After months of delay, the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), charged with probing the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, last week handed over the Lebanon portion of the indictment to Lebanese authorities. The indictment points to four Hezbollah members as responsible for the attack and issues warrants for their arrest. Beirut has 30 days to arrest the accused and, if it doesn’t, the STL will publish the documents and call for the suspects to appear before the court.
Although supposed to be kept secret, the names of the indicted were leaked and confirmed by Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel to the AFP. They include Mustafa Badreddine, brother in law of the late Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyeh, charged with masterminding the attack, and Salim Ayyash, believed to be a U.S. citizen, charged with carrying out the attack. Additional indictments of Syrian authorities are expected in the near future.
The scene from PM Rafik Hariri’s assassination in Lebanon, 2005.
Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah responded to the accusations Saturday, saying that Hezbollah will not cooperate with the tribunal and that the men are unjustly accused. He also said the men would never be arrested, not “in 30 or 300 years,” and that the tribunal would be forced to try them in absentia. The whereabouts of the accused is unknown.
Lebanon is in a precarious position right now. With the Syria and Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah in control of the government, Beirut’s sovereignty has effectively been squashed. And yet, the STL, with its unique ability to bring justice to the murdered and their families, may just be able to ignite the fire within the Lebanese that originally pushed Syria from Lebanon in 2005 after nearly three decades of occupation. That the indictments were handed to the Lebanese authorities even after Hezbollah came to dominate the government in Beirut tells Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, and the Lebanese that the UN-backed tribunal will not be deterred by aggression. The STL must carry on with its task even in the face of danger, and the world’s powers must strongly back it.