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Lebanon Ratification Campaign - February Media Digest
01 Mar 2006
Lebanon was the target of CICC’s ratification campaign in February and the Lebanese coalition has undertaken a series of activities all month – including a press conference with several NGOs and meetings with high-level officials, representatives of political parties, and influential jurists.

Please find below a link to a full page story on the ICC from Tuesday’s (Feb 28) edition of Lebanon’s major Arabic daily – Al-Nahar – and an unofficial English summarized translation of the article. The article presents a good overview of the ICC and the national campaign for ratification, the reasons why Lebanon should accede to the Court, interviews with members of the Lebanese Coalition’s steering committee and, for the first time, discusses an unpublished model law for accession drafted by the late MP (and publisher of Al-Nahar) Gibran Tueni a few days before he was assassinated on December 12, 2005.

Following the February 7 press conference organized by the Lebanese Coalition for the ICC at the Human Rights Institute of the Beirut Bar Association – which was attended by a number of Lebanese NGO representatives, lawyers, media organizations, MPs, representatives of Amnesty International and FIDH, and representatives of the Netherlands and DRC embassies – there were a number of smaller articles published immediately after in the Lebanese press, including An-Nahar, Al-Mustaqbal, Al-Balad, and Al-Liwaa. The press conference was also covered by two television channels (New TV and LBC).

For your reference, please also find links to some of Arabic articles with English summaries of the articles. (Please note that electronic copies of all the Arabic originals are not available in a displayable format, so if you would like the Arabic originals as pdf files, please email me).

For more information on the ICC campaign in Lebanon, please contact me at [email protected] or Brigitte Chelebian from the Lebanese Coalition in Beirut, at [email protected]

Congratulations to the Lebanese Coalition on all their efforts!

Warmest Regards,
Anjali

1. Link to Al-Nahar article, February 28, 2006 (in Arabic, with English summary)
2. Links to selected media articles in February, 2006 (in Arabic, with English summaries)

1.Al-Nahar, February 28, 2006
(For the full text of the article in Arabic, please go to:
http://www.annaharonline.com/htd/TAHKIK060228.HTM

[Unofficial English summary translation:

“Complementing local legal jurisdiction without aiming to replace it or assert its guardianship over it /A global and national campaign for Lebanon’s accession to the ICC/ The post-guardianship period permits long-delayed justice to be realized”

By Rula Mikhail

The launch of the “national and international campaign for Lebanon to join the ICC” early this month returns to the question of Lebanon’s position on international justice – an issue on which there are a number of different opinions. But taking a firm position on judicial internationalization has become an urgent matter, given the continuous repurcussions of ongoing crimes – so what are the benefits of Lebanon joining the ICC?

[pictures of Lebanese Coalition members: MP Ghassan Moukheiber, Lawyer Ziad Barud, Lawyer Brigitte Chelebian from Justice Without Frontiers, and Ahmed Karoud, Director of the Amnesty International MENA Office]

The past few months have witnessed heated debates between those calling for international justice to take its course in the case of the former PM Rafiq al-Hariri and those holding on to local courts on the grounds that internationalizing justice would constitute foreign intervention in our national affairs. The Lebanese always seem to fall into two camps, either in support of or against international justice mechanisms such as “expanding international investigation” or “forming a court of an international nature.” In terms of Lebanon’s entry into the framework of international justice, let us turn to the preamble to Lebanon’s constitution, where it is clearly stated that Lebanon is an “active member in the UN, committed to its charter and the general declaration on human rights.” Today, Lebanon is being asked to translate the spirit of these constitutional principles, rather than accept considerations of internal pressures.

Lawyer Ziad Baroud explained: “The importance of Lebanon’s accession to the ICC is clearly embodied in the framework of Lebanon’s natural course of engaging in international affairs and is in harmony with what is stated in the preamble of the Lebanese constitution. Moreover, an effective translation of these words would require that Lebanon joins the movement for the internationalization of justice. The accompanying context of internationalized crime that knows no borders requires international cooperation on the language, procedures, and means suitable to combat these crimes.” He added that international justice, as exemplified in the Rome Statute of the ICC, “complements national criminal jurisdiction” and does not aim to either replace it or assert its guardianship over it.

In the face of the terrible wave of organized assassinations, the horror of discovering mass graves, the continuing case of the forced disappearances, and the many other cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes that have affected Lebanon in the past and the present – without any punishment for the perpetrators of these crimes – the importance of Lebanon joining the ICC by acceding to the Rome Statute of the ICC is of paramount importance. Joining the ICC will constitute a deterrent preventing any future attempts to violate human rights or perpetrate the worst crimes against humanity, and place a limit to the culture of impunity. It is notable that Lebanon is among the four Arab countries that did not even sign the Rome Statute of the ICC.

The ICC vs. The ICJ
There seems to be a widespread confusion between the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, and between the ICC and the special tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Lawyer Ziad Baroud clarified the differences to us: …[differences between ICJ and ICC, and ICC, Tribunals and Special Courts …]


The martyred MP Gibran Tueni … may the truth prevail

The late MP Gibran Tueni had prepared a proposal for a model law that would allow the government to accede to the ICC. And Tueni was clear about his reasons for proposing this law – which he had prepared only a few days before he was assassinated, and was never able to present it to the parliament: “Lebanon has suffered the worst crimes against humanity whose repercussions are still with us and joining the ICC would grant the Lebanese people with true guarantees and effective tools to allow the truth to emerge about all that they have suffered and continue to suffer. Moreover, the ICC can only complement the national criminal laws of its states parties and cannot replace them. In view of the fact that Article 125 of the Rome Statute allows states to accede to it, the signature of the Lower House on a model law permitting the government to accede to the ICC, would be a hopeful sign for the government’s approval.” Tueni drafted his proposal for such a law: “Article 1: The government is permitted to accede to the Rome Statute of the ICC, which was agreed upon by UN diplomats at the Rome conference on 17 July 1998. Article 2: To act upon this law immediately by publishing it in the official gazette.”

Internationalizing justice
It must be noted that the establishment of a permanent international court is considered the most important development in the field of international criminal justice. However, the creation of the ICC was a result of the perseverance and efforts of the international community that began over a century ago. Most notable amongst these efforts was the special war crimes tribunal following World War I. From this time until the present day there have been nine international investigative commissions – the most recent being the commission investigating the assassination of former PM Rafiq al Hariri, created by SC resolution 1595. There have been four special criminal tribunals and three international tribunals examining different issues. Baroud explains that “In a parallel process, experts at UN conferences were engaged in studying the possibility of establishing a permanent international criminal court whose jurisdiction would not be limited to a particular case or a particular country. When 120 countries voted in favor of the Rome Statute on 17 July 1998, this court was established.”

It is said that in the years before the Rome Statute was adopted, Amnesty International had launched wide campaigns to limit impunity. The Director of Amnesty International’s MENA office in Beirut, Ahmed Karoud, explained why: “Despite the creation of international organizations, there remained millions of victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity. What was more shameful was that an uncountable number of victims had presented cases before their national courts with little response. This is why many of our campaigns have focused on the existence of international justice mechanisms to end impunity for the perpetrators of these crimes.” Right from the start AI has offered its legal expertise on the ICC and has urged governments to participate in approving the Rome Statute in 1998. “We succeeded in getting a number of governments to sign the Rome Statute, and today we are working supporting NGO efforts to encourage the other countries to join the court – and this includes the national campaign for Lebanon to join the ICC.”…


The arguments for accession
What is the ICC? …[definition and explanation of ICC, narrative of how ICC came into force in 2002] …

Lawyer Brigitte Chelebian, director of Justice Without Frontiers and coordinator of the Lebanese Coalition for the ICC, elaborated: “This is a permanent institution, unlike previous international tribunals, defined for a particular case and a limited time, and this 120 countries of the world voted in its favor. Moreover, it complements the work of national criminal courts, which means that if a country is capable and willing to begin investigating and prosecuting the crimes under the jurisdiction of the ICC, this is preferable than having the ICC step in.”
Discussing why it is imperative for Lebanon to join the Court, Chelebian drew on examples of the wave of assassinations and explosions, the discovery of mass graves, and the forced disappearance of a number of Lebanese citizens, but underscored that : “Although joining the Court will not allow it to look at these crimes as the Court cannot examine crimes committed before the country joins the Court, accession will strengthen the guarantees against impunity in the future.” On the international stage, joining the Court will also give Lebanon the chance to participate in the election of judges to the ICC, the decisions made by the Assembly of States Parties, and in defining the crime of aggression which is yet to be defined in the Rome Statute.

Ending impunity
In explaining the significance of the ICC, Ahmed Karoud of Amnesty International focused on two main points: First, that the ICC supports the right of national courts to investigate crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity, and moreover, the implementation into national jurisdiction of crimes under the Rome Statute. The ICC will not intervene unless national courts are unable to investigate these crimes, or, if the executive lacks the political will to do so. This is the principle of complementarity between national courts and the ICC.
Second, the importance of international cooperation with the Court (Article 86) and the obligation for states parties to cooperate with investigations, protection of witnesses, and arresting suspects. Solidarity and cooperation in this regard will significantly narrow the opportunity for perpetrators to escape trial and punishment as they can be followed and arrested anywhere in the world.

Are the political conditions ripe?
Why has Lebanon delayed joining the ICC for this long? Is it possible for us today to offer objective and suitable conditions in favor of Lebanon’s accession? MP Ghassan Moukheiber, the rapporteur of the Human Rights Committee, explains: “In the past, under Syrian guardianship, the prevailing wisdom was that Lebanon was outside the orbit of the state of law. Rights and freedoms were sung about and mentioned in political speeches and slogans, but no institutions were permitted to translate these into reality. The fear about joining the ICC is not based on serious reasons. It is imperative today to return Lebanon to the path of those states that take their commitments seriously and to the framework of that group of states striving towards ridding the world and its tyrants of any inclination towards impunity. Also, we must let Lebanon enter a framework of obligation to international standards with respect to rights, justice, and punishment of criminals whoever they might be.”
Moukheiber emphasized that current conditions are very favorable: “Because the rhetoric of the politicians is equal in seriousness to the need for justice for political crimes targeting powerful journalists, intellectuals, and politicians. Rhetoric about international justice seems to have become an integral part of internal politics – marking quite a change from earlier moments when such talk about justice was quite rare. Just as the interest returns to the question of Israeli violations and whether the ICC might form one of the legal checks on Israel, protecting Lebanon in the face of acts of aggression.” Moukheiber stressed that the ICC would strengthen the role of the Lebanese judiciary as it would retain the responsibility to examine crimes under the jurisdiction of the Rome Statute without any interference from the Court – unless the Lebanese courts were unable to do so, in which case international humanitarian law would be activated in Lebanon. Moukheiber said that since the Rome Statute does not allow immunity for anyone regardless of their political positions, in the course of approving accession to the ICC, or in its aftermath, Lebanese legislators would be forced to lift the immunity long enjoyed by all the ministers, the Prime Minister, and the President – making it possible, at least theoretically, that they could be tried before the ICC>

It seems that Moukheiber is very enthusiastic about participating in the national campaign for Lebanon’s accession to the ICC, which he believes will have an important role to play on multiple levels, and which ultimately has two goals: One, Lebanon signing on to a decision by the Cabinet to accede to the Rome Statute of the ICC, and Two, the Parliament’s approval of the Rome Statute.” As for achieving these goals, it requires targeted awareness-raising activities for all the concerned parties in the Cabinet, the parliamentary blocs, the political parties, and civil society organizations, explaining in clear terms the structure of this Court, its advantages for Lebanon, and answering any fears about the impact of the Court. He concluded: “The first of our activities will be to organize a seminar summarizing the issues related to accession for all interested political forces in order to reach a decision that will let us enter the rank of nations that take their legal obligations very seriously.”

The national campaign
In this context, a national and international campaign for Lebanon to join the ICC was launched this past month. The Coalition for the ICC considered Lebanon to be their target country for ratification in February 2006, urging it to accede to the Court. At the start of the month, the CICC sent open letters to the Prime Minister, the President, the head of Parliament, the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, urging them to “accede to the ICC at the earliest time possible.” …
This was accompanied by the campaign launched by the Lebanese Coalition, which includes a number of Lebanese NGos, aiming to work with all concerned parties to take the necessary steps towards accession. The steering committee of the Lebanese Coalition includes MP Ghassan Moukheiber, the Director of the Human Rights Institute Rimon Shadid representing the Beirut Bar Association Rimon Shadid, The Tripoli Bar Association, Lawyer Ziad Baroud, and Director of Justice Without Frontiers and Coordinator of the Lebanese Coalition Brigitte Chelebian. …
Justice without Frontiers is working to build support for accession to the ICC at the national level through media campaigns, lectures and workshops in universities, bar associations in Beirut and Tripoli, and meetings with ministers and MPs.]


2.
a. Al-Nahar, February 8, 2006.
(Please contact me for pdf copy of Arabic original)

[Unofficial English summary translation

Launch of a Campaign urging Lebanon join the ICC
Mukhaiber: A new Principle to Hold every Criminal Accountable

Mr. Rimon Shadid from the Human Rights Institute at the Beirut Bar Association, said in his speech at the press conference yesterday urging Lebanon to join the ICC, “The time now is very suitable for Lebanon to join the ICC. Besides, the cooperation of Justice without Frontiers and the support of the lawyer and parliamentarian, Mr. Mukhaiber, will urge the house of parliament to support the ICC.”
Mukhaiber indicated in his statement in the press conference that as a member of the parliament he will endeavor to work in this national campaign to ensure that Lebanon joins the ICC. He also indicated that joining the ICC is considered a major progress, because it is a new principle to ensure that criminals do not escape from punishment and will be held accountable regardless of their political position. …
Ahmad Karoud, head of the regional office of Amnesty International, confirmed that this campaign is a tool to protect human rights in all countries.]

b. Al-Mustaqbal, February 8, 2006
(for the full text of the Arabic original, please go to:
http://www.almustaqbal.com/stories.aspx?StoryID=163586

[Unofficial English summary translation

Justice without Frontiers Launches a Campaign to Urge Lebanon to Join ICC

Yesterday Justice without Frontiers, the coordinator of the Lebanese Coalition for the ICC, and the Human Rights Institute launched the national and international campaign urging Lebanon to join the ICC to ensure that genocides, war crimes, and crimes against humanity will not occur in the future …
Brigitte Chelebian, Chairperson of Justice without Frontiers, at a press conference organized at the Beirut Bar Association, announced the agenda of the Lebanese Coalition, which includes organizing media campaigns, seminars, and training workshops to spread awareness among NGOs, organizing meetings with officials, and working towards amending the Lebanese penalty law and military judicial system. The press conference was attended by parliamentarian Ghassan Mukheibar, rapporteur of the Human Rights Committee, Rimon Shadid, former president of the Beirut Bar Association and current President of the Human Rights Institute, Driss Al-Yazimi, General Secretary of FIDH, Ahmed Karaoud, Chairperson of the Regional Office of Amnesty International, and a group of concerned civil society organization representatives and lawyers.
Mukhaiber confirmed that there is a serious effort to urge Lebanon to join the ICC, explaining the significance of this joining in terms of forming a deterrent against future crimes in Lebanon. Shadid saw that the current circumstances in Lebanon were very suitable for progress in this regard, indicating the efforts carried by the Bar Association to convince government officials in this regard.
Karauod clarified that this court is the fundamental instrument to protect human rights internationally. As for Mr. Al-Yazimi, he emphasized that the court’s jurisdiction is only for crimes that are committed in the future; it doesn't include crimes committed before joining the court. He confirmed that the ICC does not replace the Lebanese national court. …
In separate a statement by Ms.Brigitte Chelebian to "Al-Mustaqbal," she said that if Lebanon does not join the ICC, this will deprive it of the right to participate in the discussions on amending the Rome Statute, which will take place in 2009. Furthermore, it will not have the right to participate in electing judges or in discussions on the definition of the crime of aggression, which is of particular interest to Arab countries and Lebanon in particular. She also pointed out that the CICC choose to focus on Lebanon during February as it marked the first anniversary of the assassination of former PM Hariri. ...
Lawyer Bilal AL-Zain confirmed in another statement to Al-Mustaqbal that the strategy of the organization was starting to show results as seen in the positive reaction of many Lebanese ministers and parliamentarians to this issue.

c. Al-Balad Online, February 8, 2006-03-01

http://www.albaladonline.com/new/print.php?sid=95037

[Unofficial English summary translation

Urging Lebanon to join the ICC

Justice without Frontiers, the Lebanese coalition coordinator, and the Human Rights Institute launched an awareness campaign urging Lebanon to join the ICC. In cooperation with the Human Rights Institute, Justice without Frontiers organized a press conference yesterday afternoon in the Beirut Bar Association to launch this campaign. The conference announced that the CICC had sent letters to President Emile Lahoud, Prime Minister Fouad Al-Sinioura, Head of Parliament Nabih Berri, Minister of Justice and Minister of External Affairs Charles Rizk and Fawzi Saloukh, urging Lebanon to join the ICC.