Hariri Tribunal mandate

After the apparent assassination of Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus this week, a journalist (Benny Avni of the NY Sun, as it happens) asked if the UN will investigate this death, too. Here is the exchange, from 14 February daily noon briefing at UNHQ/NY — after which an clarification is later issued:

“Question: As to follow up on the question on the others in the Hariri case, which is a Security Council resolution, of course, that other related assassinations should be investigated by the UN. Does the UN plan to investigate the assassination of Mugniyah?

“Spokesperson: I have nothing beyond the statement today, Benny. The Security Council, as you say, the mandate stands. I have nothing further on this today.

[The Spokesperson later clarified that resolution 1757 (2007) states that the mandate of the Special Tribunal is to prosecute persons responsible for the attack of 14 February 2005 resulting in the death of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and in the death or injury of other persons. According to article 1 of that resolution, if the Tribunal finds that other attacks that occurred in Lebanon [emphasis added here] between 1 October 2004 and 12 December 2005, or any later date decided by the parties (Lebanese Government and the UN) with the consent of the Security Council [emphasis added here too], are connected in accordance with the principles of criminal justice and are of a nature and gravity similar to the attack of 14 February 2005, it shall also have jurisdiction over persons responsible for such attacks. This connection includes but is not limited to a combination of the following elements: criminal intent (motive), the purpose behind the attacks, the nature of the victims targeted, the pattern of the attacks (modus operandi), and the perpetrators.]” This briefing transcript is available here.

Now that Imad Mugniyeh is apparently killed, is the war on terror nearly over?

None of the commentators who have expressed pleasure at news of the apparent death of Imad Mughniyeh is apparently embarrassed at all to say how happy they are, that he deserved to die as he apparently did in a car bomb explosion (in Damascus), or that the world is now better off for all this.

Most if not all of these commentators would, I assume, also be ardent champions of the rule of law.

So, it seems to me that there is a contradiction here, about which there ought to be a somewhat greater degree of self-consciousness.

How can it be legal to carry out such targetted assassinations? Without any kind of legal proceedings — including impartial investigations and cross-examinations of evidence, and then public trials with guarantees of due process and proper defense — there is nothing to gloat and crow about here.

It might be more convenient, and even more entertaining, simply to off those who are conjured up as the great boogey-men of today, but it is not more moral or legal — or civilized.

We do not even know with any degree of certainty what this man actually did — we only know what unnamed intelligence or security sources passed on to some editors and journalists, who then published it as fact. Maybe Mugniyeh really was a fearsome, cruel and brilliant operative who committed horrible crimes. Maybe he was a nobody. We have absolutely no proof either way.

The only possibly even remotely good thing that could come out of such an ugly and hypocritical spectacle is that this awful so-called “war on terror” could be declared over. We could have annual rememberance days of its end, as we do of the armistices of World Wars I and II. And we could get back to leading much better lives than we did before this awful “war on terror” was declared.