Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

Long awaited by many, feared by some, the special tribunal was brought to life by a resolution of the UN Security Council.

“This court is a major step forward for Lebanon and an example for the whole region. It shows that the days of impunity are long gone,” Marwan Hamadé, a member of the Lebanese parliament and a former minister, himself targeted by a car bomb attack in 2004, told FRANCE 24 in a phone interview.

This marks the first time that such a court has been created for Lebanon where, for the last 30 years, dozens of political assassinations remain unsolved.

Hariri died, along with 22 others, when a car bomb exploded next to his convoy on February 14th, 2005. on Feb. 25, three of the seven people incarcerated in the case were set free. The other four suspects may be transferred to The Hague within two months of the start of the trial.

End of impunity

The tribunal is unusual in that it addresses the assassination of one man, whereas other international courts judge cases of mass murder, such as those in the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda or Sierra Leone.

Hany Hammoud, a member of the Lebanese parliament and an ally of Rafiq Hariri’s son Saad Hariri - the head of the ‘Future Movement’ political party – told FRANCE 24: “This court is not a victory for the Hariri family, who remain a victim in this story. It’s a victory for the Lebanese people, for they know now that impunity no longer exists in his country and that democracy shall no longer be perverted by political assassinations.”

A fight for the truth

According to the ‘March 14th’ alliance, a major political force in the Lebanese parliament, this trial is the outcome of a rough battle which lasted four years. “We salute the start of the tribunal's work, which proves that international justice is en route,” Hamadé says. “Some of us have paid with our lives for this fight for the truth, murdered by those who did not want truth to prevail.”

The Lebanese parliamentary majority has always held Syria responsible for the killing of Hariri, along with assassinations of other anti-Syrian personalities.

“Without speculating on where the international investigation might lead,” Hamadé added, “I am confident this court will bring to light those who have been hiding behind odious crimes that have shaken our nation, and that our suspicions of Syria will turn out to be true.”


Date created : 2009-03-01