Unpoliticizing the Special Tribunal for Lebanon

When the resolution 1757 was adopted by the United Nations Security Council adopting the establishing of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to try those found responsible for several attacks and political assassinations of pro-independence and democracy activists in Lebanon, we celebrated the resolution as a turning point for the Middle East that it would be for the first time in the Middle East's history an international accountability for political and against-humanity crimes. A history that knows plenty of such crimes in a region has an international reputation of such violations and brutality, especially while this region is still serving as the authoritarianism's haven even after the dismantling of the Soviet Union and its brutal totalitarian system. Therefore, eventually, this would be a breach of the impunity norm and tradition for those who kill people in the Middle East in the political and ruling context.

Given the long history of the leading international powers in providing the cover for this impunity with their inaction until it seemed to be that there is an implicit system of immunity, which makes these powers like accomplices in these crimes, there is a real concern over the possible extension of this long-standing policy to, somehow, reach the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and its work in a direct or indirect way.

Since the international law, represented by the UN Security Council resolution 1757 and other relevant resolutions and presidential statements adopted by the council, is very clear and decisive in establishing that it is an international affair and task to hold those criminals responsible for Lebanon attacks and assassinations accountable for their crimes with essential collaboration with the Lebanese government, then the non-impunity is internationally established in the most clearer and practical way.

Nevertheless, the question now is about the application of this resolution and this new policy, especially in establishing the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on the ground and enabling it of discharging its duties to the end it established for by the Security Council.

Our concern, in this context, is about this process to be politicized against the spirit and the goal of the law providing for this entire legal entity and process.

For ensuring the effectiveness and integrity of this entire process, some remarks should be noticed, and some actions should be taken.

First of all, this open endless secret investigation is neither rational nor acceptable considering the huge international resources the investigation has, including legal binding resolutions like resolution 1636. Either the investigation facts should be announced, without endangering the investigation's confidentiality and efficacy, of course, or a timeline should be put for the end of this investigation.

Secondly, the United Nations should adopt transparency in this entire process, its steps should be publicly stated, and a timeline of the tribunal should be announced.

Finally, the United Nations has to make an explanation about the non-understood delay in the work of the tribunal since its statute is tailored to be effective and flexible, especially with the investigation requirements. Not to mention, in this regard, the very early announcement by a concerned party in 2007 stating that the work of the tribunal will start in 2009.

After years of international investigation, it is time to launch the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in a transparent way with no politicizing. It should be kept legal, a pure legal process. Because, this time, neither history nor the Middle East victim peoples would put up with it. So, be aware.

Related materials on Special Tribunal for Lebanon:

- Special Tribunal for Lebanon Recruiting

- Registrar of Special Tribunal for Lebanon Begins Duty

- Special Tribunal for Lebanon Is Ready ― UN Report

- Statute of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon

- Registrar of Special Tribunal for Lebanon Is Appointed, Tribunal Is Ready

- 'Management Committee' of Special Tribunal for Lebanon Is Set Up

- Special Tribunal for Lebanon Gets Base, Judges

- The International Tribunal for Lebanon (Resolution 1757)

- UN Report on the Establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon

- Tenth report of Hariri International Investigation Commission

- Ninth report of Hariri International Investigation Commission

- Memo for International Tribunal for Lebanon

- Special Tribunal for Lebanon Comes Into Force


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Middle East Press Freedom: Awaiting Political Change

Reporters Without Borders has issued its annual report about press freedom in the world, Press Freedom Index 2008. The results came as usual in terms of the Middle East region.

The report supports my suggestion that the Middle East is one of the worst regions, if not the worse, in the world as regards freedom of expression, in general, and freedom of the press in particular.

As I always say, this region still lives the era of the eastern campaign of former Soviet Union under the totalitarian system or the authoritarian system at best. Although the world has significantly changed after the Cold War, this change has stopped at the Middle East's borders. This situation becomes persistent, I am afraid.

It is time now to declare the failure of various attempts to change the situation of repression as regards freedom of expression in the Middle East. Europeans tried in 1990s through Barcelona Process and completely failed. Americans tried in 2000s and achieved minor improvements while the basic system controlling this question did not change.

The failure of these attempts over a little bit less than two decades, in my opinion, is due to unpoliticizing the question. Those previous attempts kept the question at the rights level while the region's ruling regimes simply do not care about the entire public rights and freedoms question.

Therefore, it is time to take this question to the political level. I am afraid that it would be no movement and improvement on this question without tackling it politically after considering it as a political affair and deploying political means in this regard.

Hence, it is time to all concerned parties in the world to change the approach for achieving the goal of normalizing the situation in the Middle East in terms of freedom of expression, and eliminate this aggression against civilization. This is a necessity for more stable diverse and civilized world, and for better and more prosperous international relations, and even international politics.

Back to the report, following are some highlights concerning the Middle East from the report.

"The same six Middle East champions of repression that are near the bottom of the world press freedom index every year have confirmed their status this year again. Free expression continues to be no more than a dream in Iraq (158th), Syria (159th), Libya (160th), Saudi Arabia (161st), the Palestinian Territories (163rd) and Iran (166th). Journalists are subjected to relentless censorship and in some cases incredible violence in these countries. The Palestinian Territories have never before fallen so far in a year. The power struggle between the main factions has taken a disastrous toll on press freedom. The political split between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank has been accompanied by a division of the media. The Israeli military’s responsibility for the death of a Palestinian cameraman employed by Reuters in April and the impunity granted to the soldier who fired the fatal shell account for Israel’s fall (149th outside its own territory) in the ranking.

In the Maghreb, Morocco (122nd) continues the fall it began two years ago. The decline in relations between government and press increased significantly with the jailing of journalist Mostapha Hurmatallah. A series of prosecutions of journalists and Internet users has shown that press freedom in Morocco stops at the doors of the royal palace.

Lebanon (66th) has risen 30 places as no journalist was on the list of victims of this year’s bombings. The Hezbollah-orchestrated offensive against certain media affiliated to the anti-Syrian opposition left no victims and trigged a wave of indignation in Lebanese society".

Unchanging hells: "In Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali’s Tunisia (143rd), Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya (160rd), Alexander Lukashenko’s Belarus (154th), Bashar el-Assad’s Syria (159e) and Teodoro Obiang Nguema’s Equatorial Guinea (156th), the leader’s ubiquitous portrait on the streets and front pages of the newspapers is enough to dispel any doubt about the lack of press freedom. Other dictatorships do without a personality cult but are just as suffocating. Nothing is possible in Laos (164th) or Saudi Arabia (161st) if it does not accord with government policy".

"The international community, including the European Union, endlessly repeats that the only solution continues to be “dialogue.” But dialogue has clearly had little success and even the most authoritarian governments are still able to ignore remonstrations without risking any repercussions other than the inconsequential displeasure of the occasional diplomat".

"Online repression also exposes these tenacious taboos. In Egypt (146th), demonstrations launched online shook the capital and alarmed the government, which now regards every Internet user as a potential danger. The use of Internet filtering is growing by the year and the most repressive governments do not hesitate to jail bloggers. While China still leads the “Internet black hole” ranking worldwide, deploying considerable technical resources to control Internet users, Syria (159th) is the Middle-East champion in cyber-repression. Internet surveillance is so thorough there that even the least criticism posted online is sooner or later followed by arrest".


Related material:

- The Right to Online Freedom


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