Al Jazeera reported yesterday that judges and lawyers at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), ostensibly established to prosecute the perpetrators of the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, “have begun discussions on how to define the crime of ‘terrorism’ as listed in a draft indictment”.
According to the Al Jazeera website:
International lawyers have wrangled for years without arriving at a single definition for the crime of terrorism, but prosecutors and defence lawyers at the tribunal agreed on Monday to apply the definition as stated in Lebanese law, which the tribunal already uses.
‘There is no reason to go further and create an overarching, worldwide, universal definition,’ Iain Morley, a lawyer for the prosecution, said.
But he sought to refine the definition they will use at future trials, arguing that it was unnecessary to prove a political motive for a terrorist act.
He proposed his own definition of terrorism as an act by which ‘a substantial section of the public reasonably and significantly fears more than momentarily from the present onward indiscriminate personal harm’”.
I’d be willing to bet that a more substantial section of the Lebanese public feared impending indiscriminate personal harm during and after the July 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon—waged in part via rush shipments of American weapons to Israel and resulting in the elimination of over 1200 people, mostly civilians, in the country—than after the elimination of Hariri and 22 others.
As for assassination-related fear, there was presumably some of this in 1985 when CIA-trained operatives attempted to dispense with Shiite cleric Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah in Beirut. Fadlallah survived; approximately 80 civilians, including a number of women and children, did not. It is meanwhile unclear why the Hariri assassination should be considered any more fear-inducing than the decades of Lebanese political assassinations that have not prompted special tribunals.
Dr. Omar Nashabe, editor of the justice section at Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper, gave an excellent speech in London last month on the subject of the STL in which he pointed out that current Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has boasted of his participation in assassinations in Lebanon in 1973. One more reason not to issue an “overarching, worldwide, universal definition” of the word terrorism.