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Why Lebanon’s Rafik Hariri tribunal must be funded until it completes its mandate

NEW YORK CITY / BEIRUT: With the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) facing a severe financial crisis and the threat of imminent shutdown, it is imperative to highlight the significance of its recent judgment and the critical importance of permitting the tribunal to complete its mandate. Shutting down the STL now, on the eve of its…

NEW YORK CITY / BEIRUT: With the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) facing a severe financial crisis and the threat of imminent shutdown, it is imperative to highlight the significance of its recent judgment and the critical importance of permitting the tribunal to complete its mandate.

Shutting down the STL now, on the eve of its second major trial, would send a wrong and dangerous message with implications for international criminal justice as a whole and especially for Lebanon.

Amid the continuing assassinations in Lebanon and the region, the STL is a unique demonstration of how a rules-based international order can act through multilateral initiatives as a force for justice.

Such an institution would be difficult to create today, with tit-for-tat vetoes paralyzing decisions at the UN Security Council. Shutting the STL down, therefore, would be an irreversible decision, and the resulting damage would be unthinkable.

A new generation in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine and around the region is calling for justice and accountability from its leadership and the international community. Backing the tribunal and the completion of its mandate supports these aspirations for a better future.

Read the full report on Arab News Research & Studies by clicking here

The STL is needed more than ever and we should be discussing its expansion rather than its closure. It is the first tribunal of its kind to consider terrorism as an international crime. Trillions have been spent to battle terrorism; the international community cannot balk at a few million for the only instrument it has to fight terror legally.

The STL issued its judgment on Aug. 18, 2020, more than 15 years after former prime minister Rafik Hariri’s assassination and just two weeks after the deadly Aug. 4 port blast. The judgment convicted Salim Ayyash, but stopped short of blaming Hezbollah or the Syrian government.

While the verdict was found lacking and largely ignored in Lebanon, there have been continuous calls for international support to achieve justice and accountability for the many unaddressed crimes committed in the country, including the port explosion.

Wreaths adorn the grave of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri (portrait), on the ninth anniversary of his death, in Beirut on February 14, 2014. (AFP/File Photo)

The STL judgment takes Lebanon down the path of accountability, and needs to be properly interpreted and seen in the context of the tribunal’s creation by the UN Security Council. A clear understanding of the process of international criminal justice, its limits as well as the specific restrictions placed on the STL, are essential in evaluating the importance of the judgment.

Disappointment with the verdict is based on a combination of unrealistic expectations, a lack of understanding of its rigorous procedures, as well as legitimate concerns about the narrowness of its mandate and the length of time it took to reach the judgment.

Read the full report on Arab News Research & Studies by clicking here

There is also confusion between the three separate objectives of truth, justice and accountability. The STL can only partially achieve these within the constraints of its mandate, rules and the rigour of its procedures. But that does not diminish the significance of its findings and the power of its verdict.

Fifteen years after the Hariri assassination, justice delayed was viewed as justice denied; truth was partial as only one individual was convicted; and accountability as well as justice without his arrest is unachievable.

INNUMBERS

* 51% – STL funding by donor countries.

* 49% – Funding by Lebanon government.

These criticisms of the outcome also reflect the challenges that the STL has faced from the time of its formation to the issuing of the judgment. The result was seen as a failure to measure up to the sacrifices the Lebanese made to obtain it.

The multifaceted and severe crisis that the country is going through — an upheaval dramatically exacerbated by the Beirut blast — has also overshadowed the significance of the STL judgment, but ignoring the verdict will have serious negative repercussions and it is imperative to grasp the opportunity it provides.

The creation of the STL was achieved against all odds. There was domestic, regional and international opposition to the tribunal from the start.

In view of the scale of suffering during the Lebanese civil war for which no one has ever been held accountable and the dozens of political assassinations throughout the country’s history, it was indeed difficult to argue that the assassination of one man warranted such an expensive and complex legal instrument.

Read the full report on Arab News Research & Studies by clicking here

Among the challenges were also those of defining terrorism under international law and justifying trials in absentia with the knowledge that there was little chance of arresting the perpetrators even if convicted. There was also grave concern that the STL would create far more instability and with fewer tangible results than other similar tribunals.

With hindsight and given the current climate in international relations, the STL was an immense achievement and a sophisticated contribution to the field of international criminal justice.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) facing a severe financial crisis and the threat of imminent shutdown. (Supplied)

Lebanese protesters demanded “the truth” in 2005 after the Hariri assassination. In simpler and less controversial terms, they wanted to know who did it.

The STL provided the answer — the terrorist attack that killed 22 people, badly injured more than 200 and devastated a significant part of Beirut was carried out by a well-organized and disciplined group of individuals. The next case will also examine the connections between this and other assassinations.

The judgment, which is publicly available on the tribunal’s website, consists of 2,641 pages of important and judicially tested facts about Lebanon’s recent past. This is much more than any historian, investigative journalist or political analyst usually has at their disposal to form an opinion.

Read the full report on Arab News Research & Studies by clicking here

Like the findings of the Yugoslav tribunal, the STL judgment is incredibly important for Lebanon because it is a treasure trove of information about what happened not only on Feb. 14, 2005, but also in the months and years during the period referred to as Pax Syriana.

The tribunal’s rigorous process also means that every fact mentioned in the report is undeniable and established “beyond reasonable doubt.”

Three of the sons of slain Lebanese former prime minister Rafik Hariri (from L to R): Ayman, Saad and Bahaa arrive Feb. 19 2005 at the site of the massive explosion in which their father was killed along with 14 people in central Beirut. (AFP/File Photo)

This makes the report far more important politically than the judgment itself and, in parallel, can deliver significant political results, ultimately leading to the establishment of accountability as a principle for the first time in the region.

The truth can be hard to deal with, and every society has its own way of working with difficult memories and episodes in its history. Lebanon has a culture of “moving on,” a deeply ingrained idea that what is past is past.

But the truth obtained through a process such as the STL cannot be brushed under the carpet or denied, and dealing with it is bound to make society stronger.

What happens in Lebanon never stays in Lebanon but has repercussions around an entire region suffering from similar assassinations and terrorist crimes.

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KAMPALA: Ethiopians will vote on Monday in a landmark election overshadowed by reports of famine in the country’s war-hit Tigray region and beset by logistical problems that mean some people won’t be able to vote until September.The election is the centerpiece of a reform drive by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whose rise to power in…

Singapore sees early rush for Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine

KAMPALA: Ethiopians will vote on Monday in a landmark election overshadowed by reports of famine in the country’s war-hit Tigray region and beset by logistical problems that mean some people won’t be able to vote until September.The election is the centerpiece of a reform drive by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whose rise to power in 2018 seemed to signal a break with decades of authoritarian rule and led to his Nobel Peace Prize the following year.He has described the poll as “the nation’s first attempt at free and fair elections.”Abiy’s ruling Prosperity Party, formed in 2019 by merging groups who made up the previous ruling coalition, is widely expected to cement its hold on power.The party that wins a majority of seats in the House of Peoples’ Representatives will form the next government.“We will secure Ethiopia’s unity,” Abiy said ahead of his final campaign rally on Wednesday, repeating his vow of a free and fair election after past votes were marred by allegations of fraud.But opposition groups have accused Ethiopia’s ruling party of harassment, manipulation and threats of violence that echo abuses of the past.And Abiy is facing growing international criticism over the war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.Thousands of civilians have been killed and more than 2 million people have been displaced since fighting broke out in November between Ethiopian forces, backed by ones from neighboring Eritrea, and those supporting the now-fugitive Tigray leaders.Last week, humanitarian agencies warned that 350,000 people in Tigray are on the brink of famine, a crisis that several diplomats have described as “manmade” amid allegations of forced starvation.Ethiopia’s government has rejected the figure and says food aid has reached 5.2 million in the region of 6 million.No date has been set for voting in Tigray’s 38 constituencies, where military personnel who usually play a key role in transporting election materials across Africa’s second-most populous country are busy with the conflict.Meanwhile, voting has been postponed until September in 64 out of 547 constituencies throughout Ethiopia because of insecurity, defective ballot papers and opposition allegations of irregularities.Outbreaks of ethnic violence have also killed hundreds of people in the Amhara, Oromia and Benishangul-Gumuz regions in recent months.Some prominent opposition parties are boycotting the election. Others say they have been prevented from campaigning in several parts of the country.“There have been gross violations,” Yusef Ibrahim, vice president of the National Movement of Amhara, said earlier this month.He said his party had been “effectively banned” from campaigning in several regions, with some party members arrested and banners destroyed.Neither officials with the Prosperity Party nor Abiy’s office responded to requests for comment on such allegations.Ethiopia last year postponed the election, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, adding to the tensions with Tigray’s former leaders.Recently, the vote was delayed again by several weeks amid technical problems involving ballot papers and a lack of polling station officials.Abiy’s Prosperity Party has registered 2,432 candidates in the election, which will see Ethiopians voting for both national and regional representatives.The next largest party, Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice, is fielding 1,385 candidates. A total of 47 parties are contesting the election.But on Sunday, five opposition parties released a joint statement saying that campaigning outside the capital, Addis Ababa, “has been marred by serious problems, including killings, attempted killings and beatings of candidates.”Two prominent opposition parties, the Oromo Liberation Front and the Oromo Federalist Congress, are boycotting the vote.“It’s going to be a sham election,” OFC chairman Merera Gudina said earlier this month.That means the Prosperity Party will face little competition in Oromia, Ethiopia’s most populous state.Several prominent OFC members remain behind bars after a wave of unrest last year sparked by the killing of a popular Oromo musician, and the OLF’s leader is under house arrest.The leader of the Balderas Party for True Democracy, Eskinder Nega, was also detained and is contesting the election from prison.Getnet Worku, secretary-general of the newly established ENAT party, said earlier this month it is not standing candidates in several constituencies because the threat of violence is too high, asserting that armed militias organized by local officials frequently broke up rallies.There are growing international concerns over whether the elections will be fair.The EU has said it will not observe the vote after its requests to import communications equipment were denied.In response, Ethiopia said external observers “are neither essential nor necessary to certify the credibility of an election,” although it has since welcomed observers deployed by the African Union.Last week the US State Department said it is “gravely concerned about the environment under which these upcoming elections are to be held,” citing “detention of opposition politicians, harassment of independent media, partisan activities by local and regional governments, and the many interethnic and inter-communal conflicts across Ethiopia.”Abiy’s appointment as prime minister in 2018 was initially greeted by an outburst of optimism both at home and abroad.Shortly after taking office, he freed tens of thousands of political prisoners, allowed the return of exiled opposition groups and rolled back punitive laws that targeted civil society.In 2019 he won the Nobel Peace Prize in part for those reforms and for making peace with Eritrea by ending a long-running border standoff.But critics say Ethiopia’s political space has started to shrink again. The government denies the accusation.Several prominent opposition figures accused of inciting unrest are behind bars.While opening a sugar factory earlier this month, Abiy accused “traitors” and “outsiders” of working to undermine Ethiopia.This week his spokeswoman, Billene Seyoum, described the election as a chance for citizens to “exercise their democratic rights” and accused international media of mounting a “character assassination of the prime minister.”

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KAMPALA: Ethiopians will vote on Monday in a landmark election overshadowed by reports of famine in the country’s war-hit Tigray region and beset by logistical problems that mean some people won’t be able to vote until September.The election is the centerpiece of a reform drive by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whose rise to power in…

Faith healers turn vaccine myth busters to get India’s rural population jabbed

KAMPALA: Ethiopians will vote on Monday in a landmark election overshadowed by reports of famine in the country’s war-hit Tigray region and beset by logistical problems that mean some people won’t be able to vote until September.The election is the centerpiece of a reform drive by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, whose rise to power in 2018 seemed to signal a break with decades of authoritarian rule and led to his Nobel Peace Prize the following year.He has described the poll as “the nation’s first attempt at free and fair elections.”Abiy’s ruling Prosperity Party, formed in 2019 by merging groups who made up the previous ruling coalition, is widely expected to cement its hold on power.The party that wins a majority of seats in the House of Peoples’ Representatives will form the next government.“We will secure Ethiopia’s unity,” Abiy said ahead of his final campaign rally on Wednesday, repeating his vow of a free and fair election after past votes were marred by allegations of fraud.But opposition groups have accused Ethiopia’s ruling party of harassment, manipulation and threats of violence that echo abuses of the past.And Abiy is facing growing international criticism over the war in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.Thousands of civilians have been killed and more than 2 million people have been displaced since fighting broke out in November between Ethiopian forces, backed by ones from neighboring Eritrea, and those supporting the now-fugitive Tigray leaders.Last week, humanitarian agencies warned that 350,000 people in Tigray are on the brink of famine, a crisis that several diplomats have described as “manmade” amid allegations of forced starvation.Ethiopia’s government has rejected the figure and says food aid has reached 5.2 million in the region of 6 million.No date has been set for voting in Tigray’s 38 constituencies, where military personnel who usually play a key role in transporting election materials across Africa’s second-most populous country are busy with the conflict.Meanwhile, voting has been postponed until September in 64 out of 547 constituencies throughout Ethiopia because of insecurity, defective ballot papers and opposition allegations of irregularities.Outbreaks of ethnic violence have also killed hundreds of people in the Amhara, Oromia and Benishangul-Gumuz regions in recent months.Some prominent opposition parties are boycotting the election. Others say they have been prevented from campaigning in several parts of the country.“There have been gross violations,” Yusef Ibrahim, vice president of the National Movement of Amhara, said earlier this month.He said his party had been “effectively banned” from campaigning in several regions, with some party members arrested and banners destroyed.Neither officials with the Prosperity Party nor Abiy’s office responded to requests for comment on such allegations.Ethiopia last year postponed the election, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, adding to the tensions with Tigray’s former leaders.Recently, the vote was delayed again by several weeks amid technical problems involving ballot papers and a lack of polling station officials.Abiy’s Prosperity Party has registered 2,432 candidates in the election, which will see Ethiopians voting for both national and regional representatives.The next largest party, Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice, is fielding 1,385 candidates. A total of 47 parties are contesting the election.But on Sunday, five opposition parties released a joint statement saying that campaigning outside the capital, Addis Ababa, “has been marred by serious problems, including killings, attempted killings and beatings of candidates.”Two prominent opposition parties, the Oromo Liberation Front and the Oromo Federalist Congress, are boycotting the vote.“It’s going to be a sham election,” OFC chairman Merera Gudina said earlier this month.That means the Prosperity Party will face little competition in Oromia, Ethiopia’s most populous state.Several prominent OFC members remain behind bars after a wave of unrest last year sparked by the killing of a popular Oromo musician, and the OLF’s leader is under house arrest.The leader of the Balderas Party for True Democracy, Eskinder Nega, was also detained and is contesting the election from prison.Getnet Worku, secretary-general of the newly established ENAT party, said earlier this month it is not standing candidates in several constituencies because the threat of violence is too high, asserting that armed militias organized by local officials frequently broke up rallies.There are growing international concerns over whether the elections will be fair.The EU has said it will not observe the vote after its requests to import communications equipment were denied.In response, Ethiopia said external observers “are neither essential nor necessary to certify the credibility of an election,” although it has since welcomed observers deployed by the African Union.Last week the US State Department said it is “gravely concerned about the environment under which these upcoming elections are to be held,” citing “detention of opposition politicians, harassment of independent media, partisan activities by local and regional governments, and the many interethnic and inter-communal conflicts across Ethiopia.”Abiy’s appointment as prime minister in 2018 was initially greeted by an outburst of optimism both at home and abroad.Shortly after taking office, he freed tens of thousands of political prisoners, allowed the return of exiled opposition groups and rolled back punitive laws that targeted civil society.In 2019 he won the Nobel Peace Prize in part for those reforms and for making peace with Eritrea by ending a long-running border standoff.But critics say Ethiopia’s political space has started to shrink again. The government denies the accusation.Several prominent opposition figures accused of inciting unrest are behind bars.While opening a sugar factory earlier this month, Abiy accused “traitors” and “outsiders” of working to undermine Ethiopia.This week his spokeswoman, Billene Seyoum, described the election as a chance for citizens to “exercise their democratic rights” and accused international media of mounting a “character assassination of the prime minister.”

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Virus rule extension endangers Euro 2020 final at Wembley

TOKYO: Japanese medical experts said on Friday that banning spectators at the Olympics was the least risky option for holding the Games, even as they appeared resigned to the possibility of fans in venues during the COVID-19 pandemic.The government and Tokyo 2020 organizers have for months held off deciding whether domestic spectators will be allowed…

TOKYO: Japanese medical experts said on Friday that banning spectators at the Olympics was the least risky option for holding the Games, even as they appeared resigned to the possibility of fans in venues during the COVID-19 pandemic.The government and Tokyo 2020 organizers have for months held off deciding whether domestic spectators will be allowed — overseas fans are already banned — underscoring their desire to salvage the event amid deep public opposition.Japan has avoided the kind of explosive coronavirus outbreaks that crippled many other countries. But the vaccine roll-out has been slow and the medical system pushed to the brink in parts of the country. The government’s drive to hold the Games has been criticized by hospitals and doctors’ unions.“There is a risk the movement of people and opportunities to interact during the Olympics will spread infections and strain the medical system,” the experts, led by top health adviser Shigeru Omi, said in a report issued on Friday.They said that holding the Games without spectators was the “least risky” option and the desirable one.Yet Omi’s experts have already floated the possibility that venues could hold up to 10,000 fans in areas where “quasi-emergency” measures, such as shorter restaurant hours, have been lifted. That has heightened the perception the Games may well be held with spectators.The final decision is expected at a meeting set for Monday between organizers, including Tokyo 2020 and the International Olympic Committee, and representatives from the national and Tokyo governments.The president of Tokyo 2020, Seiko Hashimoto, said that while she accepted the Olympics would be safer without spectators, organizers were still looking for ways to have fans safely in venues, like other events.“Given that other sports events are being held with spectators, I think it’s also Tokyo 2020’s job to continue to look for ways to understand and lessen the risk of infections at the Olympics until we’ve exhausted all the possibilities,” she told a news conference following the release of Omi’s report.The Games were delayed last year as the pandemic raged. Cancellation would be costly for organizers, the Tokyo government, sponsors and insurers.Some 41 percent of people want the Games canceled, according to a Jiji news poll released on Friday. If the Games go ahead, 64 percent of the public want them without spectators, the poll found.Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government decided on Thursday to end emergency coronavirus curbs in nine prefectures including Tokyo while keeping some “quasi-emergency” restrictions.Tokyo is scheduled to be under such restrictions until July 11. The current state of emergency, the third since April last year, expires on June 20.The lifting of previous emergencies has been followed by increased infections and strains on hospitals.Organizers should be prepared to act swiftly to ban spectators or declare another state of emergency if needed, the experts said. If spectators are allowed, rules should be strict, such as limiting fans to local residents, the experts said.Omi, a former World Health Organization official, has become increasingly outspoken about the risks from the event. He told parliament this month it was “not normal” to hold the Games during a pandemic.Other Japanese health experts and medical organization have been much more vocal, calling for the Games to be canceled outright.One of the signatories of Omi’s recommendations, Kyoto University professor Hiroshi Nishiura, said he believed canceling the Games would be best, but the decision was for the government and organizers.“If the epidemic situation worsened, no spectators and canceling the Games in the middle (of the event) should be debated,” he told Reuters.The country has recorded more than 776,000 cases and over 14,200 deaths, while just 15 percent of its population has had at least one COVID-19 vaccination.

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