The Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) is a local non-profit, non-partisan Lebanese human rights organization in Beirut that was established by the Franco-Lebanese Movement SOLIDA (Support for Lebanese Detained Arbitrarily) in 2006. SOLIDA has been active since 1996 in the struggle against arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance and the impunity of those perpetrating gross human violations.

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May 28, 2015

The Daily Star - Hezbollah marred by meddling abroad, Siniora tells STL, May 28, 2015

Elise Knutsen

Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora tore into Hezbollah during his cross-examination at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Wednesday, claiming that the resistance party has been reduced to little more than a proxy militia used by foreign powers to meddle in internal conflicts across the region. “The weapons of Hezbollah are now under the command of a foreign country,” Siniora told the court. “The weapons of Hezbollah no longer speak in the name of the Lebanese and they are no longer pointing toward the Israeli occupation.”

During a grueling cross-examination by defense counsel Antoine Korkmaz, Siniora admitted that prior to Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 Hezbollah’s arms served the legitimate end of protecting national sovereignty.

The situation changed, however, after 2000 and particularly since Hezbollah deployed fighters to shore up embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad more than two years ago.

“The problems started after the year 2000 when the weapons [of Hezbollah] changed course, and they were heading toward the Lebanese domestic scene,” he said.

While Siniora said that he and his political allies have “never considered Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization,” his estimation of the party “changed with time,” particularly after the resistance movement began “dragging armed men outside Lebanon.”

“Now the only objective of the resistance is to interfere in other countries affairs, namely in Syria and Iraq,” Siniora claimed, using the witness stand for a bit of political pulpiteering.

Siniora’s statements at the U.N.-backed Tribunal come just days after a controversial speech by Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in which he suggested that his group may send fighters to the Lebanese border town of Arsal to clean it of Islamist militants holed up in its outskirts.

Nasrallah’s speech drew strong condemnation from members of Siniora’s Future Movement.

Still, Siniora insisted that the current dialogue sessions between Hezbollah and the Future Movement will continue. “Despite all the difficulties, we are continuing our dialogue with Hezbollah. We are continuing in this dialogue because we believe that there is no other way.”

Five Hezbollah members have been charged with plotting the blast which killed Hariri and 21 others on Feb. 14, 2005.

Hezbollah has maintained that the court and the U.N.-backed investigation which led to charges against its members are political tools of the West and Israel to weaken the resistance movement.

Earlier in the day, Korkmaz questioned Siniora extensively about what role, if any, he played in the detention for four years of four Lebanese generals who were arrested in relation to Hariri’s murder.

Former generals Ali al-Hajj, Mustapha Hamdan, Jamil al-Sayyed and Raymond Azar were arrested in 2005 and, despite warnings by international investigators that there was not sufficient evidence to implicate the generals in Hariri’s murder, were not released until 2009 upon orders from the STL.

Siniora indignantly refused Korkmaz’s suggestions that the generals’ continued detention was the result of political maneuvering on the part of his government.

While requests to release the four generals were discussed “on a daily basis” in the media and in different legal circles, Siniora said that the continued detention of the men was neither political nor personal.

Siniora and his allies in government “believed firmly that their arrest, and ongoing [imprisonment], was legal and justifiable.”

Korkmaz’s lines of questioning drew heavily on information gleaned from WikiLeaks documents. Siniora himself admitted to posting a WikiLeaks document on his personal website.

Many of the leaked American diplomatic cables, however, describe the close relationship between Siniora’s government and foreign embassies. Several cables discuss the concerns that members of Siniora’s government had about the political ramifications of the release of the four pro-Syrian generals.

Siniora, however, suggested that the cables did not portray Lebanon’s prevailing political and diplomatic situation accurately.

The defense’s cross-examination of Siniora is expected to be completed Thursday.

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