In early 2005, it was big news. A massive bomb blast on a main road near the Beirut waterfront killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and 22 others. The Lebanese rose up, blaming their Syrian occupiers and demanding that Syria withdraw from Lebanon. The UN launched a high profile investigation into the Hariri assassination, amid a lot of grandstanding about truth and justice. And then… it all went on, and on, and it became ever more confusing to keep track. Eventually the UN Security Council created a special tribunal, seated in The Hague, with chambers and a prosecutor and a defense team, and a holiday schedule. The tribunal eventually indicted four members of Hezbollah.
So where do things now stand?
Well, there was actually a bit of news this week. A judge at the tribunal has now set a tentative date for the trial to begin: March 25, 2013.
None of the four men indicted are actually in custody. It’s expected that they will be tried in absentia. By the time their trial begins (assuming the tribunal sticks to its tentative schedule) more than eight years will have passed since that bomb blast in Beirut. If the aim was to spend millions of dollars creating another UN-backed quasi-permanent institution, the entire venture might be considered a great success. If the aim was to deliver justice, and bring to account the terror-masters behind the assassination of Hariri, and a great many others, this project is looking ever more like another indictment of the UN system itself.