Lebanon, March 14, Syria

Whither the Tribunal?


BREAKING NEWS: All Four Generals Released(see below for update)

We are hours away from a potentially groundbreaking decision, vis-à-vis the detention of the four generals held in connection with Rafiq Hariri’s murder, the fate of the International Tribunal, and (further down the road) the outcome of the parliamentary elections.

Daniel Bellemare, prosecutor to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, handed over the investigation’s files to the pre-trial judge, Daniel Fransen, who must make a decision today regarding the detention of all suspects. As you may recall, Lebanese authorities released three of the seven suspects two months ago, but the generals (who have been held without charge for four years) are the high-profile figures that many in Lebanon’s ruling coalition were hoping would be implicated in the conspiracy. Nailing the generals, so the thinking went, would have established with virtual certainty Syria’s involvement in the crime, especially if the prosecutors were able to compel a confession along these lines from the generals themselves (“rolling them up”, in The Wire‘s lingo…)

There is a possibility that not all will be released; some may be sent to the Hague while others are freed. Should they be released however, it will be hard to escape the conclusion that Syria is off the hook. Almost four years to the day when the last Syrian soldier trudged ignominiously over the Lebanese border, Syria may have finally wiped its hands of the entire Hariri debacle.

Update: Celebratory gunfire and fireworks, it turns out, are even more effective in communicating breaking news than Twitter. The generals are free. What this means for the future of the Hariri tribunal is unclear, but one can probably safely conclude that Syria is off the hook, barring any major surprises in Bellemare’s investigation. More on this soon enough…
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11 thoughts on “Whither the Tribunal?

  1. aie yay yay… This dosen’t look good for the young Saad. As all the chatter news gets funny on this I read this comment which put very eloquently: “La loi internationale interdit d’arreter un suspect au dela de 90 jours sans jugement et sans preuve… c’est la raison principale evoquee par le juge du TSL… Les juges libanais se retrouvent dans un cas tres delicat. Ils doivent des explications aux libanais.”.
    So now, we’re back to square one. Who could have executed such a perfect crime?

    Posted by Jester theFool | April 29, 2009, 10:16 pm
  2. Wasnt Ali Hage, the former bodyguard of the late Harriri caught red handed planting bugs in Hariris house and car?
    I dunno, maybe im a little biased and unfair in thinking the four generals would be indicted for sure..after having read “Killing Mr.Lebanon”, I was under the impression that a plan of such enormous scale and execution would have to have run through the main authority figures and the main armed groups.
    Well, what do you know,impressions dont last for long and something tells me they will unlock the Mystery of the Pyramids before they find the culprits.

    Posted by Maverick | April 30, 2009, 12:33 am
  3. “a plan of such enormous scale and execution would have to have run through the main authority figures and the main armed groups.”

    I hear this so often and still don’t get it. The IRA planted many a car bomb in central London without a problem – Why would doing so in Beirut, in a country awash with weaponry need authority figures? If you have the money you can have anyone taken out.

    Posted by mo | April 30, 2009, 12:44 am
  4. Ya mo: It’s not a question of getting a car bomb in Beirut, it’s a question of knowing exactly where Hariri would be at exactly the “right” time. Any fool can set off a car bomb at ABC or Sofil, but managing to target someone as well-guarded as Hariri takes some serious intel.

    Posted by sean | April 30, 2009, 7:56 am
  5. It has been my pleasure to follow-up your writings and the comments on QN.
    Your choice of pictures have been very interesting with exception of the 4 Kings.
    4 jokers would have more appropriate choice.
    Good luck & keep it coming.

    Posted by i.e. Lubnan | April 30, 2009, 8:27 am
  6. I have a distinct feeling that this is yet another turn for the worst Lebanon is taking, not necessarely because of the release of the 4 Generals; but for what it would entail. As the days go by I am becoming more and more pessimistic with regards to the ouctome of the elections.

    Posted by marillionlb | April 30, 2009, 10:20 am
  7. Sean, Hariri wasn’t on some secret mission. He was at Parliament and was going to Koraytem. You hardly need serious intel to know when he was going to be at Parliament and that he was heading home. For security, he always used three different routes to get home. So the only serious security breach is how they knew which one he would use (assuming a truck was used and that they didn’t have trucks on both the other routes).

    So no you do not need the “serious intel” of the general security (isn’t that a contradiction in terms?) to have targetted him when and where they did.

    Posted by mo | April 30, 2009, 12:58 pm
  8. Mo: Really? I assume that they just made a lucky guess as to which vehicle in the convoy he was riding in?

    Posted by sean | April 30, 2009, 1:59 pm
  9. add to that, the technological know-how to breach Harrir’s sophisticated defence mechanisms in his car. The scale of the explosion ( not your average car bomb).The logistics involved to pull it off.
    Im thinking its a little more organised than one would assume.

    Posted by Maverick | April 30, 2009, 2:43 pm
  10. As a Lebanese who does not support any of the political chaos in Lebanon, I’m always wondering about many events that happen every day and yet make no sense at all but it seems that it’s making sense to majority of the Lebanese around me. Things like what’s up with fireworks customs every time a political party or politician appear to public, I mean sorry but I’m not getting it what the hell does it mean when people fire loud annoying fireworks? I can’t get what’s the pleasure out of it, not forgetting how expansive it is. Another thing is yesterday when the generals where released the public celebration was as if we gained independence or liberation I saw the jazeera footage and at the beginning I thought it was in Yemen or Oman, guys dressed in colorful turbines and waving swords . The other side of the Lebanese where mostly disappointed pissed off, and sure, instant non-sense political analyses, and reactions. When Saad Hariri addressed the issue they were not happy about what he said. What kind of adrenaline the Lebanese get out of any political event. It’s a very strong one that I cannot manage to reach, the contrary happens to me I get stressed out watching the non-sense.

    Posted by moeali | April 30, 2009, 2:58 pm
  11. Sean, I’ve never worked in intel but oh i dont know a guy with a mobile phone when Hariri got into his car would have solved that tricky conundrum.

    Maverick, Hariris defence mechanism were electronic. If the bomb was set off by any means other than an electronic signal, then his ability to stop a bomb was zilch. Im not arguing agains the neccesity of logistics and organisation. Im arguing against the belief that it would require “authority” help.

    Posted by mo | April 30, 2009, 3:06 pm

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