|Hariri supporters in Lebanon are hopeful, but the issue has exposed deep divisions [AFP]|
On face value, no politician or diplomat would be against prosecuting a serious crime, or bringing its perpetrators to justice.
No politician or diplomat would ever say that it is acceptable to assassinate political opponents and then proceed to assassinate other key figures close to them.
And yet, with a multitude of different agendas and principles whirling around, there are politicians and diplomats who are opposed to the setting-up of a UN International Tribunal to investigate the 2005 murder of Rafiq Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, in a massive car bomb.
But this was no ordinary murder, nor is this any ordinary tribunal.
Those countries, including Russia, China, South Africa and Qatar who abstained on Wednesday's resolution in the UN Security Council argued that they had good reason to do so.
The resolution, supported by 10 countries, including the United States, Britain and France creates a precedent – although the UN might argue that it does not.
It is a Chapter Seven resolution, which is invoked in cases of threats to international peace and security. It is binding, mandatory and can be backed by force if necessary.
It gives the divided Lebanese parliament until June 10 to agree to the establishment of a tribunal.
For the first time perhaps, an individual government, in this case the Lebanese government, will be forced to co-operate with a UN-backed court.
|The massive car bomb attack in 2005 killed |
nine people, including Hariri [EPA]
Opinion is divided in Lebanon too. The country’s president is against. The country’s prime minister is for.
The opposition, official and unofficial is against. And yet the demonstrations marking Hariri’s murder two years ago were so massive, that the Syrian army, seen by some as occupiers, others as protectors, withdrew from much of the country.
Throughout the long process of the Hariri Inquiry, presided over by a UN-backed team, countries and people not connected to the investigation have been pointing towards Syrian complicity in the attack on Hariri's motorcade, although this remains unproved.
But for those who do believe that there was Syrian involvement, an international tribunal is seen as a device that may help make their cause.
However, it remains the case that the forensic investigation of the murder site, where the massive car bomb exploded, have not yet led to any suspects being named.
The Lebanese parliament now has a deadline. Yet already some are asking what the UN could do enforce its decision if the parliament fails to meet it, or for some reason does not agree.
Others claim that this decision by the UN Security Council will lead to yet further violence and bloodshed.
Many Lebanese people ask why their own country is not going to be allowed to run its own tribunal.
Although others argue that given the great divides in Lebanese society, it is quite impossible to imagine their country hosting an investigation and criminal court case of such political magnitude.
|Questions over Syria's involvement |
have yet to be answered [Reuters]
The United Nations, for its part, argues that there is no precedent; that there have been international tribunals in the former Yugoslavia, investigating war crimes and in Rwanda, investigating genocide.
Once again critics say that Yugoslavia had more or less ceased to exist as a state and Rwanda wasn’t functioning as a state.
Lebanon, on the other hand, despite its divisions and despite the terrible damage wrought by last year’s invasion by Israel, is a functioning state, and a state that cannot agree as to whether the tribunal is a good thing or not.
The many supporters of Hariri are jubilant now that they believe that justice may actually be done.
They believe that a line may at last be drawn under political assassinations if the perpetrators are brought to justice.
But for others in Lebanon, all of this reeks of outside interference.
Others still believe that far from putting a cap on the violence, the creation of an international tribunal may just fuel it.
Who is right and who is wrong, we shall see in the coming weeks and months.