The International Tribunal set up to try the killers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri refuted recent accusations by Hizbullah that political motives were behind the court's formation and indictments, which are expected to be issued in the near future.
"The experience with other international tribunals has shown that the results of the work of such institutions speak for themselves and contradict the unsubstantiated allegations of hostile interference," Fatima Issawi, spokeswoman for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, told Reuters on Thursday (July 29th).
Repeated statements by Hizbullah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah over the tribunal caused a political firestorm in Lebanon as supporters of Hizbullah and the March 14 forces trading heated accusations in the media.
Nasrallah said in a July 22nd speech that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri informed him that, "the expected indictment by the International Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the crime of the assassination of Rafik Hariri will accuse rogue members of Hizbullah."
Nasrallah denied any involvement by Hizbullah in the killing and issued warnings of "Lebanon entering a very critical phase from the gate of the International Tribunal."
Nasrallah cast doubts over the fairness of the work of the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission, which preceded the establishment of the International Tribunal. He said the investigation "did not take all hypotheses into consideration", adding that "as long as the commission did not act on the hypothesis of Israel [being behind the assassination], it is not fair."
When asked about the nature of future indictments, Issawi said, "It would be quite unhelpful to add to the existing speculations," adding that, "The Office of the Prosecutor will issue an indictment when it is ready."
Regarding what would happen if Hizbullah or the Lebanese government refuses to hand over indicted suspects, Issawi said, "The Lebanese government is obligated to respond to the tribunal's demands, and as Hizbullah is a partner in this government, in principle it supports the court."
The UN investigation into the 2005 killing of Hariri first implicated Syrian and Lebanese officials. But following the departure of Detlev Mehlis as chief investigator, it refrained from charging any individuals.
Last year, German magazine Der Spiegel reported that the tribunal's investigators found evidence linking Hizbullah to the February 14th car explosion that killed Hariri and a number of his companions in downtown Beirut.
In a statement to Al-Shorfa in April, Issawi said the tribunal's officials are aware of these media reports and the political debate in the country, but are not party to this discussion. "Their only mission is to reveal the truth about the perpetrators of the terrorist crime," she said.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said the issue of the tribunal set up to try his father's killers is "neither unexpected nor born in the spur of the moment", adding that "the Lebanese consensus on the necessity to achieve justice is not open to interpretation or compromise."
In response to Nasrallah's statements, Hariri said, "There are some who imagine, fear or perhaps wish that the issue of the assassination of the martyr [Prime Minister Rafik Hariri] could be cause for eruption of a Lebanese crisis or sectarian strife. We say with all sincerity, honesty and responsibility that there is no place in our national lexicon for these fears, allegations or even wishes."
Kataeb party MP Fadi al-Habr criticised those who he said "act on the premise that they have the authority and thus vie with the International Tribunal over ownership of the truth and sentencing."
Al-Habr expressed surprise regarding "the timing of the attack on the court and rejection of its decisions now, during the summer—the primary season on which the Lebanese economy relies."
Sociology professor Dr. Talal Atrisi, noting that "media leaks in the past turned out to be true", said Hizbullah became convinced that it would be implicated in the murder.
"Hizbullah is taking pre-emptive steps to dismantle the tribunal's decision and prove it is a politicised court and that its work is politically motivated," he told Al-Shorfa. "It is focusing on false witnesses and [saying] the court is looking for evidence for a ready-made indictment," he said.
MP Mustafa Alloush, a member of the Political Bureau of the Future Movement, said the fear of a possible indictment is based on either expectations or illusion. "Only those who committed the crime know the truth unless the court has compelling evidence about the identity of the perpetrators," he told Al-Shorfa.
"No one who is innocent says he expects to be indicted," he said.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon was established in 2007 by UN Security Council Resolution 1757. It commenced work on March 1st, 2009.