How would the world react to false witnesses after World War II, at Lockerbie, or after 9-11? Why have false witnesses in the Hariri Affair been protected—to say the least—by the international community?
Perhaps the most celebrated trial of the 20th century was that of Nuremberg, which took place in October 1945 when Adolph Hitler’s top men stood before court on charges of crimes committed during World War II. Let us imagine that these Nazi officials and the witnesses that came with them lied under oath and falsified information; how would the international community have reacted? How would the world have reacted had witnesses lied at the Lockerbie trials for example, or in all court proceedings that took place after 9-11?
In Syria we are very keen, both government and public alike, on finding out who killed Rafiq al-Hariri on that fateful day in Beirut on February 14, 2005. We also believe that the entire ordeal is quiet simple and straightforward: Israel did it, without the shadow of a doubt, to blame it first on the Syrians and then on Hizbullah. What Israel could not achieve during the war of 2006, vis-à-vis the Lebanese resistance, it will try and achieve through the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). It will use the international tribunal to strike at the legitimacy, legacy, and future of Hizbullah. What kind of an investigation is this, we tend to ask, when four officers were arrested for the crime in 2005 and released four years later, completely cleared of all charges against them? What kind of probe is the UN heading if Israel was never questioned or drilled in the Hariri Affair? In any murder after all, aren’t investigators required to “round up the usual suspects?”
When Yasser Arafat died in 2004, theories surfaced that the Palestinian leader had been poisoned. It was amazing that nobody back then summoned Ariel Sharon to court. The man had repeatedly threatened to kill Arafat since their confrontation in Beirut in 1982. Those threats alone should have been enough to drag him to the International Court of Justice when Arafat was confirmed dead at a Paris hospital. In Hariri’s case, why was Israel never considered a suspect by the international community or the UN? The Zionist State, after all, had sent commandos in boats to Beirut back in April 1973—headed by Ehud Barak disguised as a brunette woman—to murder three top Palestinian officials in cold blood. A state that is capable of doing that—among other things—is capable of doing everything and certainly capable of orchestrating the Valentine’s Day massacre of February 2005.
But let’s go back to the false witnesses in the Hariri Case. Clearly from court findings and all reports by UN judges since 2005, these false witnesses lied under oath and distorted facts, leading to a miscarriage of justice and doing great harm to Syrian-Lebanese relations. Syria has already issued warrants for their arrest and is expecting Lebanon to take similar action.
So long as the STL refuses to take action against these false witnesses and refuses to even consider Israel as a prime suspect in the Hariri murder, then the STL and Israel stand as two sides of the same coin. Last October, Hizbullah Secretary-General Hasan Nasrallah gave a brief yet thundering speech unleashing hell on the STL and whoever cooperates with it, insisting that it is an Israeli project targeting the arms and reputation of Hizbullah. His fury came only 24 hours after investigators from the STL invaded a gynecologist’s clinic in the Ouzai suburb of Beirut, where amidst the chaos that ensued, claimed to have been swamped by women who stole their briefcase and documents. Nasrallah said that the entire incident was a violation of ethical, religious, and humanitarian norms, calling on the Lebanese to boycott the STL, which had no business digging into the records of female patients in Beirut. Offering the STL any assistance, Nasrallah said, would be like offering assistance to Israel itself.
Syria and Hizbullah are aware of the dangers posed by the US’s clear, and almost sudden, support for the STL, expressed by its ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice. For almost two years, the US has refused to immerse itself at micro-level in Lebanese affairs, unlike the Bush era, preferring to concentrate instead on bilateral relations with Damascus, peace talks, and Iraq rather than Lebanon. Struggling for the Jewish vote in the upcoming mid-congressional elections this November, however, the Obama Administration is willing to walk that extra mile to make sure that pro-Israeli voters are satisfied with a strong stance against Hizbullah and Syria, using the STL for this specific purpose.
Sami Moubayed is editor-in-chief of Forward Magazine in Syria.