Saturday, 4 December 2010

The Politics of the Lebanon Tribunal

The International Crisis Group has released a report on 'the politics of the Lebanon Tribunal'. It is not entirely apparent what the ICG is proposing, but its take on the Tribunal suggests that priority be given to politics over law. The catch-line on its website says: 'An intra-Lebanese deal on how to respond to forthcoming indictments by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is necessary to avoid a breakdown of the country’s precarious balance of power, even as the STL pursues its work.'
The report discusses the tensions associated with the work of the Tribunal - which, by the way, has to date been essentially confidential, the subject of rumor rather than anything official. ICG refers to attempts by Syria and Saudi Arabia to negotiate 'a compromise' by which Lebanon would 'request the Security Council to halt STL activities once indictments have been issued, for the sake of domestic stability. It could condition further cooperation with the tribunal on its taking certain steps (eg, foregoing the option of trials in absentia; agreeing to look into the so-called false witnesses affair). Or cooperation could continue even as Lebanon expressed serious doubts as to the basis of its findings. A compromise should be accompanied by a collective agreement to allow the prime minister to govern more effectively – something he systematically has been prevented from doing.'

The ICG is a prestigious body with a lot of influence, and its speculation on the future of the Tribunal is not to be taken lightly.
Although an 'international tribunal' in a technical sense, because it is created by the Security Council of the United Nations and resembles, in a structural sense, the international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon's jurisdiction is confined to 'ordinary' terrorist crimes. The imperative to put justice before politics is certainly weaker under the circumstances.
Thanks to Rick Lorenz.

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