15 FEBRUARY 2009


At the fourth anniversary of the murder in broad daylight in central Beirut of Lebanon's Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, the search continues for the facts, or the "truth" as is generally demanded. Already, there have been three U.N. Chief Investigators, an average of one per year. The first, a German prosecutor, was more attuned to media attention than the judicial aspects of a most serious case. The second, a Belgian judge, after a considered visit to Beirut, decided to move on to the next plum assignment in the Hague. The third, Canadian Judge Bellemare is taking steps to start the prosecution process by early March. He seems to be a balance between the first and second investigators. His approach gained respect and collaboration from all sides.

Four years may be a short period in the international progress of legalistic procedure, but it is a very long one in the life of a family that lost its loving patron, a country that lost a brilliant unifying statesman, and a tormented region that lost a creative conciliator.

The fault is partly in Beirut. The brutal murder of a leader with no blood on his hands despite a long civil war should have unified the nation. The whole government, parliament and public, should have fully galvanized not only for the political claim of finding the truth but for the basic right of the administration of JUSTICE. Instead of factional backbiting, frictional regionalization, and attempts at playing world power politics, those who supposedly inherited his political mantle -- for different reasons -- could not, did not, would not muster an overwhelming thrust for a swift focus on immediate justice. Little did they realize that when you willingly enter a deal market, other shrewder, ruthless dealers may be better equipped in the "Persian carpet" business.

At a certain time, someone proposed the composition of an active all-inclusive working follow-up group on the international and national level, under the auspices of his bereaved wife, the gracious and patient Nazek Hariri. That approach may have helped push matters faster. But that suggestion was unceremoniously overlooked.

Regrettably, to the puzzlement of many abroad, the pace moved excruciatingly slow, considering that the Prime Minister of Lebanon was a protege of the valuable victim, the parliamentary majority is headed by his own son, Saad, and the media is overwhelmingly supportive. Everyone agreed that Rafic Hariri was Lebanon's martyr yet, very little -- besides backbiting and finger pointing -- seemed to be done about it.

Particularly now, with the destruction of Gaza, a dysfunctional Mideast peace process, inter-Arab tensions, and contentious Lebanese elections threatening a fragile political arrangement, Rafic Hariri is sorely missed. First of all, naturally, by his family including of course his adored love and life companion, his wife Nazek, especially at the memory of his death on Valentine's Day, 14 February. On a wider scale, he is certainly missed by his country which he helped rebuild, and by an Arab world which he dynamically and ably represented worldwide. His appearances at the United Nations General Assembly, with his practical yet principled approach, speaking on behalf of a future promise for a long-tormented region, was a genuine breath of fresh air.

Let us hope that in the fifth year of his loss, the international community will provide a ray of light on the truth of what actually happened. Some recent steps indicate a renewed sense of urgency in pursuing that quest. The U.N. Secretary General's personal attention in opening the newly established court stresses the determination of the international community. Most important, a consolation -- however partial -- would be in a clear and swift advent of JUSTICE.