Unfinished Business: Peacebuilding, Accountability, and Rule of Law in Lebanon


Much of the time, transitional justice measures are developed alongside the implementation of peace agreements and peacebuilding efforts, and are expected by their framers and advocates to contribute to peace. The claim is that accountability measures can help to deter future violence and prevent revenge attacks, demonstrate and help to reinstall the rule of law and democracy, and contribute in so doing to longer-term stability. And indeed, transitional justice measures are expected to work alongside specific measures of peacebuilding, such as rule of law promotion, security sector reform, and disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of excombatants, and increasingly those developing such measures of peacebuilding are expected to take transitional justice measures into account. What happens, however, when a transitional justice measure is developed decades after the end of the conflict, where such standard measures of peacebuilding were not pursued, or are incomplete? Can a transitional justice mechanism have the desired effects? And what if that mechanism is not designed to address the wide range of past crimes, but a more recent subset? This chapter considers the prospects for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) to have any serious impact on the country itself, against the backdrop of long-term, but unconsolidated, peacebuilding or reconstruction efforts. It argues that while Lebanon has undergone extensive reconstruction since the end of its brutal civil war, no serious peacebuilding efforts were undertaken, meaning that many of the changes a post-conflict society is expected to undergo, arising from demobilization of large numbers of fighters, reform of the justice and security sector, did not take place. In this context, accountability for the abuses of the war and in the 15 years after it in which the country was under Syrian occupation has yet to take place and seems unlikely. The STL is nonetheless often expected to operate as a mechanism analogous to ordinary transitional justice mechanisms, yet it does not have the remit to address the legacy of conflict and occupation, but rather only the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and related assassinations. It seems unlikely that it can have the effect expected of transitional justice mechanisms and ascribed by its advocates to it as well, of promoting human rights and accountability, and even peacebuilding, in the affected country. Rather, after two decades of reconstruction, the tribunal is unlikely to contribute to peace, and may run the risk of promoting conflict should it try defendants, whether in person or in absentia

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