Tribunal for Hariri killing insufficient if other abuses in Lebanon not addressed

The Lebanese authorities are being urged to go beyond the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s narrow mandate of investigating the killing of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri and 22 others on 14 February 2005.

Amnesty International is seeking urgent action to bring to justice the perpetrators of other grave human rights violations carried out in the country.

“The Special Tribunal alone cannot provide sufficient response to the long pattern of impunity that has persisted in Lebanon,” said Malcolm Smart, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

“The establishment of the Tribunal is a positive step that could help ensure justice for the serious crimes it is to investigate. But if it is to gain credibility and public confidence, it must be accompanied by complementary measures that address the grave human rights abuses of the past, as well as those that continue in the present.”

Established by the UN Security Council in 2007, the Special Tribunal is also investigating a series of other assassinations and attempted killings since October 2004, to see if they are linked to the case of Rafiq al-Hariri.

The mandate of the Special Tribunal, which started in The Hague on Sunday, is by far the narrowest of any tribunal of an international nature. This means that it will do nothing to address the enormous number of other grave human rights abuses committed in Lebanon in recent decades, raising concern that the justice being promoted is politically selective.

Amnesty International has called on the Lebanese authorities to open prompt, independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of serious human rights violations of recent years not covered by the mandate.

These include the killings of civilians at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp amid armed clashes there in 2007 and ongoing reports of torture and abusive detention.

Amnesty International said that the authorities should also address the situation of four men who are being detained apparently in connection with the investigation into the killing of Rafiq al-Hariri and whose detentions have been ruled arbitrary by a UN expert group.

“The resolve to ensure justice in the case of Rafiq al-Hariri contrasts markedly with the repeated failures of the Lebanese system to deliver justice for other political killings and human rights abuses,” said Malcolm Smart.

“This creates a perception that some are considered more deserving of justice than others and presents a clear challenge to the credibility of the Special Tribunal.”

The Lebanese authorities have also done little to tackle the legacy of gross human rights abuses of the past, notably those committed during and following the Lebanese civil war of 1975 to 1990, including the killing of tens of thousands of civilians and the enforced disappearance of thousands more.

Amnesty International has called on  the Lebanese authorities to establish an independent commission of inquiry into the abuses of the civil war period and to repeal the amnesty laws of 1991 and 2005 so that those responsible can be prosecuted.

“Having invested so heavily in the Special Tribunal, the international community needs now to press the Lebanese authorities to focus their attention on delivering truth and justice for the full range of victims of human rights abuses in Lebanon, regardless of the profile of the victims or the presumed identity of the perpetrators,” said Malcolm Smart.