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Letter From Beirut: Crime and Punishment in the Levant

Lebanon’s False Choice Between Stability and Justice

Courtesy Reuters

Over the years, Lebanon has managed to avoid getting to the bottom of its politically motivated crimes. Its 15-year civil war ended with an amnesty law, even though more than 100,000 people had been killed, including dozens of prominent political and religious figures, among them two presidents. Not surprisingly, with UN indictments for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri now approaching, the country is finding it difficult to deal with the possibility that, in this one case, the pursuit of justice might reach a firmer conclusion.

In the coming weeks, the United Nations' Special Tribunal for Lebanon is expected to confirm indictments against individuals who participated in the suicide bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others on February 14, 2005. Those indicted are expected to include Hezbollah members. The attack provoked mass demonstrations in Beirut directed against Syria, viewed as the likely culprit. By April of that year, Syrian forces had

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