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Latest update : 2010-04-29

Still no justice for Rafiq Hariri

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon started investigating the assassination of Rafiq Hariri in March 2009. While the finger of blame was initially pointed at Syria in the aftermath of the former Lebanese Prime Minister's death in 2005, no-one has ever been charged - though rumours are still rife, both about Syria and its ally, Hezbollah.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, charged with trying the assassins of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, killed in February 2005, was launched more than a year ago in The Hague. But despite the fact that just a few months after the assassination the first investigative commission suggested that evidence pointed the finger at Syria, the tribunal has still charged no suspects.

In Lebanon, people are getting impatient and above all, worried. According to journalists who say they have been party to leaks from the tribunal, members of Hezbollah could be implicated in the crime. Any future charge against members of the Shiite party, a pillar of the Lebanese opposition that is supported by Iran and Syria, could revive tensions in a country where the equilibrium is fragile.

The spokesperson for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Fatima El Issawi, declines to comment on the investigation, but says it is normal when no accusations have been made. "It’s important to differentiate between international investigative commissions and the prosecutor’s office, charged with providing evidence", she says. Furthermore, this is a particularly complex crime.

The enquiry is being conducted in top secret, but rumours abound. Several media reports have alleged in the past few months that members of Hezbollah could be implicated in the crime. Recently, the Secretary-General of the Party of God, Hassan Nasrallah, dismissed these accusations as politically motivated speculation. But he acknowledged that Hezbollah members were summoned, although solely as witnesses, by the prosecutor’s office.

Even if they are only rumours, they are rumours that worry the Lebanese people. Rafiq Hariri was Sunni. Hezbollah is Shiite. Relations between the two communities are already tense. In May 2008, armed clashes between Sunnis and Shiites killed dozens of people across the country. For Lebanese legal experts, it’s essential to avoid generalisations. "The tribunal is there to judge people implicated in the crime and not parties, groups or confessional communities", explains Father Fady Fadel, a lawyer.

All the experts agree that the tribunal must not be perceived as a political tool, but rather as an independent institution with the sole aim of judging Hariri’s killers. They also say that whatever happens, the process is heading towards a conclusion.

By Lucy FIELDER

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