Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Karadzic trial exposes Lebanon hypocrisy

Serbia is on the verge of extraditing Bosnian war criminal Radovan Karadzic, accused mastermind of the infamous Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men.

The high-profile extradition follows a number of significant cases in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), including former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic and Croatian general Ante Gotovina.

It isn't the first war crimes tribunal that has been setup to investigate cases of ethnic cleansing and other war atrocities. The Hague has hosted a number of cases for the major war crimes committed in the 1990s, including Rwanda. No doubt it will continue to serve a role in bringing justice to ongoing and future conflicts. A tribunal for the current ethnic cleansing in Darfur has already been earmarked.

But international justice isn't just limited to The Hague. The United Nations has actively pursued and developed an internal war crimes tribunal in Cambodia for the gross human suffering inflicted upon its population by the notorious Pol Pot in the 1970s.

I do recall as a child hearing often the famous five warzones/human disaster places of the world ... Bosnia, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Cambodia and Lebanon.

For three of the above, some form of justice is being pursued, and the Afghanistan conflict is still sadly ongoing, which leaves Lebanon as the only country not to receive any justice for its brutal 1975 - 1990 civil war.

The Lebanese civil war claimed 150,000 - 200,000 innocent lives, many of whom are still missing. The conflict pitted sectarian tribes and ideological factions against one another as foreign powers fed their proxies with fuel and ammunition. Heinous crimes were committed ranging from massacres, the pillaging of villages, and entire ethnic cleansing of regions.

Yet, unlike the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Cambodia, the masterminds of Lebanon's notorious conflict are still in power in the country today.

To date, there has not been a single case filed in any court in the world against a Lebanese war leader for crimes against humanity. The war criminals are spread across the entire Lebanese political spectrum. Neither the pro-Syrian nor the pro-Israeli/American leaders are exempt of bloody guilt, but amazingly not a single one has ever been summoned before a war crimes tribunal.

Instead, Lebanon's hedonistic attitude (akin to that of the former Yugoslav countries) and hypocritical Western self-interests have meant that Lebanese warlords not only escape the music for their sins, but retain their power.

Here are some leaders that should be sitting alongside Karadzic at The Hague, to name a few:

Samir Geagea, leader for the right-wing Maronite (Catholic) Lebanese Forces faction that was responsible for the infamous massacre of the Palestinian refugee camps, Sabra and Chatila, in 1982, is now an active leader in the US-backed March 14 coalition with a number of members in cabinet. The Sabra and Chatila massacres claimed between 700 - 2,000 lives.

His supporters claim that fellow LF frontman, Elie Hobeika, was largely responsible, but as one of the leaders and main commanders of the LF at the time, there is no doubt Geagea's guilt can't be totally absolved. In addition, the Sabra and Chatila massacres are but a number of war crimes committed by the LF and Samir Geagea during the conflict. Regardless, no court or tribunal has ever investigated war crimes committed by Geagea.

Geagea did, however, serve time for a war-related crime, the assassination of former Prime Minister Rashid Karami, but was released as part of a political bargain in 2005. Human rights groups assert that Geagea didn't receive a fair trial, which is perhaps true, but freedom and subsequent political power should not have been the reward.

Nabih Berri, leader of the pro-Syrian Shia Amal Movement, was one of the main players in the civil war. Amal worked as the main pro-Syrian faction, and was the main Shia militia before Hezbollah gained ascendancy in the late 1980s. Amal fought bloody battles that inflicted greivous harm upon Palestinian refugees and Lebanese civilians, particularly in Beirut. Berri's bloodiest campaign was the Camp Wars, which claimed the lives of thousands of Palestinian refugees.

Berri is currently the Speaker of Parliament, the highest post awarded to a Shia, and Hezbollah's main ally.

Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Druze, Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), is one of the most influential leaders in the US-backed March 14 coalition. He has long held cabinet positions, both under Syrian reign and now with tacit US support. The atrocities he masterminded in the civil war seem a distant memory, as foreign powers (both Arab and Western) continue to reward Jumblatt with key positions of power in Lebanon's fragile political setup.
A brutal militia during the war, the PSP fought Samir Geagea's LF in the famously known "Mountain War". The PSP ethnically cleansed Christian mountain villages, pillaging homes and massacring thousands of Christians in the process.

Assad Hardan, leader of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP), was the head of the SSNP's militant wing during the civil war. A staunch ally of the Syrian regime, the SSNP concentrated their militant efforts mainly against Israel's occupation force, but also conducted a series of war crimes against Israel's right-wing Christian allies in Lebanon. Hardan collaborated closely with the Syrian intelligence to do much of their dirty work.

The list could go on. Yasser Arafat was another accessory to the 15-year bloodletting in Lebanon, and the sins of the current Palestinian leaders in Lebanon did not die with Arafat. Palestinian militias wreaked havoc in Christian regions, claiming thousands of lives. Many of the leaders and militiamen who committed such atrocities still reside in the heavily armed Palestinian refugee camps.
Terrorists and war criminals walk freely in Lebanon, instigating mayhem, all at the behest of the foreign powers who have vital strategic interests in this tiny country.

The Lebanese people are also guilty of failing to break their hedonistic tradition and appropriate an internal fair and independent judicial system.

The Lebanese warlords granted themselves amnesty at the end of the civil war, largely overseen by Saudi Arabia. The amnesty has resulted in forgotten graves, corrupt power and continued instability. The door has never been closed on Lebanon's dark past, which is blinding it from pursuing a bright future. Anger and hurt is silently swept under a restive carpet, but the days in which this rage can be contained are numbered. Unless the skeletons of the past are put in their closet, our future will remain bleak.

The United Nations and the Western powers have turned a selective blind eye on Lebanon's right to a war crimes tribunal, effectively denying Lebanon the same human rights awarded to other warzones.

I hail the UN and the EU for successively pressing Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia to hand over the criminals that many in these countries deem as heroes. We, too, consider the likes of Geagea, Jumblatt, Berri and Hardan as heroes, but our hedonism doesn't excuse these warlords of their crimes. The human rights conventions needs to be applied to all countries of the world, not a select few.

I am equally disappointed in the world's major human rights organisations and NGOs for ignoring this obvious anomaly in global justice. Not a single organisation, not a single government, and not a single leader in the world has ever proposed a war crimes tribunal for the Lebanese civil war. That is not simply a mockery of the international criminal justice system and every enshrined human rights convention, but an insult to the tens of thousands of innocents who lost their lives, and the hundreds of thousands more who lost their homes.

We are all entitled to human rights, and that includes Lebanon.


Anonymous said...

"there is no doubt Geagea's guilt can be totally absolved"

I think you mean CAN'T.

Great post, though

Antoun said...

Thanks for the correction!

That's what happens when you try to rush a post while at work. hehe :)