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 4, 2015

The Daily Star - Much anticipated Jumblatt STL testimony begins, May 04, 2015

Elise Knutsen

For the past several years, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has often repeated a cryptic, unattributed proverb: “If you sit by the river long enough, you will see the body of your enemy float by.” Apparently no longer content to sit, Jumblatt will testify at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon this week and is expected to reveal details about his enemies in Damascus.

One of late Former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s closest political allies, Jumblatt is uniquely poised to tell the court particulars about the relationship between Syrian President Bashar Assad and the late Lebanese politician.

While five Hezbollah members have been charged with plotting the explosion which killed Hariri and 21 others in February 2005, the prosecution has moved increasingly toward suggesting Syrian involvement in the conspiracy.

Jumblatt will likely have much to say on the matter.

Jumblatt has had a long, complicated relationship with Damascus since he entered the political stage after his father was assassinated in 1977, reportedly by pro-Syrian elements. While he enjoyed a civil relationship with late former Syrian President Hafez Assad, Jumblatt has very publicly bristled against Bashar Assad’s regime.

Since the start of the Syrian civil war, Jumblatt has emerged as one of Assad’s harshest critics.

Experts say that Jumblatt is positioned to offer as-yet unheard revelations about the Syrian presence in Lebanon during his testimony.

Marten Youssef, the former STL spokesman, told The Daily Star that Jumblatt will likely “provide some insight that we haven’t heard before” about the political context in Lebanon leading up to Hariri’s assassination.

“He has both the motivation to tell the truth and the [knowledge] to tell significant details,” agreed Sami Nader, a political analyst and consultant. “He’s very important to build the case.”

“Jumblatt dealt with [the Syrians] on a daily basis,” Nader added.

The mercurial Druze leader’s testimony at the STL is hotly anticipated in part because he is no longer aligned with Hariri’s Future movement.

To date, almost all of Hariri’s allies who have testified before the court are staunch March 14 politicians and advisers. Their statements have, for the most part, toed party lines. Most have suggested that Hezbollah, along with the Syrian regime, had motives to kill Hariri.

Jumblatt, however, has moved closer to Hezbollah in recent years and he will likely defend his political allies in court.

His statements are likely to prove politically controversial. In a court filing from last year, the prosecution acknowledged that Jumblatt’s testimony would likely be of a “contentious nature.”

Jumblatt is also likely to censure the STL itself during his appearance in court. In the wake of Hariri’s assassination, Jumblatt was one of the court’s staunchest supporters. According to leaked U.S. cables, Jumblatt personally lobbied world leaders to help finance the tribunal.

But in recent years he has made critical remarks about the court.

At a meeting with the outgoing Russian ambassador to Lebanon in 2010, Jumblatt said he wished the tribunal had never been established. “We got the tribunal, but I wish we did not,” Jumblatt said.

“The aim of [U.N. Security Council] Resolution 1559 and the 2006 War [with Israel] was to disarm the Resistance [Hezbollah]. When this failed, they resorted to [attempting to use] the STL’s indictment [to carry out this goal].”

“He’s likely going to provide some criticism of the STL and the process,” Youssef acknowledged. “I don’t think he’s going to go outright and condemn the STL for what it’s doing, but he’s definitely going to shed some light on [his grievances with the Tribunal].”

But the thrust of Jumblatt’s testimony will likely focus on the Assad regime. As early as 2006, Jumblatt said that the tribunal is “our best weapon against the Syrians,” according to a leaked American diplomatic cable.

Jumblatt made an apparent reference to his forthcoming testimony on Twitter last week in a message harshly criticizing the Syrian president.

“The international tribunal is waiting for [Assad], and we’re next to the river waiting for him.”

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