Retrieving the Rule of Law to Strengthen Civil Peace

Lebanon is victim of a strategy aimed at sapping its republican values, freezing and hampering its institutions, wreaking the achievements of the Ta’if Agreement under the pretext of wanting ‘a comprehensive basket’.
Yet, there are numerous positive aspects in the Lebanese situation: the fact that there is an outweighing opposition including all religious communities and all Lebanese regions through ‘The Cedars’ Revolution’ or the Independence Intifadah, or the Beirut Spring; then there is Arab and international  support of constitutional legality, the rule of law; the resistance of the Lebanese Army to terrorist groups in Nahr al-Barid and to other incidents; the Lebanese society being immune to a new outburst of civil or internecine war; the practical and financial formalities to set up the international tribunal due to look into the assassination of former Premier, Rafiq Hariri. Still, Lebanon is undergoing a cold civil war that is likely to deteriorate in case the hampering of the Lebanese institutions should continue.

1. Lebanon ‘a playground’ to be closed?: Lebanon is facing major issues such as: public debt, the negative repercussions of the July 2006 war, internal schisms, the terrorist war against the Lebanese State (the fiercest being in Nahr-al-Barid Camp – considered by some internal forces as a justification of their security feudalism, a red line, ignoring past lessons in terms of sovereignty); armed groupings and various factions for personal security under various names; the premeditated hampering of constitutional institutions namely the Presidency of the Republic; the closure of the Chamber and the hampering of legislative activity for the past two years going against Lebanon’s parliamentary traditions even at the peak of war years from 1975 to 1990; the issue of ministerial solidarity with the resignation of several ministers; political assassinations of ministers, MPs, intellectuals, journalists, security officials; attempts to hamper international investigation in the terrorist crime that led to the assassination of former Premier Rafiq Hariri; the blockade around the presidency of the Government headquarters – which is a violation of three fundamental social and economic rights of citizens: the right to work, to move about freely, and the right to ownership.

2. The Lebanese hold fast as Lebanon is at risk: since June 2005 until 2008, Lebanon has seen no less than forty attempts to stir internal strife among religious communities through assassinations, assassination attempts, or explosions. The Lebanese held fast. But these attempts have increased the risk of seeing Lebanon become again a ‘playground’ namely with the threats of a war and ‘open confrontation’.

3. A terrorist series of assassinations and explosions: a series of terrorist settlements and explosions occurred in 2007-2008: the assassination of MP Walid Idû along with his son and their guards (13/06/2007); the explosions in two buses in ‘Ayn ‘Alaq in which two civilians died: Laurice Jimayyil, and Michel ‘Attar, a young university student (13/02/2007); the killing of the two children: Ziyad Ghandur and Ziyad Qabalan (26/04); the massacre perpetrated by the “Fath al-Islam’ gang killing soldiers and officers from the Lebanese Army in Tripoli’s Nahr al-Barid Camp – tens of military died on 20 and 21/05 to 02/09 – and the subsequent attacks against the Army in the suburbs of Nahr al-Barid; the explosion that led to the killing of six members of the Spanish team from the peace keeping UNIFIL in Khayyam, South Lebanon (24/06); the killing of MP Antoine Ghanim (19/09); the Head of operations in the Lebanese Army, Brigadier Francois Hajj (12/12); the explosion at the time when a car fro the American Embassy was passing in Karantina (15/01/2008); the killing Major Wisam ‘Id, from the Internal Forces Services; Bloody Sunday events with fierce confrontations between armed men and the Army in the Southern suburbs (27/01); repeated riots and burning of tires and the closing of roads in many regions and without reason – sometimes under the pretext of the increase in the price of fuel, which in fact is subject to world markets, and some other times under the pretext of power failure in some regions or for mere demonstrations of force.

4. The national Army: the Lebanese Army has led in Nahr al-Barid Camp one of the fiercest battles against terrorism. It showed remarkably heroic resistance: 180 martyrs, officers and soldiers; humane way of dealing with the civilians in the Camp. All of this to face attacks from the terrorist group ‘Fath al-Islam’ led by Shakir al-‘Absi. The Lebanese Army’s experience was the most efficient – after the 2005 intifada for independence – to strengthen Lebanese sovereignty and counter the ‘playground’ image of Lebanon against some regional terrorist groupings and schemes to turn Lebanon once more into a ‘hostage State’.
We would like to make three observations concerning the Army, showing the fact that the lessons of the past have not been learned:
- imposing a ‘red line’ as to the Army trying to impose public order in Nahr al-Barid Camp, whereas resort to military institution to curb internal or foreign security risks should not be – based on the principle of sovereignty – subject to any internal opposition or refutation.
- some writings of absolutist political and military analysts and journalists lacking comparative dimensions, claiming that if the Army interferes in political divisions, it might become divided. Experience in Nahr al-Baid and prior experiences namely between 1975 and 1990 proved that the Lebanese military institution remained the guarantee at all times and all circumstances. The Army thus proved highly efficient at the sit-in of Lebanese opposition forces and subsequent security incidents on black Tuesday and Thursday, on January 23 and 25, 2007: the Army succeeded in controlling and preventing any violence outburst in the streets.
- investigation carried out in the role of the Army in what was called ‘bloody Sunday’ on 27/01/2008, and ensuing sanctions against some members of the Army; the latter does not a clearance to use its sovereign tasks, fighting off illegal armed forces, and reestablishing order and security.

5. Lebanon, a hostage: in addition to all these events, there still is the 12 July 2006 war that brought Lebanon back to being a hostage, subject to international and regional conflicts despite Security Council Resolution 1701, the deployment of the Lebanese Army and international peace-keeping troops until the southern border with Israel. For the first time since 1969 the Lebanese Army was in Southern villages by September 2006.

6. Renewed support to the independence intifada: to commemorate the third anniversary of the killing of former Premier, Rafiq Harir, on February 14, great numbers of people gathered in Martyrs’ Square, to support ‘The Cedars’ Revolution’ and the independence intifada; from all Lebanese regions, they defied rain and storm, as well as various other considerations. This impulsive gathering in Martyrs’ Square of people from different political and religious backgrounds and affiliations – not allegiances – ought not to be taken lightly. The Lebanese express their memory concretely and prove through volunteer behavior their happiness to live side by side with each other, to defend their independence, to refuse all dependencies, and tutelages. 

7. Rejection of violence and memory building: young people in Martyrs’ Square are fully aware that peaceful means have much better results than violent or repressive ways. For the first time, dead martyrs have reconciled whereas the martyrs of each group would clash in the past.

8. Preparing to hand in the special tribunal the results of investigations: the committee is preparing to move to the post of general prosecutor of the special tribunal for Lebanon when the latter tribunal starts its work in the next phase. Additional steps have been taken to set up the international tribunal for Lebanon in order to judge those responsible for the killing of Rafiq Hariri, and similar killings; international contributions in the tribunal budget have increased (the US has doubled its contribution from 7 to 14 million dollars, Russia announced it would participate in the financing of the tribunal on 19/03).
The tribunal is, as such, a pivotal event for Lebanon, whether as the start of a new stage to strengthen internal stability and immunity, or to end a painful period in its history, one blood-stained by terrorist operations against Lebanese officials, civilians in different regions, trying to stir internecine strife.

9. The increase in the number of individuals and associations working for civil peace and memory: the number of associations and individuals advocating permanent civil peace and immunity has increased. The more this number increases for the sake of civil peace and memory at the national and local level, in towns, neighborhoods, and villages, the more we see the success of the Program since ‘The Civil peace and Memory Monitor’ sets off from the will to work along with other programs and initiatives.

10. The closing of the Chamber, and the usurpation of its role by individuals and talkers: the Chamber is the first institution in the State of law. A strong parliament is often a fundamental democratic indicator. The hampering of the election of a president of the Republic in Lebanon and the conflict around the voting session raises the issue of mutual vetoing in consensus based regimes and the hazards of a minority ruling and imposing its conditions contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, which guarantees the continuation of institutions. The concept of ‘minority arbitrariness’ is not a party-based approach but rather a legal concept recognized in matters related to civil associations, unions, commercial associations, and bodies that have legal personality. The state has legal sovereign personality. We can speak of minority arbitrariness when its stand is contrary to general interest; this stand is often aimed solely at making the minority’s interests prevail over those of the other partners.

11. Unions and professional bodies: most of these bodies in Lebanon have become subject to partisan forces and are no longer concerned with social and economic rights or the advocacy of these rights beyond political competition as it should be. There is a need to restore this function.

12. Politicians underestimating people’s memory and intelligence: parallel to positive aspects, the solidarity and collective memory process is hampered by the negative residues of thirty years. Among these negative residues, the fact that politicians continue to underestimate people’s memory, the regression of the state of law and the rule of law, the violation by politicians of the principle of neutrality in their public office. Among the negative residues also the fact that politicians resort to televised talk-shows in order to turn public matters into community strife matters.

13. Lebanon, a permanent subject on the table of internationalization: the 
greatest threat for Lebanon today is the Arab totalitarian regimes, and a Zionist regime that is the antonym of Lebanon, based on coexistence. The positive element is that Lebanon is repeatedly on the agenda of the Security Council. The negative point is that the episode of the war is often closed with words only without facing the crises of the past and the crises of the war since the Lebanese still carry the scars of the war.

14. The culture ‘Lebanon first and closing Lebanon as a ‘playground’: the core of the Lebanese ordeal is in it being a ‘playground’ whereas Lebanon has published numerous volumes as to the cost of its invasion of Lebanon; the Palestinians have expressed their regret to have interfered in internal Lebanese matters; Syria has repeatedly underlined its sacrifices for Lebanon. What we want is to have others at rest and be at rest. When will Lebanon cease to be a ‘playground’? The principle ‘Lebanon first’ is the utmost expression of Arab character, role and mission.

15. The rule of law and immunity: some subjects pretend that Lebanon is not immune enough, and they speak in a superior tone to say: ‘Civil war has not started not because the country is immune but because the stronger party that carries the weapons chooses not to lead things to a outbreak of civil war.’ This way of thinking perpetuates tension urging others to seek self protection amidst news about arms spreading among some groupings. The rule of law is the regulator of public life and the guarantee of peaceful prevention of conflict; educational programs advocating the rule of law and spreading popular legal culture ought to be multiplied.

The advance of Lebanon lies in a cautious Lebanese regional and international policy namely away from alliances.
All the proceeding and Documents of the Civil Peace and Collective Memory in Lebanon, 2005-2008, will be published in April 2008 in the publications of Lebanese Foundation for Permanent Civil Peace, Documents series, no 21, 720 pages, with the support of Forum for Development, Culture and Dialogue-FDCD and Middle East Association of Training and Retreat Center- MEATRC.