Why New Charges From the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Won’t Rattle Hezbollah

Why New Charges From the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Won’t Rattle Hezbollah
Prime Minister Saad Hariri and other Lebanese officials attend a rally to mark the 14th anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Beirut, Feb. 14, 2019 (DPA photo by Marwan Naamani via AP Images).

The international tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of then-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri unveiled a new indictment last week further implicating Hezbollah in the destabilization of Lebanon in the mid-2000s. On Sept. 15, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, a United Nations-backed court based in The Hague, charged Hezbollah member Salim Jamil Ayyash for two assassination attempts on former ministers, Marwan Hamadeh and Elias Murr, in 2004 and 2005, respectively, and the killing of former Lebanese Communist Party leader George Hawi in a car bombing in 2005.

Ayyash is one of four Hezbollah members already charged by the tribunal in 2011 for organizing the massive bombing in downtown Beirut in February 2005 that killed Hariri along with 21 others. The four men were never apprehended and are considered fugitives of the tribunal, as their whereabouts remain unknown. In January 2014, their trial in absentia opened. Although closing arguments concluded in September 2018, the verdict is still pending. A spokesperson for the special tribunal, Wajed Ramadan, could not confirm a date for a verdict, but many observers speculate that a judgement will be made before 2020.

By tying Ayyash to both Hariri’s assassination and other high-profile political violence at the time, the prosecution in The Hague has indirectly pointed its finger at Hezbollah for organizing a series of attacks on Lebanese politicians who were openly critical of Syria’s nearly 30-year occupation of the country. Syria, which backs Hezbollah, withdrew its troops shortly following Hariri’s assassination amid a popular backlash in Lebanon.

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