What were the International Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) investigators imagining as they walked into Dr. Iman Charara’s private obstetrics and gynecology clinic this week demanding personal information on her patients?
Perhaps more interestingly, what was Jeffrey Feltman’s ‘Special STL Unit’ housed on the 6th floor of the U.S. Department of State, 2201 C Street NW Washington, DC thinking when their clearly exasperated boss, according to a Hill Rag source, recently shouted by phone to the STL investigators in the Hague: “Just hold your […]. Stop chasing Dutch […], and get your […] over to Hezbollahistan for Christ’s sake!”
Surely the STL delegation knew, or should have known, that given the predictable ethical, culture, social, legal, humanitarian, political, and security aspects involved, even the very idea itself, should have been thought through.
There remain several unanswered questions that only Mr. Bellemare’s Office and Mr. Feltman’s Special Unit are obliged to answer:
- What exactly were they looking for?
- Did they carry a valid Lebanese judicial subpoena clearly indentifying the information they were seeking: If so, were they based on common jurisprudential underpinnings of probable cause?
- Were valid search warrants served on each of the patients as well as Dr. Charara?
- Who in the Lebanese government gave permission for the visit that appeared to be an end run around local municipal authorities, not to mention Lebanese law?
- Which of the countries of the STL’s investigators, lawyers and judges, including Bellemare’s Canada, would allow such an invasion of privacy?
- If they were targeting husbands of Dr. Charara’s patients, what about relevant principles of spousal immunity?
- What was the rational of the Lebanese Order of Physicians if they affixed their imprimatur to the scheme and what is now left of medical privacy laws in Lebanon? Showing up and demanding the names and files of Dr. Charara patients without the permission of the women concerned is clearly outrageous and unacceptable in Lebanon and in most countries.
- On whose administrative or judicial orders did the relevant Lebanese government Ministries appear to allow a shotgun, over broad, fishing expedition approach not jurisprudentially acceptable in any of the countries comprising the STL, or for that matter by the provisions of UNSCR 1757, as well as local laws incorporated by reference? Of course the same questions apply to the reported throwing fishing nets over student, DNA, telecoms, social security, and other records in Lebanon to gather information for the STL.
Under most legal systems evidence gathered in such circumstances would be deemed to be tainted and not admissible in a court proceeding. Also disqualified from giving testimony would be the ‘tainted’ staff who attempted such wrongdoing. Attempting such a stunt in most UN member states might see careers suspended if not terminated.
In Muslim countries, and increasingly in the West, most women prefer women gynecologists and would not condone foreign men perhaps pruriently flipping through intimate medical information looking for “evidence.” It is unacceptable as a matter of family honor to examine the personal medical information of wives, sisters, mothers and daughters as Hezbollah’s Secretary General stated following the melee and rejection by the local community. Most people would agree.
Member of Parliament Walid Jumblatt condemned “the unethical behavior of UN investigators,” noting that he understands Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah’s political and moral objections against such an act.
The STL so far is silent on its investigative methodology including details such as which court issued the order and indentified which patients were to have their records examined and what probable cause standard was used in each affidavit, if there even were any, that underpinned the STL request.
One Christian MP, Nabil Nkoula, seemed to speak for many Lebanese following the invasion:
“Hizbullah Secretary General Nasrallah has every right to ask the Lebanese not to deal with the international investigators and tribunal. He stressed that the action taken by the international tribunal is a violation of the Lebanese and international even humanitarian laws…. All over the world and including Lebanon there are special laws pertaining to the patients and this law is called secret medical records and they are considered sacred just like a confession in a church. The doctor has no right to reveal any information on any patient even in court without prior approval from the patient. This kind of behavior will push a person not to cooperate with such types of tribunal that are not aimed at reaching the truth but rather silence the Lebanese.”
Hezbollah has been largely silent the past few years as STL investigators have rummaged across Lebanon and even made available Party members for questioning. This cooperative phase is now over as Hezbollah realizes that its destruction, not justice, is the goal behind what it perceives as the latest US-Israel project to aggress on Lebanon.
Many in Lebanon and abroad suspect that “evidence” gathered by the STL is BCC’d to Feltman’s Unit in Washington and to Tel Aviv. Their faltering confidence in the STL is not stemmed by statements made by the likes of Israeli Military Intelligence Major-General Amos Yadlin to the effect that in the past four and a half years, a large number of Mossad cells were reformulated, and Telecoms networks penetrated. “Thanks to Hariri’s killing, Israel was able to launch more than one project in Lebanon,” he said.
The suspicion is that against the backdrop of so many Mossad networks being dismantled recently, Israeli intelligence has been able to gather information through the UN-created STL even while Bellemare’s office are reportedly unwilling to even consider Israel’s involvement, knowing well that Israel is the sole beneficiary of the assassination.
At best, this invasion of Dahiyeh was poorly conceived, clumsily executed, and had led to more accusations concerning the STL’s politicization. It also lends weight to the growing body of public opinion in Lebanon and internationally that the STL indictments, reportedly already drawn up, are not to be credited.
Israeli Army Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkinazi has said that the STL indictment will implicate Hezbollah in the Hariri assassination.
His remarks had also popped up in the German Der Spiegel magazine as well as France’s Le Figaro and Kuwait’s Assiyassa newspapers. Even the French Ambassador to Lebanon Denis Pietton’s slip that “it’s not the end of the world if members of Hezbollah, not the party, were accused” was solid evidence that the STL indictment has been already set down in writing.
If the indictments have already been drawn up why the ongoing search for evidence presumably designed to lead to one?
It is also the recent backdrop to the bizarre events of October 17 in Dr. Charara’s clinic that should also be born in mind. US Officials have increasingly been repeating their manta: “We Are All the Way with the STL Even if This Leads to Lebanon’s Instability.”
Stability in Lebanon is a primary goal of the Lebanese people and Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and Iran.
Instability in Lebanon seems to be the goal of Tel Aviv and Washington. US officials told As-Safir newspaper in remarks published the day before the incident at the medical clinic that Jeffrey Feltman’s visit was to underscore Washington’s position on the International Tribunal and its support for the work of the Court “even if this led to Lebanon’s instability and was opposed by Saudi Arabia.
Feltman, reportedly believes the Saudi’s have miscalculated and are now part of the problem, having become too chummy with Syria, and he reportedly sees nothing but problems coming to Israel from Tel Aviv’s “3rd favorite Arab country” cavorting with Persians. This is likely part of what is behind the “comprehensive dialogue” Washington intends to launch with Riyadh.
What Washington and Tel Aviv fear most in the region, a Syria-Saudi-Iranian-Turkey rapprochement, was observed this week between the Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awadh Assiri and the Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Ghazanfar Rokn-Abadi at the celebration of Turkey’s Independence.
Assiri reportedly told Abadi: “Here is the A, meaning Ali, and G, meaning Ghazanfar, and there is the Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdel Karim Ali,” meaning that the solution to the crisis in Lebanon now requires an A-A-G equation.
Fetlman presumably was not amused and advised the White House to demand an emergency session of the UN Security Council to counter what he sees as “pernicious developments pertaining to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL)”.
The US Undersecretary of States’ ‘really great plan’ to sucker Lebanon and Hezbollah — “Let’s blame (Imad) Mughniyah for killing Hariri. He’s dead so the investigative trail ends. Just say, ‘We had no idea what he was doing’. No more tribunal. Everyone is happy. And as a sweetener we’ll take Hezbollah off our Terrorism list” — is in tatters.
So is the confidence of many that the International Tribunal for Lebanon seeks to bring to justice the assassins of Rafiq Hariri.