Last Saturday, several Lebanese, among them politicians, media professionals, and ordinary citizens, commemorated the third anniversary of Luqman Slim’s assassination in the south. Luqman Slim was a writer, literary figure, publisher, and outspoken critic who did not hesitate to voice his opinion, regardless of the extent to which it broke with the mainstream. Above and beyond his many other qualities, he was a courageous person who entered the ring with Hezbollah, its sponsors, and followers, taking them on in their backyard with his bare hands and raw voice.
Some of the men and women who gave speeches at the event had been injured by lethal bombs but were fortunate enough to escape death. Others had seen their fathers or husbands killed for reasons not very different from those that led to Luqman’s assassination. Thus, the gathering at the "Mina Image Center," which is very close to the port that had been hit by the blast, seemed more like a condensed album of disjointed phases of Lebanese suffering. As for what the victims of this pain had in common, it is that they were all murder victims whom no one had murdered.
Indeed, the Lebanese judiciary has made the identity of the killer a secret. This is true for the assassination of Luqman in early 2021, just as it is for the assassinations and assassination attempts that preceded or followed this crime. Thus, the anonymous killer was afforded the opportunity to continue evading justice and accountability, while professional murder defenders could go on freely slandering justice and accountability.
We should recall that just before Luqman's murder, during the period that began with the port blast – whose perpetrator also remains, despite the massive scale of the blast, an unknown entity- and was followed by the assassination of the photographer Joseph Bajjani (whose murder was linked to the port crime because he had photographed it), a coordinated defamation campaign was launched against local justice and judicial authorities, tying the hands of the judges and preventing them from fulfilling their duties.
All of them remain murder victims without a murderer.
In 2005, as we well know, a wave of assassinations began with the murder of Rafic Hariri and a substantial number of politicians, writers, and journalists. At that time, the International Tribunal was subjected to a defamation campaign similar to those launched against the domestic judiciary that sought to ensure accountability after the port explosion.
However, while those who attacked the Lebanese judiciary managed to paralyze it, the Tribunal managed to evade them because it was an international institution. Nevertheless, for reasons that have been heavily speculated about, the International Tribunal only yielded modest results, which, in turn, remain unenforced.
In sum, militia rule and justice are opposites that can never be brought together. When we speak of militia rule, we are also referring to the regime of plunder and corruption that the militia rushed to rescue as soon as it was genuinely challenged on October 17 2019. The same applies to regimes that behave like militias, and sometimes, as with the regime in Syria, they do not stop there, hosting foreign militias to help them kill their people and reinforce their authority. In Syria as well, with the exception of a few trials held in European countries, those who reaped the heads of hundreds of thousands, with chemical and non-chemical weapons, remain happily seated in power atop the corpses of their victims.
But what is the link between the Lebanese and Syrian killing fields and the brutal Israeli strikes in Gaza? If we take a look at it from the perspective of the Arab Levant, we find that nothing has done more to make killing fields commonplace and recurrent than impunity and disregard for the law, regardless of the variation in figures and the methods used to execute these crimes.
In fact, a region in which such things happen probably finds a kin that resembles it in Israel's behavior. It is not far-fetched to think many evil people assume that an area in which matters are dealt with this way would not feel the impact of losing more blood. When some local perpetrators are elevated to the status of heroes or when those of them in power maintain it - thereby making our region look like a vast slaughterhouse where the local forces are militias that enjoy popular support and are not bound by the law or justice - it weakens the argument of anyone seeking to hold Israel legally accountable. It is not improbable that such a consideration recently contributed, implicitly and in the background, to limiting the condemnation of the Jewish state in the Hague, leaving its outcome open to interpretation.
This should teach us that nothing could do more to rein Israel in and undermine its model than building respectable societies that are governed by the rule of law in our region. However, one of the prerequisites for getting there is coming to the same conclusion as Luqman Slim and becoming convinced that no cause should be placed above the cause of justice and upholding the law.