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Lebanon: TV discusses value of Hezbollah evidence on Al-Hariri's death
Saturday, 21 August 2010 15:23
by Francis A. Boyle Ph.D.

Al-Jazeera Satellite Television at 1830 gmt on 10 August broadcasts live a 25-minute episode of its "Behind the News" programme and moderator Hasan Jammul, in the Doha studio, hosts Judge and Professor Ali al-Ghatit, via satellite from Cairo; International Law Professor Francis Boyle, via satellite from Illinois; and International Law Professor Antoine Sfayr, via telephone from Beirut, to discuss the evidence that Hezbollah Secretary-General Hasan Nasrallah offered in a news conference in Beirut on 9 August to implicate Israel in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister
Rafiq al-Hariri.

Boyle spoke in English with superimposed Arabic translation. The programme begins with a three-minute recorded report over video in which reporter Abbas Nasir in Beirut summarizes Nasrallah's statements and evidence.

The reporter says:

"The Hezbollah secretary general, who appeared informed of every small detail, blocked the way of the indictment bill that he said would incriminate his party by offering something like an indictment bill incriminating Israel." He concludes his report by saying: "Sayyid Nasrallah said his word, a word that will continue to echo in Beirut and the region between a staunch supporter and a steadfast opponent. If this word has not already destroyed the course of the international investigation, it has no doubt dealt it a fatal blow. Hezbollah usually wins his battles in defence of the resistance not on points but by knockouts."

Jammul asks Al-Ghatit in Cairo if what Nasrallah offered was enough to hold Israel legally accountable. Al-Ghatit differentiates between local and international courts and suggests that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) should turn attention to and investigate every piece of evidence. If it fails to check all evidence and presumptions, he says, that would be "nothing but negligence reflecting the political nature of the tribunal."

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Dr Boyle says that the STL has been "under the control and domination of the United States right from the beginning when Bush junior's administration set it up to apply pressure on Syria." He says now that Obama's administration is cooperating with Syria, it is trying to redirect the accusation towards Hezbollah "for political reasons" and to "neutralize Hezbollah's popular support in Lebanon, even if this is done at the expense of further destabilization of Lebanon." Boyle says Nasrallah's presumptions "should certainly be investigated." He says he doubts this will happen, however, "because this is a political process from the beginning." He says the first report of the UN investigation commission into Al-Hariri's assassination relied on some "baseless" circumstantial evidence to accuse Syria.

Dr Sfayr in Beirut says what Nasrallah offered "must certainly be taken into consideration, first from a political point of view because he is a political leader representing a key party and sect in Lebanon." But from a legal point of view, he says, "the issue is related to presumptions, documents, or technical data that should be discussed separately because they need a long time to examine." He says what was offered on television is probably incomplete. He says Nasrallah's entire file should be "read in a scientific way" to assess its legal value. He says this is exclusively the job of the STL. He says no one can ask the STL to consider Nasrallah's evidence or not because the tribunal is "the master of itself."
The programme then offers a recorded video statement by Lebanese Army Retired Brigadier General Ilyas Hanna on the security value of Nasrallah's evidence. Hanna stresses Hezbollah's intelligence ability to intercept and decipher information and uncover collaborators with Israel.

The programme then offers a recorded video statement by an Israeli military expert in which he says the information that Nasrallah offered regarding Insariyah operation in 1997 "has nothing new." He describes Nasrallah's accusation that Israel's spies in Lebanon might be involved in Al-Hariri's assassination as "ridiculous". He says Nasrallah is trying "to save himself and his party from the charges that hover over their heads."

Asked what the STL should now do, Dr Al-Ghatit says if the STL wants to have credibility it must take these presumptions and investigate them. "Otherwise, it would be explicitly announcing that it is a tool to fragment Lebanon and ignite fires among its sects." He says the tribunal cannot assume that Nasrallah's evidence will lead to nothing, even if it has stronger evidence against other parties. He says no one can describe any presumption as "weak".

Boyle reiterates that "the tribunal will do everything the United States dictates to it." He says the world needs not a tribunal for Lebanon, but a war crime tribunal to try Israel for its "mass killings" against the Palestinians and the Lebanese.
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