The Special UN Tribunal for Lebanon said Thursday night that it had set a
provisional date in March 2013 to begin a trial over the February 14, 2005, bomb
attack that killed former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.
was tentatively scheduled to start on March 25, 2013, the tribunal
The four defendants, members of Hezbollah, remain at large,
shielded by the movement’s denial of their involvement and the practical reality
that Hezbollah’s armed forces, dominant in Lebanon, can likely prevent their
The Netherlands-based court issued arrest warrants for the four
defendants in June 2011.
Interpol has also issued an international “red
notice” on the suspects that obligates most countries to arrest the defendants
if the men enter their jurisdiction.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah
has used an all-out public relations campaign to attack the tribunal both before
and after it publicized its indictment against the defendants.
accused the tribunal of being part of an Israeli, US and Western conspiracy to
topple Hezbollah by besmirching it with false and incendiary
Hezbollah’s toppling of the Sunni-led governing coalition in
Lebanon in 2011 has been attributed by many parties to the refusal of then-prime
minister Saad Hariri, Rafik Hariri’s son, to turn against the tribunal and cut
its funding, as Hezbollah demanded.
Rafik Hariri, a Sunni, was
assassinated along with 22 bystanders by a suicide bomber, in a huge car bomb
blast in Beirut as Hariri was driving home.
Moustafa Badreddine, 50,
allegedly was the mastermind behind the assassination.
Salim Ayyash, 48,
allegedly led its operational aspects.
Hussein Anaissi, 37, and Assad
Sabra, 35, allegedly doctored a video tape to try to frame another terrorist
group with responsibility for the attack and sent the recording to Al
The tribunal, located in The Hague suburb of Leidschendam, is
unusual for a number of reasons. Unlike typical international courts, its
mandate allows it to try suspects in absentia.
Notably, the law governing
the tribunal defines and permits it to try defendants for terrorism. It is
unusual on the international stage to define terrorism or to be able to try a
defendant for terrorism, due to the political implications and the controversy
surrounding distinguishing terrorist from freedom fighter.
international forums, many developing countries that identify with “resistance
movements” strenuously resist defining terrorism, arguing that such definitions
are part of Western attempts to restrain their liberation
Establishment of the Special UN Tribunal for Lebanon was an
atypical victory for Western nations, attributed by many to the audacity of a
terrorist group assassinating a Sunni leader as popular as Hariri and the
fantastical fashion in which he was murdered.
The court is also unusual
in that it incorporates a larger amount of Lebanese criminal law and procedure
into its proceedings than a typical international tribunal.