On October 11th, the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar published a story by Omar Nashabe entitled “STL’s Cassese: Resignation Likely Sign of Infighting, Not Ill Health.” In the piece, Nashabe (who is the paper’s judicial affairs editor) claimed that the previous day’s resignation of Antonio Cassese from the presidency of the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) was “likely prompted by a power struggle between prosecutor Daniel Bellemare and STL judges,” and not by health issues, as Cassese had originally said.
As we all know by now, Mr. Cassese passed away last night, after a long battle with cancer.
But I’m sure that Nashabe was right, and that Cassese’s resignation had nothing to do with failing health.
I’m sure that Nashabe’s single source, an unnamed “New York based UN official” was absolutely correct about the reasons motivating Cassese to step down and Ban Ki-Moon’s decision to cover up the mess with a false excuse. Sounds like iron-clad reporting to me.
I’ve generally found Omar Nashabe’s commentary on the STL to be smart and well-argued, but this piece exposes one of the primary weaknesses of the Lebanese press, namely its questionable reporting standards. Al-Akhbar should be much better than this, and usually is. Take a look at my friend Marwan Taher’s excellent story on the prosecution’s reliance on telecommunications evidence. He lays out a very convincing argument against the credibility of this evidence, but is still intellectually honest enough to point out that Hizbullah’s counter-narrative (that they were framed by Israel) is just not convincing, as far as the actual mechanics are concerned.
I’m not disputing the possibility that Cassese clashed with Bellemare, or that the long string of resignations at the STL does not betoken a climate of mistrust or acrimony among its central players.
But when a guy says he’s quitting for health reasons, you need more than one anonymous source to prove he’s lying.
Otherwise, if he dies on you twelve days later, you look very silly and your credibility is shot to hell.