August 1, 2011

Al-Hariri indictments - Lebanon to arrest Hizbllah members???

The United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon has officially released the names of four Lebanese men indicted in the 2005 murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri. Although their names have been leaked in the past, the official release of the names starts a clock requiring the Lebanese government to take the four into custody.

Don't hold your breath for a "perp walk" in at the Ministry of Justice in downtown Beirut. Leaders of the Lebanese government as well as Hizballah - to which the four belong - have stated that they will not be arrested. Hizballah leader Sayid Hasan Nasrallah boasted that Lebanese authorities would not dare arrest any members of his group.

Nasrallah simply said that the four accused will not be able to be located. He's right, of course. When the most powerful political party and strongest militia in the country want to protect four of its thugs and henchmen, the ineffective Lebanese police, internal security and military will never take them into custody.

Hizballah's adversarial stance has caused numerous crises for the weak Lebanese government. Now that Hizballah holds 16 of 30 cabinets positions, Nasrallah's words probably ring true. He claims that the accusations were engineered in the West to bring down the Hizballah-dominated government.

One of the four men is fairly well-known in terrorist circles. Mustafa Amin Badr al-Din (rendered by the UN as Mustafa Amine Badreddine) is the brother-in-law of the legendary late Hizballah military commander 'Imad Mughniyah, one of the world's most notorious mass murderers. Mughniyah was killed by a car bomb in Damascus, Syria in 2008. Although there has been no official acknowledgement, it was almost certainly the work of the Israeli Mossad.

The tribunal also named Salim Jamil 'Ayash (Salim Jamil Ayyash), Husayn Hasan 'Unaysi (Hussein Hassan Oneissi) and Asad Hasan Sabra (Assad Hassan Sabra). International arrest warrants were issued for the suspects on July 8. In theory, according to international law, the Lebanese government is responsible for arresting the indictees; Beirut has until August 11 to respond. Given the fractious nature of the Lebanese government and the strength of Hizballah, it is almost certain not to happen.

This is reminiscent of the war crimes indictments levied after the war in the former Yugoslavia. It took foreign forces, nominally NATO, but mostly American, to finally make arrests in those cases. If there are to be arrests in this case, they certainly will not be made by the current Lebanese government.

It will be years, if ever, before any of the four indicted persons see a courtroom.