The indictments handed down by the Special Tribunal on Lebanon (STL) against four members of Hizbullah--two senior figures and two foot soldiers--for the 14 February 2005 assassination of Lebanese statesman Rafiq Hariri were a landmark in international law that could have far-reaching implications--and much bloodshed.
Terrorism, along with war crimes and genocide, can now be prosecuted in international courts.
The contents of the 200-page indictment document handed to Lebanese judicial authorities, including the evidence against the suspects, remains secret--although the names of the suspects were leaked to the media.
The most prominent of the indictees was Mustapha Badreddine, reputedly Hizbullah's operations chief, who allegedly masterminded the Hariri assassination and is a member of the movement's governing Shura Council.
A veteran covert operator allegedly responsible for a long list of deadly operations, he's also the brother-in-law of the iconic Imad Mughniyeh, Hizbullah's shadowy military leader, who was himself assassinated in a bombing in Damascus on 12 February 2008.
The STL, based in The Hague and the first international tribunal set up to investigate terrorism, is expected to indict more suspects before its proceeds with a trial.
But the whole legal process, initiated by the UN Security Council shortly after Harari, five times prime minister of Lebanon and the mastermind of its recovery from the 1975-90 civil war, was slaughtered with 22 others in a massive bombing in Beirut, may well ignite an even more destructive conflict in Lebanon, and possibly across the Middle East.
When the indictments were issued, Lebanese authorities were given 30 working days--that is, until mid-August at the outside to apprehend Badreddine and the others.
The current pro-Syrian government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati, dominated by Hizbullah, is expected to pay little more than lip service in that regard. All the suspects are in hiding and quite probably long out of the country.
Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who for two years has sought to discredit the STL as an "Israeli project" and even claimed the Israelis killed Hariri, has vowed to "cut off the hand" of those who try to arrest any Hizbullahis--and Hizbullah has the guns to do just that if it chooses, with no one capable of stopping it.
Nasrallah is opposed by Saad Hariri, the murdered ex-premier's son and political heir as leader of Lebanon's Sunnis, who has vowed to bring his father's killers to justice....