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    No Half Measures

    Anyone following the passage of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon may have been excused a sigh of relief Thursday, as the court’s first indictment was handed to authorities in Beirut.

    The sigh might have represented varying emotions, depending on which side of the political divide the exhaler feels more at ease, but the fact that an indictment was issued represents progress for all Lebanon.

    It is not, however, the end. An indictment, as the court continually and rightly reminds observers, is not a verdict. The individuals featured on it have not suddenly been transported to pariah status. They have the right to a fair trial and the right to a presumption of innocence.

    One welcome consequence of the indictment’s delivery is that the government, finally, has a policy statement. This in itself is good news for a country whose pressing list of legislative and social reforms grows ever longer. The government can at least now get on with what it was mandated to do: run the country.

    Realistically, however, all eyes remain glued to how the administration will deal with the tribunal.

    As expected, the policy statement referenced the court with a vague pledge to follow its developments step by step, while stopping short of an explicit promise of support. This is a disappointingly weak stance.

    Ministers hardly need reminding that the STL is doing its work because Lebanon asked it to investigate the heinous political assassinations of its recent past, which killed not only official figures but also innocent bystanders by the dozen.

    If the new Cabinet is to follow the court’s progress step by step, it cannot, practically and legally, do so through inertia. The steps themselves are clear; bound by U.N. resolution, Lebanon needs to exert the utmost effort to apprehend and deliver suspects to the court.

    Given the deadlines imposed by the Special Tribunal’s statute, this is not a situation in which willful delay – that panacea of Lebanese political disputes – can be applied.

    Active cooperation is needed if Lebanon is to uphold its STL commitment. There is no half measure to be had; an obligation made to justice should bear no regard to the political climate and should take less notice of incendiary intimidation by those opposed to the court.

    A Cabinet that claims to seek to protect the stability of Lebanon should not be misled into thinking that such a peaceful situation can be reached by going back on its word to uphold justice and end the impunity of assassination.

    Another positive, post-indictment, is that those promised scenes of sectarian fighting have, so far, failed to materialize. This demonstrates a maturity and pragmatism from the Lebanese populace. It is to be hoped that such expediency is reciprocated by its government.

    The Daily Star
    01.07.2011

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