“The nine-year United Nations mandated investigation into the bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others on February 14 in 2005 was initiated to make sure this time the perpetrators would not get away with murder,” said UAE English language local daily, Gulf News, in its editorial on Friday.
It added that the investigation was complex and revealed that it was based on the analysis of telephone data that led to the indictment of four Hezbollah members. The Shiite group has repeatedly denied any involvement in the crime and blamed Israel for the murder of the former prime minister, who was at the time the undisputed leader of the country’s Sunni community.
However, the damage was done. The crime led to an unprecedented sectarian divide in a country long shaken by conflicts instigated along religious lines. For the past few months, the Lebanese have not been able to form a new government to replace the caretaker government of Najeeb Mikati mainly because of the Sunni-Shiite tension over the involvement of Hezbollah in the Syrian civil war.
“Hezbollah has also refused to hand over the four suspects in the Hariri trial. They are being tried in absentia. Hezbollah, since it claims that its men are innocent, should have cooperated with the tribunal, simply because the group has an interest, just like all other Lebanese factions, in justice being served,” the paper said.
It concluded that the stability and coexistence of Lebanon depends on the fact that criminals do not have impunity. Political crimes will not stop unless criminals are brought to justice. The Hariri trial, thus, is a historic first step towards that aim.