The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) was set up in 2007, under UN auspices to try those involved in the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. The Tribunal seeks the perpetrators not of mass murder or crimes against humanity but of a single assassination termed a “heinous terrorist act”. The Tribunal has generated unprecedented tension, mistrust and prolonged crises in government ever since its controversial ratification by the UN Security Council in 2007. It has emerged as one of the most divisive issues in post-civil war Lebanon. This article argues that the Tribunal is an internationalisation of a domestic political conflict in a deeply divided country, whose judiciary is unable to hold perpetrators accountable; too divided to conduct an impartial inquiry; and too weak to reach credible verdicts. The criminal inquiry was instigated by a local call for justice, pursued by regional hegemons (the USA, the UK and France) and imposed by the  international community (the UN, the EU and the Quartet) in an attempt to end impunity. The troubled judicial process was supported by sections of civil society; yet once established, the Tribunal was driven by international actors and, owing to its apparent politicisation, the role of local actors was weakened.

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Special Issue: "Drivers of Justice"
Skaar, Elin and Astri Suhrke

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