Posts Tagged ‘Saad Hariri’

Will the raging fire in Syria reach the cedars of Lebanon?—Obama’s Debacle in Syira — Update #77 (August 24)

Friday, August 24th, 2012

If you’ve ever attended a conference at the Commodore Hotel or walked near the American University in West Beirut, or had a drink at a lively bar or eaten lunch in Ashrafiieh, in East Beirut, you may have some sense of the charms of Lebanon and its capital city. If you’ve driven around Beirut and seen the way the center of the city near the Green Line has been rebuilt following the long civil war (1975-1990), or witnessed the variety of religious beliefs represented in the dress of women at one of the busy shopping malls, and seen how despite their differences Lebanese seem to manage getting along with each other, you may have some idea of their achievement in building a country with a working democracy and a strong civil society, after a devastating civil war, in a place where the tectonic plates of Islamic and Christian civilizations come together.

And if you’ve ever studied a little bit of Lebanon’s history, from the development of the alphabet at Byblos and the Phoenicians to the Romans and the Crusaders to the present, and particularly since the landing of U.S. marines in 1958 to stabilize the existing order and the sudden withdrawal of U.S. marines on a separate mission, following the deaths of 241 American marines and 58 French servicemen from a truck bombing at their headquarters in Beirut in 1983, you may have some sense of the delicate balance of forces at play in Lebanon, and the careful efforts of the Lebanese themselves to avoid a return to civil war. Nor do they wish to return to the enforced peace which existed under Syrian occupation until the Syrians were forced to withdraw following the assassination of Rafiq Hariri in 2005. The Syrian withdrawal resulted from what came to be known as “the Cedar Revolution”, led by forces now known as “the March 14 Alliance” (not to be confused with their opponents, the “the March 8 Alliance”).

The government, representing a finely-balanced equilibrium between opposing alliances, seems perennially on the verge of collapse. Before the Arab Spring reached Syria and exploded into civil war as a result of Bashar al-Assad’s use of terror in attempting to suppress it, a huge issue which threatened political stability in the country was whether the government would pay its share of the expenses of the international Special Tribunal for Lebanon set up by the United Nations to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the Hariri assassination. This became a burning issue when it became known that the Tribunal was planning to issue, and then issued, indictments against members of Hezbollah for their involvement in the Hariri assassination. Somehow, through a number of crises, the Lebanese were able to work out a solution to this problem. Lebanon paid its share of the Tribunal’s budget without Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s leader, bringing down the government or even seizing control of Beirut’s southern suburbs (and other parts of the city) and the southern part of the country, in addition to the Bekaa Valley, which through his actions he had threatened to do in the past. Somehow, Lebanon muddled through.

Culturally, Lebanon has played a very special role in the Arab imagination, a fact reflected in many Egyptian films, as a romantic and holiday destination. It is also known as a place of personal and intellectual freedom where individuals of different nationalities and political, religious and ethnic backgrounds can come together, in order to meet, exchange ideas, negotiate, and enjoy the vibrant music and cultural scene. Lebanon’s cultural life is now broadcast through the Arab world by satellite television channels including LBC.

The love songs and melodies of Farouz, perhaps the best known singer in the Middle East in the last 50 years, are known throughout the Arab world and beyond.

Yet the toll of the Lebanese Civil War on the people of Lebanon was horrendous.

Now, the carefully constructed peace and political balance in Lebanon, built on the ruins of that war, is in great danger of being rendered by the raging forces of the civil war in Syria, which has recently spilled over into Tripoli and northern Lebanon. Moreover, the former Lebanese Minister of Information, Michel Samaha, has been arrested with explosives on charges he brought explosives into Lebanon with the intent of bombing crowds and assassinating Sunni leaders supportive of the Free Syrian Army, in coordination with Syrian intelligence officials.

See

Misbah al-Ali and Antoine Amrieh, “Tripoli trapped in Syria quagmire,” The Daily Star, August 25, 2012 (12:48 a.m.).

“Syria spillover clashes escalate in Lebanon; Killing of Sunni leader by sniper fire reignites violence that has left 17 people dead in Tripoli over last five days,” Al Jazeera, August 24, 2012.

Damien Cave, “Syrian War Plays Out Along a Street in Lebanon,” New York Times, August 23, 2012.

Damian Cave, “Syria Seen as Trying to Roil Lebanon,” New York Times, August 21, 2012.

Victor Kotsev, “Assad opens regional Pandora’s box,” Asia Times (online), August 25, 2012.

Donna Abu-Nasr, “Foiled Lebanon Bomb Plot Raises Concern of Spread
from Syria,” Bloomberg, August 20, 2012.

This spill-over has been largely due to the passivity of the West and the Arab countries and the civilized nations of the world, in the face of Russian and Chinese blocking actions in the U.N. Security Council.  The West and their allies have shown an appalling lack of resolve in standing up to the terror in Syria orchestrated by Bashar al-Assad, with material and political support from Russia, Iran and China.

If the West and the Arab countries and Turkey had intervened early with the calibrated use of military force to halt al-Assad’s atrocities, would the civil war have reached its current dimensions or intensity?

Revealingly, Dimitri Simes, a well-known Russian expert, stated on the PBS Newshour on June 13, 2012, that he had just had a number of conversations in Moscow with key officials, and had come away with the clear impression that if the West and the Arab countries were to intervene with military force, the Russians would not be happy and would complain loudly, but in the end would be prepared to accept the fact of the intervention.

DIMITRI SIMES:

Let me say, however, again something Michele Dunne said which I find quite interesting, and I don’t know whether she had it in mind, but perhaps she did, namely, that nobody said we’re not entitled to act without U.N. Security Council blessing. And as one official in Moscow put it to me, well, look, if the United States feels very strongly that force has to be used and is determined to act, let the United States and NATO do it without U.N. Security Council blessing, the way it has happened in the case of Kosovo, the way it has happened in Iraq.

The Russians obviously would criticize that. They wouldn’t want a decision which doesn’t give a role to the U.N. Security Council. But if that is the only way to resolve the situation, I think they would be prepared to live with that.

–PBS Newshour, June 13, 2012.

Even if Simes’ assessment was accurate at the time, the Russian position has since evolved sharply to one of direct confrontation with the West.

The civil war in Syria is like a large and growing forest fire which outsiders have decided to allow to grow in intensity and extension, hoping that it will burn itself out before it consumes their homes and livestock and other precious goods.

But the fire has shown no signs of burning itself out. On the contrary, every day it seems to find new and endless supplies of dry underbrush and dry wood to feed its fury.

This fire could spread to Lebanon very easily. Some of its flames have already lapped across the borders. The only questions are whether the fire marshals, who have up till now been steadily explaining why they cannot intervene without knowing which way the fire will go and ultimately who will dominate the ruins it leaves behind, will call in the fire brigades to halt its advance, and if so when.

The Trenchant Observer

observer@trenchantobserver.com

www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv

For links to other articles on Afghanistan by The Trenchant Observer, click on the title at the top of this page to go to the home page, and then type in “Afghanistan” in the search box.

Crisis in Lebanon: Hezbollah versus the United Nations, International Law, and the World Community

Friday, November 25th, 2011

(Developing Story)

Following the death of Antonio Cassesse, the former president of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the new president, Judge Sir David Baragwanath, visited Lebanon earlier this week.

Now, the current government in Lebanon teeters, again, on the brink. Next week the governmnet may fall, due to Hezbollah’s opposition to Lebanon’s paying its required portion of the expenses of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).

It is hard to see what might happen then.

See Hasan Lakkis, “Cabinet formation may be impossible if Mikati resigns,” The Daily Star (Beirut), November 26, 2011.

For earlier articles by the Trenchant Observer on this and related subjects, see:

REPRISE: Syria and the Shame of the World
Saturday, November 19, 2011

Der Spiegel on Nasrallah, Hezbollah, and the STL Indictments
Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Update: Torture, The STL in Lebanon, and Obama’s “Way Forward” in Afghanistan
Friday, July 1, 2011

Repression in Syria, and the spread of universal ideals throughout the world
Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Struggle for Democracy in Bolivia, Spain, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Ivory Coast, and Iran
Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lebanon teeters on the brink
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The crisis could distract attention from Syria, which with Iran stands in the background, but not far away.

The Trenchant Observer

observer@www.trenchantobserver.com
www.twitter.com/trenchobserv

Der Spiegel on Nasrallah, Hezbollah, and the STL Indictments

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Der Spiegel, in a crtical review of the position taken by Hezbollah with respect to the STL and the indictments related to the 2005 assassination of Rafiq Hariri, suggests that Nasrallah faces critical challenges both with respect to the indictments and with respect to Hezbollah’s sources of funding. The drug trade is listed as one possible source of funding to make up for curtailment of funding from Syria and Iran; at the same time, Nasrallah has long been a strong opponent of drug traffickers.

The article names two high-ranking leaders that it believes are among four Hesbollah officials indicted by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and for whose arrests warrants have been delivered to the Lebanese government, which has 30 working days to carry them out.

See Erich Follath, “Hariri or Harakiri? Indictments Come at Key Moment
for Hezbollah’s Nasrallah,” Der Spiegel, July 12, 2011.

The Trenchant Observer

www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv

See also The Trenchant Observer, “Update: Torture, The STL in Lebanon, and Obama’s “Way Forward” in Afghanistan, July 1st, 2011

Update: Torture, The STL in Lebanon, and Obama’s “Way Forward” in Afghanistan

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Today we introduce a new feature in The Trenchant Observer, an occasional column commenting on some of the more important events of the previous weeks in international affairs, as seen by the Observer.

This week’s stories include U.S. policy toward torture prosecutions, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and President Obama’s speech on “the way forward” in Afghanistan.

The United States’ Adoption of the “Due Obedience” Defense in Cases of Torture

This week the Justice Department announced that it would pursue investigations into two cases involving the deaths of detainees who were preseumably subjected to “harsh interrogation techniques” that went beyond the types of torture (as defined in the U.N. Convention Against Torture) that were permitted under the George W. Bush Administration’s “legal guidance”on “harsh interrogation technicques”.

See Eric Lichtblau and Eric Schmitt, “iU.S. Widens Inquiries Into 2 Jail Deaths,” New York Times, July 1, 2011

With that, the Justice department has ended its investigation into the broad class of cases that appear to qualify as cases involving the commission of torture under the terms of the Torture Convention, to which–it must always be stressed–the United States is a party.

By taking the position that it will not prosecute individuals for acts of torture if they were permitted under the legal guidance provided by their superiors in the Bush Administration, the United States has in effect accepted the “due obedience” argument rejected by the Nuremburg Tribunal in its trials of Nazi war criminals following World War II. This rejection of the “due obedience” defense is universally accepted in international law. It is expressly confirmed in the Torture Convention in Article 2 paragraph 3, which provides:

Article 2 (3). An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture.

Other countries parties to the Torture Convention may now proceed to prosecute individuals suspected of committing torture found within their territory, without much concern that the U.S. will rquest their extradition for trial in the U.S., given the Justice Department’s position.

This signals a clear and final decision by the Obama administration not to pursue other cases of torture committed during the Bush administration.

It is significant for two reasons. First, it represents a final decision not to prosecute cases of torture by the state with primary jurisdiction, in violation of U.S. international legal obligations under the Torture Convention.

Second, it further opens the way for other states that are parties to the Torture Convention to prosecute U.S. officials for acts of torture they may have committed.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon has now issued arrest warrants and delivered the same to the Government of Lebanon for it to carry out the arrests.

In an earlier article, published on March 3, 2011, The Observer wrote:

In Lebanon, Hezbollah withdrew in January from the unity government of Sa’ad Hariri, among thinly-veiled threats of civil war, if the government of Lebanon does not break ties with the U.N. International Tribunal for Lebanon, established by the Security Council to investigate and try those responsible for the assassination of Hariri’s father, Rafiq Hariri, in 2005. Hezbollah is militating against the United Nations Security Council, international law, and the tribunal established by the Security Council because, according to reports, it fears the Tribunal will issue indictments against Hezbollah members in the coming days or weeks.

The Tribunal itself has a statute which establishes due process of law for the hearing of the charges which may be brought by the Prosecutor of the Court. Hezbollah is arguing, if effect, that the Court is biased before any judicial proceedings against its members are initiated, and without regard to the fact that they will have a chance for a fair hearing, the questioning of evidence and of witnesses, in any proceedings that might be brought. With black shirts menacing and threatening to take physical control of West Beirut and large parts of the country, Hezbollah has positioned itself as an anti-democratic force opposed to the struggle for the rule of law within Lebanon, and one opposed to the United Nations, the Security Council and international law.

Outside parties have rushed to mediate. A Saudi-Syrian initiative has now been replaced by a Qatari-Turkish mediation effort. Democracy is in the balance.

What is at stake is the authority of the U.N. Security Council, the United Nations Charter, and international law. If Hezbollah can halt the cooperation of the government of Lebanon with the STL by threats of civil war and dividing the country in two, its success would not bode well for the future of the International Criminal Court or other international tribunals that might be established in the future to deal with issues such as the Hariri assassination or issues of transitional justice.

We will now see whether Hezbollah has changed it position, and is willing to turn away from its opposition to international law, the United Nations, and the authority of the Special Tribunan for Lebanon established by the Security Council.

Democracy and the rule of law in Lebanon hang in the balance.

Obama’s “Way Forward” in Afghanistan

Recently Ambassador Carl Eikenberry completed his term as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan. He is being replaced by an extraordinarily skilled deplomat with deep experience in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, Ryan Crocker, the former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq.

Eikenberry’s departure should not go unnoticed, however. A former head of the coalition forces in Afghanistan before becoming Ambassador in 2009, Eikenberry headed an able diplomatic team. In 2009, toward the conclusion of President Barack Obama’s much-touted review of Afghanistan policy, cables written by Eikenberry in November, 2009 were leaked to the press.

In those cables, Ekenberry, who had a deep knowledge of Afghanistan before assuming his post as Ambassador, set forth his thinking about President Hamid Karzai’s government, the narrow limitations of the Afghanistan policy review, and his own cautionary words about the risks of proceeding with the “surge” of over 30,000 U.S. troops without a broader review.

Today, his words seem prophetic, and read more like the history of the last two years than the risk assessment they were originally intended to be.

See The Observer’s previous columns on this subject:

Eikenberry Memos Place Spotlight on U.S. Dilemmas in Afghanistan
January 27th, 2010

Commentary on Eikenberry Cables, Intelligence on Afghanistan
January 28th, 2010

On June 22, 2011, President Obama delivered an important speech to the nation setting forth his thoughts and policies on “the way forward in Afghanistan.”

Adminral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated publicly that Obama’s new strategy of withdrawal represented more risk than he had originally been propared to accept. The military, including Petraeus, did not agree with what in all likelihood will represent an abandonment of the modified and limited counter-insurgency or COIN strategy Petraeus had led. Toby Harnden of The Telegraph reported, for example,

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican, said: “Petraeus loses, Biden wins. And I respect the vice president, but I think that we have undercut a strategy that was working. I think the 10,000 troops leaving year is going to make this more difficult.”

The Pentagon fought a rearguard action to prevent the surge force ordered into Afghanistan by Mr Obama in December 2009 from being pulled out by early spring next year but the withdrawal plan announced by Mr Obama, which had initially been tabled as a “compromise” by Robert Gates, the defence secretary, was not supported by Gen Petraeus.

There were reports of heated discussions during the month before Mr Obama’s prime-time speech on Wednesday night.

White House officials, aware of the soaring costs of the war and its questionable progress could be a political liability in the 2012 election, are said to have clashed with Gen Petraeus, who argued that with more time he could repeat his success in Iraq.

Harnden reported further that Obama had rejected Petraeus’ proposal to move thousands of troops from the south to the east “in order to build a counter-insurgency campaign there.” Obama also overrode Petraeus’ request to keep some of the 33,000 troops to be withdrawn by this spring until 2013.

Two military officers with close ties to Petraeus told “National Journal” that Gen Petraeus disagreed with Mr Gates’s compromise proposal and had not endorsed Mr Obama’s drawdown plan.

–Toby Harnden, “Admiral Mike Mullen says withdrawal plan is a risk,” The Telegraph, June 23, 2010

To those who have followed developments in Afghanistan over the last five to eight years, including readers of The Trenchant Observer, there was nothing new in his speech.

Rather, the Observer’s appraisal of Obama’s approach to international affairs, offered in an analysis of his failed leadership in Libya, seems to describe his Afghan policy as well:

When one looks hard at the decisions he has made, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the president’s primary objective is “to manage” international conflicts and affairs, as domestic affairs, in a manner that will enable him to be reelected in 2012.

Reelection is probably a goal of almost all politicians. Certainly there are exceptions. Winston Churchill comes to mind. But with Presdent Obama, it appears to be the primary and overriding goal.

It is perhaps the prism through which the president’s actions can best be understood. In this sense, Obama’s current policy towards Libya seems to be succeeding.

For commentary on the president’s speech, see

Jennifer Rubin, “Liberals give thumbs down on Obama’s speech,” Washington Post, June 23, 2011

A “conditions based” withdrawal of 10,000 troops is meaningless. The “conditions based” withdrawal of additional troops from the surge will meet its test if and when one or more provinces fall to the Taliban.

A collapse of the Afghan government is not to be ruled out. It could come at a most unexpected moment. If it were to come before the presidential elections in 2012, it could have a decisive impact on their outcome.

The folly of following a strategy in foreign policy that is decisively determined by domestic political considerations is likely to have hard lessons to teach its authors.

The Trenchant Observer

www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv

The Struggle for Democracy in Bolivia, Spain, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, Ivory Coast, and Iran

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

For more recent articles on the struggle for democracy in different countries, includung Ukraine, Syria and Egypt, click on the title banner above, and then go to the respective page on the right, use the search box, or scroll down through the articles in chronological order.

Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Ivory Coast, Iran

2011 is beginning to look like a year of contagious revolution–something like 1848 in Europe.

Egypt and Tunisia have overthrown dictatorial regimes in the last two months, and now the battle is joined in Libya–with the outcome hanging in the balance.

The U.N. Security Council has passed a resolution referring the matter of crimes against humanity and war crimes allegedly committed by Moammar Qaddafi and other Libyan government officials to the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands. The ICC announced on March 3, 2010 that it had opened an investigation.

The ICC should also investigate new allegations by the former Minister of the Interor of Libya that Col. Moammar Quddafi personally ordered the Lockerbie bombing in 1988.

In Ivory Coast, drawn out mediation by regional leaders has done little to remove Laurent Gbagbo from power, despite universal conclusions by outside observers and international organizations that he lost the recent elections to his opponent, Assanne Ouattara.

In Iran, opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have reportedly been arrested, as “the Green Movement” shows renewed signs of life, in streeet demonstrations in the face of strong repression by state security officials.

The Universal Struggle for Democracy

The struggle for democracy is universal, based on universal ideals and principles of the United Nations Charter and international human rights law, including treaties to which the overwhelming majority of nations, of “states” as they are known in international law, are parties. Governments are bound under international law by treaties to which they are parties, including the United Nations Charter and the authority invested in the Security Council by the Charter. They are also bound by norms of customary international law, which increasingly includes guarantees of basic human rights including the rights to participate in government and in free elections.

But the tide of freedom, while rising, also ebbs and flows. In any specific country, there is no guarantee that democratic government, once achieved, will never be lost. There is nothing inevitable about democratic government. That is why the struggle for democracy is a continuing struggle, not only to advance the cause of freedom where it does not exist but also to resist its reversal where it is eroding. Events in the last few months, offer illuminating examples of these precepts.

Tunisia

“Freedom” is in the air in Tunisia, after the first popular revolution in an Arab state in decades toppled the government of Ben Ami in Tunis, following 23 years of authoritarian rule and widespread corruption at the highest levels.

Lebanon

In Lebanon, Hezbollah withdrew in January from the unity government of Sa’ad Hariri, among thinly-veiled threats of civil war, if the government of Lebanon does not break ties with the U.N. International Tribunal for Lebanon, established by the Security Council to investigate and try those responsible for the assassination of Hariri’s father, Rafiq Hariri, in 2005. Hezbollah is militating against the United Nations Security Council, international law, and the tribunal established by the Security Council because, according to reports, it fears the Tribunal will issue indictments against Hezbollah members in the coming days or weeks.

The Tribunal itself has a statute which establishes due process of law for the hearing of the charges which may be brought by the Prosecutor of the Court. Hezbollah is arguing, if effect, that the Court is biased before any judicial proceedings against its members are initiated, and without regard to the fact that they will have a chance for a fair hearing, the questioning of evidence and of witnesses, in any proceedings that might be brought. With black shirts menacing and threatening to take physical control of West Beirut and large parts of the country, Hezbollah has positioned itself as an anti-democratic force opposed to the struggle for the rule of law within Lebanon, and one opposed to the United Nations, the Security Council and international law.

Outside parties have rushed to mediate. A Saudi-Syrian initiative has now been replaced by a Qatari-Turkish mediation effort. Democracy is in the balance.

What is at stake is the authority of the U.N. Security Council, the United Nations Charter, and international law. If Hezbollah can halt the cooperation of the government of Lebanon with the STL by threats of civil war and dividing the country in two, its success would not bode well for the future of the International Criminal Court or other international tribunals that might be established in the future to deal with issues such as the Hariri assassination or issues of transitional justice.

Ivory Coast

In Ivory Coast, following democratic elections in which the opposition candidate, Alassanne Ouattara was clearly the winner, the incumbent Laurent Gbagbo refuses to leave power. The United Nations, the Organization of West African States, and many countries have taken the position that the true results of the elections must be honored, and Gbagbo must step down.

Neighboring states have undertaken mediation efforts, but matters stand at a stalemate as of today, with the potential for renewed violence and civil war very great. Democracy is in the balance.

The situation is becoming more explosive. Six women demonstrators were reportedly killed by Gbagbo forces on March 3, 2011. A return to civil war looms.

Bolivia

In Bolivia, Evo Morales, the first indigenous president whose MAS movement has a two-thirds majority in the congress, has moved systematically to dismantle the independence of the courts and to neutralize his political opponents, including four ex-presidents and numerous officials in their governments, by threatening or bringing legal action against them for acts carried out while they were in power. Through a law passed by his two-thirds majority in Congress, and a new Constitution which is now interpreted by judges he has appointed without any checks and balances, he now appears to use the legal system and the threat or bringing criminal and other charges against his opponents to muzzle the democratic opposition in Bolivia.

While seemingly leading this assault on the rule of law within Bolivia, nonetheless, he has sought to position Bolivia and his government as champions of the international Green Movement. That movement, whose members tend to be strong supporters of fundamental human rights, including the rights to participate in government, freedom from ex post facto laws (nulla poena sine lege), and the right to a fair trial before an independent judiciary, have been extremely slow to turn their spotlight on the systematic violations of human rights in which the government has engaged.

Here, there are strong echoes of the silence of the French Communist Party in the face of the Soviet and Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and human rights abuses of communist governments in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union more generally. This silence was brilliantly illuminated by Costa-Gavras in his 1970 film, ´The Confession” (“L’aveu”).

Spain

Spain is a very special case because the country is a member of the European Union and also a party to the European Convention on Human Rights. The decisions of the European Court of Justice applying EU law are binding on the members of the Union. Part of this law is contained in “ the general principles of law” which the European Court of Justice and inferior courts apply. Increasingly, these have been held been held to include basic human rights. More directly, the European Court of Human Rights applies the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights in cases which come before it. Its decisions have binding effect in individual cases and enormous authority as case law or jurisprudence within countries that have ratified the Convention, including European nations and, in particular, Spain.

Consequently, Spain is less at risk of deviating in a fundamental and lasting way, from the fundamental precepts of democracy and the rule of law. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court of Spain has allowed the instruments of justice to be employed to violate the rights of a crusading investigating magistrate, Baltasar Garzón, forcing suspension from his position and threatening him with a penalty that would end his career.

What is particularly interesting about the Garzón case is that the Spanish Supreme Court has allowed the threat of removal from office to hang over Garzón, while both delaying his trial and rejecting motions by his lawyers to throw out the case—despite the fact that it is manifestly unfounded. Garzón’s position is supported by the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Office of the Attorney General).

Even more remarkable is that the charge against Garzón, prevaricación” (willful decision against justice) is, acccording to reports, precisely one of the key instruments the government of Evo Morales has used—the offense known in Bolivia as “prevaricato”–to remove judges and other officials or to threaten them in order to force them to resign.

So there is a connection between the Garzón case in Spain and the dismantling of an independent judiciary and the judicial attack on its opponents apparently being carried out by the Morales government. in Bolivia. That connection is the abuse of judicial authority in order to stifle opponents, whether judges or former presidents.

In Spain, as in Bolivia though not to the same extent, democracy and the rule of law are in the balance.

The Trenchant Observer

www.trenchantobserver.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv
E-mail: observer@trenchantobserver.com

Comments are invited.

For related and more recent articles on the struggle for democracy in Libya and elsewhere, see:

Repression in Syria, and the spread of universal ideals throughout the world
May 11, 2011

Negotiating with War Criminals? Obama’s Debacle in Libya — Update #7 (May 4)
May 4, 2011

If Misrata falls…: Obama’s debacle in Libya– Update #6 (May 2)
May 2, 2011

Fierce Artillery Attacks on Misurata: Obama’s Debacle in Libya — Update #5 (May 1)
May 1, 2011

NATO Impotent: Obama’s Debacle in Libya — Update #4 (April 28)
April 29, 2011

The Human Cost: Obama’s Debacle in Libya — Update #3 (April 26)
April 26, 2011

Obama’s Debacle in Libya — Update #2 (April 23)
April 23, 2011

Obama’s Debacle in Libya — Update #1 (April 22)
April 22, 2011

Obama’s Debacle in Libya
April 21, 2011

Libya — “All necessary measures”
March 29, 2011

Current military actions in Libya
March 26, 2011

“Analyst-in-Chief” muddies waters; “Commander-in-Chief” cannot be found
March 22, 2011

Shooting Straight About Military Operations in Libya
March 21, 2011

While Carthage Burns, Obama Dithers
March 14, 2011

Zawiyah–Qaddafi’s victory, but stories will be told
March 10th, 2011

Libya—America Abdicates Global Leadership in Struggle for Democracy
March 10th, 2011

Zawiyah 2011 = Srebrenice 2005
March 8th, 2011

Libya and “The Audacity to Act”
March 6, 2011

Lebanon teeters on the brink

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Hezbollah is threatening to break up the “unity” government of Lebanon, as reports and rumors suggest Hezbollah members may be indicted by the prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon established by the United Nations Security Council, for their roles in the assassination of Rafic Hariri, the father of the current Lebanese prime minister, Saad Hariri.

See

Wassim Mroueh. “Ministers set for showdown in Cabinet,” The Daily Star, November 10, 2010,

Robert F. Worth, “Don’t Aid Hariri Tribunal, Hezbollah Warns.”
New York Times, October 28, 2010

Robert F. Worth, “Lebanon: International T,ribunal Says Hezbollah Tried to Obstruct Justice in Prime Minister’s Killing,” New York Times, October 29, 2010.

Elias Sakr and Hassan Lakiss, “Hizbullah’s boycott call bid to obstruct justice – Ban,” The Daily Star, October 30, 2010

The indictment by the prosecutor only states the charges. They must still be proven before the court, which is headed by a very distinguished Italian international lawyer, Antonio Cassesse.

A cabinet meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 10. Hezbollah is not only challenging the Hariri government by threatening to withdraw from the governmnet and disrupt the country, but is also challenging the United Nations Security Council and the entire framework of internationanl law and institutions under which the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was established.

Into this maelstrom, Senator John Kerry traveled on November 8, apparently at the request of President Obama.

Senator Kerry seems to see no conflict of interest between his oversight responsibilities as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and serving as President Obama’s roving ambassador to countries from Afghanistan to the Sudan and Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.

Obama has effectively co-opted Kerry, who cannot remotely be viewed as avoiding the appearance of impropriety while simultaneously acting under a constitutional mandate to hold the president to account for his foreign policy, and exercising an executive function under that same president by going on diplomatic missions to assist in implementing U.S. foreign policy.

Obviously, it would appear that he might withhold his criticism of the president’s foreign policy in his Senate role due to the fact that it might affect his future diplomatic assignments from the president.

Democratic senators might take due note of this conflict of interest when voting to elect the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the next session of Congress, in January, 2011.

One must wonder whether Secretary of State Clinton had a full voice in the decision to send Kerry to Lebanon. Perhaps so. One can only sympathize with her ambassadors.

Neither Obama nor Kerry demonstrates any sense of understanding the separation of powers in this context, and the appropriate constitutional boundaries that should be respected by each.

See “Senator Kerry’s Conflict of Interest in Afghanistan,” The Trenchant Observer, August 19, 2010.

Meanwhile, Lebanon teeters on the brink.

The Trenchant Observer

www.trenchantobserver.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/trenchantobserv
E-mail: observer@trenchantobserver.com

Comments are invited.