3 Jun 2009

The Hariri Tribunal: Justice over Sovereignty?

On the 1st of March, the International Tribunal for Lebanon opened in The Hague, with the responsibility for prosecuting those responsible for the assassination of the former Prime Minister of Lebanon Rafik Al-Hariri. The Tribunal marks another milestone in the era of enhanced interventionism that began with the Dayton Agreement, for the first time an international criminal court will be responsible for trying a ‘terrorist’ crime against a specific person. Have the Lebanese traded sovereignty for justice in asking for this tribunal? Will we see the international community and the West in particular playing an increasingly interventionist role and using the instruments of international justice to bring about political ends? In what follows, I will describe the events that brought about the tribunal and argue that it a symptom of the general disorientation of contemporary politics in which sovereignty and self-determination have receded in favour of deterministic tendencies that stifle the political development of societies. Read more:


  1. Nasser Yassin write:
    Karl, I appreciate providing the background to the Hariri tribunal especially for the non-specialist. It did however take much of the space of your article.

    Now style aside, you end raising pertinent questions about the doctrine of interventionism but fear that you did not engage in answering them beyond the "usual" argument that it jeopardizes sovereignity. Now, sovereignity itself as a concept is in need of serious questioning. As a matter of fact the concept of the nation-state itself is in need of investigation and whether it still stands in the current era; not only against the globalized world but especially so in a polity like Lebanon where quasi-polities exist for and by each of its sectarian communities.

    I am raising these issues in an attempt to complex-ize your argument beyond a relatively simple anti-western rhetoric. ... Read more

    ...and yes; every act is political, and this is how we should see it. There is no banality neither in violence nor in justise-seeking...

  2. Nasser, complex-ize away, this is why I post those things in the first place. I knew that the background was too long, but it was actually a very good way to remember all the process that got us to where we are today.
    I think the logic of criticizing sovereignty may sound appealing and seductive, especially in 'we are the world' kind of way, where... Read more everybody loves everybody else, but I don't there's any basis for politics without a concept of sovereignty in place. Politics before it's about right or left, or justice, social equality or any other concept, is about self-determination and shaping your own destiny, and I am afraid we the Lebanese keep outsourcing that responsibility. This is true of Hezbollah in as much as it is true of 14th of March. It is a cowardly abdication of responsibility.

  3. With the tribunal, after the release of the four generals all objections disappeared, as if the tribunal is now beyond critique. But we've already seen how its decisions are subject to international pressures and maneuvers, so why do we want to give it this authority? One explanation only: we prefer to think of ourselves as teenagers that need ... Read moreadult help. I don’t accept that.
    I know that the desire for justice for the assassination of Hariri is great, but we can’t sacrifice the foundation of our politics for the sake of justice that is delivered by external agents. If we can’t deliver justice internally, it means that the country is still dysfunctional. Undermining the nation state in that respect, only reinforces the communal groups and their hold on power, not the other way around.


Karl reMarks is a blog about Middle East politics and culture with a healthy dose of satire.

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