The CBC’s Neil MacDonald released a damning critique of the UN investigation into the 2005 assassination former Lebanese President Rafik Hariri. The short documentary “Getting Away with Murder” was broadcast this week on the CBC’s flagship The National.
The prosecutor, Canadian Daniel Bellemare, is said to be close to issuing an indictment, but MacDonald’s story raises serious questions about whether the prosecution at the Special Tribunal will have a solid case to present. MacDonald’s description of “gross competence, political timidity and bureaucratic inertia” will be familiar to anyone who has worked in the U.N., an organization riven by inter-state competition and the tendency to see glacial change as progress. Where the U.N. is effective, it is because activist officials who know how to work the system make progress, usually despite the organisation, not because of it.
MacDonald’s story is an interesting look into the challenges of international investigation and how so much of it is dependent on good national investigators and analysts. The Tribunal proclaims it is going after the “persons most responsible” for the attack which killed Hariri and 21 others but gathering evidence on those persons – whomever they may be – means going up against one or more intelligence services from several countries. A tricky business, to put it politely. International investigation is difficult at the best of times, but in Lebanon it may have hit the wall. Let’s see what the indictment produces. Meanwhile, all sides – including Syria, Hizballah, and Israel – are rattling sabres these days and a poorly timed or supported indictment could be the spark for another war. For his part, prosecutor Bellemare pronounced himself “extremely disappointed” with the CBC piece.