Rafic Hariri ruling: UN tribunal finds just 1 Hezbollah militant guilty in assassination of former Lebanese prime minister

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, center, is seen arriving in a car in Beirut, flanked on the right by his security chief Yahya Arab, moments before his motorcade was hit by a massive truck bomb, in which both men and about 20 others were killed. , on February 14, 2005.

More than 15 years after a massive truck bomb killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, a special UN-backed tribunal found only one of the four accused members of the military group Hezbollah guilty of involvement in the murder on Tuesday. The four men were tried in absentia, and it is unclear where they are today, or even if they are still alive.

As he began reading the 2,600-page verdict, President Judge David Re said the attack “began for political and non-personal reasons”, but he briefly stopped implicating Hezbollah’s leadership as the Syrian government. He said the tribunal had not identified any person or entity suspected of ordering the attack.

It was a long-awaited verdict coming at a pivotal moment for Lebanon, and it may disappoint many who were desperate to see justice for the heinous assassination.

“The court has ruled, and on behalf of the family of the late Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and on behalf of the families of the martyrs and victims, we accept the judgment of the court,” Saad Hariri, Rafic Hariri’s son who also served as prime minister after his father’s death, said outside court.

The judge told all the families of the murdered after delivering the verdict, and he said he and the other tribunal officials hoped it would “give you some form of closure”, but he said that they understood that it would “in no way” leave them satisfied.

A nation reeling

The verdict was announced on Tuesday after a two-week delay, out of respect for the victims of another catastrophic explosion in the Lebanese capital. De explosion that shook the port of Beirut on August 4, more than 180 people were killed, thousands injured and buildings in the Lebanese capital destroyed that Rafic Hariri received after the reconstruction after a long civil war.

Aid agencies estimate that more than 300,000 people lost their homes in the blast, and are believed to be the result of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate being stored without proper precautionary measures at the port. Widespread corruption in Lebanese politics has been accused of negligence, and it has led to massive street protests.

Shock turns angry after Beirut explosion


Even before the port explosion, Lebanon’s resistance was tested by a severe COVID-19 outbreak and “an unusual economic and financial crisis that led the country to default on its foreign debt,” in the words of ‘ the country’s most recent prime minister, Hassan Diab, writes in the Washington Post. He warned that if the situation worsens, mass famine could send a new exodus of Lebanese to Europe, further destabilizing the region.

The street protests in the wake of the harbor explosion forced Diab and the rest of his cabinet to resign a week ago, but they continue to act as a supply chain government.

Sectarian politics and murder

The truck bomb that exploded on the coast of Beirut on February 14, 2005 was less powerful than the harbor explosion, but politically just as devastating. It blew up Hariri’s armored motorcade, killing him instantly and 21 of his entourage.

Years of careful forensic investigation, involving 12 international judges, 400 investigators and at a cost of about $ 700 million, pointed the finger at four men linked to Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed, militant Shiite political organization of Lebanon.

The group, considered a terrorist organization by the US and much of the world, has long been a powerful political force in Lebanon, where politics is framed by the sectarian divide between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. When he was assassinated, Hariri was the most prominent Sunni figure in the country.

The road where the murder of Leba
The road where the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri took place in a massive explosion on February 14 has been removed by authorities, in this March 11, 2005 file.


The tribunal’s investigation focused on telecommunications data recovered after a closed circuit of phones that were all used by the bombers as they carried out their deadly mission.

Even before it was announced, the tribunal’s decision stunned tensions between the political and religious factions of Lebanon. Hezbollah’s powerful leader Hassan Nasrallah dismissed the tribunal several times, accusing it of being “a tool of his enemies in the United States and Israel.”

“For us, it will be like they will never be released,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech on Friday. He warned that “some will try to exploit the STL (tribunal) to direct the resistance and Hezbollah.” He urged his supporters to “be patient”, despite the sentence.

“I was orphaned twice”

Alia Arab also had to learn patience. She waited 15 years to hear the verdict. Her father, Yahya Arab, was Hariri’s trusted personal security chief. Known as “Hariri’s shadow”, Yahya was sitting in the car right behind Hariri when the bomb exploded, and was also killed in the explosion.

“His body was so badly burned that they had to use DNA to identify his remains,” Alia told CBS News. She remembers the day life.

“It was Valentine’s Day. I was on my way to the hairdresser when I heard the sound of the explosion,” she said. She tried to call her father’s entire phone, but it was turned off. “When I arrived at the hairdresser, I felt something was wrong.”

Alia Arab, third from right, is sitting with her father Yahya Arab and the rest of her family as they pose for a photo.

Courtesy of Alia Arab

“On that day, I was hit by a hurricane twice: My father and President Hariri,” she said. “You expect your father to die one day, but your future – your dream of a better country, on the same day?”

She said she always had full confidence in the work of the tribunal.

“No verdict will bring my father back,” she told CBS News immediately after the verdict was handed down. “I believe in righteousness. Even if not the one on Earth, there is righteousness in heaven.”