The UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), based in the Netherlands, will try four Hezbollah suspects in absentia for the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, hopefully in 2012. The tribunal came to this conclusion as a last resort after Beirut was unable to locate and arrest the suspects — Salim Ayyash, Mustafa Badreddine, Hussein Anaissi, and Assad Sabra.
Hezbollah has not commented on the issue, but its leader Hassan Nasrallah had previously dismissed the indictments, calling the STL a tool of U.S. and Israeli policy to hurt the terrorist group. Nevermind that the tribunal was formed by Lebanon’s request under former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Rafik Hariri’s son. It is the first international court with the authority to prosecute terrorist acts.
A wanted poster for the four men on display in Lebanon last year.
The UN investigation into Hariri’s murder has become a divisive issue inside Lebanon, with Hezbollah pressuring Lebanese authorities against cooperating — pressure which eventually led to the collapse of Saad Hariri’s government last year. In November, Hezbollah and its allies in the Lebanese cabinet were expected to block Beirut’s funding of the court in a vote. But that meeting was postponed and current Prime Minister Nijab Mikati, in a surprising move, transferred the funds to the UN anyway, angering Hezbollah.
With so many unknown and moving variables, it’s incredible that that the STL continues on today. Though it is unfortunate that the suspects will be tried in absentia, the tribunal remains an important confirmation that justice in Lebanon can be served.