Hanna Saleh

Justice is the Only Way to Achieve a 4th Independence

Lebanon is once again in the midst of a battle to seize its freedom and independence, this time from the control of the Iranian regime, as it seeks to preserve its existence by preventing the Iranian regime from turning it into a puppet state. In doing so, Lebanon will strive to achieve its fourth independence. The first of the previous three was the independence of 1943 from the French mandate. Then came the independence of 2000, which emerged as a result of the Israeli occupier's defeat. The latest independence is that of 2005, when the Syrian regime was expelled from the country.

Corruption, which has crawled into the core of the Lebanese state and delegitimized it, is one of the main reasons why a fourth independence is of the utmost necessity. Corruption has wreaked havoc in Lebanese institutions, crippled the economy, impoverished the population, weakened the healthcare sector, and led to the crime of the century. The Beirut port explosion that almost destroyed one-third of the city and shook the entire world didn't seem to affect the ruling clique, nor was there any sense of accountability on their part. In truth, it revealed the lengths that the corrupt ruling class is willing to maintain power and the indifference of the Lebanese state to the lives of its citizens. Amidst all this, the threat of impunity looks very real.

Indeed, justice and accountability seem irrelevant to the current Lebanese state, as evidenced by the overuse of force by security services to disperse demonstrators since the beginning of the October revolution in 2019. Moreover, the politically motivated decision to remove Fadi Sawan, the chief prosecutor for the Beirut port explosion, prompted a furious reaction from the families of the victims affected by the blast, who took the streets to voice their anger, shouting: "We will not allow you to kill us twice. We will seek justice ourselves if we have to!" The decision to dismiss chief prosecutor Sawan from the investigation came as a result of his uncompromising stance against the ruling clique, which is trying to deliberately interfere with the investigation in order to gain time and evade any responsibility related to the explosion, for which they could be incriminated.

Throughout this process, it has been apparent that Hezbollah's stance is the most influential, indeed, that it is shaping the new approach. The day after the port crime, its secretary-general declared that he had no idea what was in the port, as they were concerned with the Port of Haifa and those beyond Haifa, demonstrating that Hezbollah's actual stance is consistent with the ruling clique's campaign or perhaps that the party was instructing them to"contain the investigation." On the eighth of January, Nasrallah announced: "Honorable judicial investigator, if you continue along this path, it means we will not reach a conclusion... The course of the investigation must be corrected." In truth, many have spoken about the investigation as though they were judicial "references", giving the judge advice and guidance, and the secretary-general would announce that the time to turn the page had come: "The technical investigation with the army is finished, and its conclusions have been sent to the judicial investigator. It is his duty to announce the conclusions of the technical conclusions…," emphasizing the need to solve what he considered the central issue, ending the disputes between the affected families and the insurance companies that gave been waiting for the nature of the explosion to be determined before paying! Yes, financial compensation is the solution, the technical investigators informed the judiciary that fate and the neglect of the sparks that flared from the "welding" had blown up Beirut!

If the technical investigation is the reference and the judicial authorities' investigations should depend on it as its basic and only reference, what is the purpose of the forensic investigation and the judiciary? But wait, a group of judges frightens the "Nitrate clique," and so the decision to sideline them was taken. With Judge the publication of Judge Fadi Al-Aridi's grounds for refusing the dismissal, the weak arguments against Judge Sawan were exposed on the one hand, while the findings and the expansion of the investigation exposed the other aspects.

They used the fact that Judge Sawan had said he would do everything he could to reveal the truth against him, that he wouldn't be hindered by any immunity in the face of the destruction and loss of life of this magnitude. Rather, he would be firm because blood immunity was what troubled him, and there was no sin in the matter. In his statement, Judge Aridi considered that what was said about "immunities" came in the context of "generalizations and was said under the presumption that the prosecution would look into any layman or official against whom serious suspicions are raised." That is, they held his determination to reveal the truth without fear of accusing anyone against him. Here, an important aspect that transpired in the Court of Cassation during the discussion of "immunities" is revealed. Judge Sawan's framework narrowed the scope of immunity in the interest of protecting human rights, to prevent it from continuing to allow for impunity. The evidence is overwhelming. However, after all the plunder, impoverishment, and banditry, and despite the evidence implicating the ruling clique, the charges were made to disappear from public space. No international body trusts the regime with even a carton of basic foodstuffs, but not a single charge was against an official of any level... The majority in court decided to "conform" to the political suggestions, and contain the courts, especially when it comes to holding those accused of deadly sins accountable. The latter are being protected at the expense of justice, truth, society, and its interests! Those who issued the decision did were not burdened by its implications for the judiciary and the primacy of the battle for its independence.

What reaches the level of scandal is that they held the fact that Judge Sawan was among those who suffered material losses because of the explosion, assuming he would be sympathetic to those afflicted and abandon his duties, as though a judge can only be objective if he was not affected by a disaster of this magnitude! Put simply, this means that it is impossible to find a judge who was not affected by what had befallen all of Lebanon, and in the future, once the inevitable investigations of plunder begin, it will also be impossible to find a judge who was not affected.

Of course, charging the prime minister and ministers (the investigation demonstrated that serious suspicions surrounded them) worried the political class, so, wielding the sword of immunity, it did away with it. But the biggest surprise that accelerated the dismissal decision is the audacity of issuing charges against Syrian regime affiliates suspected of owning the shipment of death! From the beginning, the accumulation of evidence was like a straight line pointing to politicians and security officials responsible for bringing the Ammonium to the port and gradually removing 75 percent of the shipment; and where to? It became apparent that the investigation could potentially expose details of other dangerous crimes linked to the explosion, like the assassinations of Retired Colonel Mounir Abu Rajeli and photojournalist Joe Bejjani, whose widow revealed that security agencies had seized his photographic archive, including pictures of Hangar 12. They are conducting their investigation into the "bags of pillows (...) as though the victims are the perpetrators!

From their approach of creating starvation to allying with the pandemic, stealing the vaccine, violently clamping down on peaceful protests, undermining justice, bring assassinations back, and invoking ISIS on demand, to preparing to appoint a president of the republic who perpetuates the position's vacancy and entrenches subordination, everything they do is meant to sow fear and spread terror! The obviousness of their objectives must crystallize the means for fighting back, the banner of justice as an umbrella that brings together all the political advocates of change. Justice is the gateway to retrieving the state that would allow for the regaining of rights and stolen money, and it is a headline that the world could rally around in support of the Lebanese in their fight to end tyranny.