Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :
Mustafa Fahs

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Palermo - Beirut - The Hague... We Were Right

From Sicily to Lebanon, thoughts of the tales about the organized crime group or the Sicilian mafia have been brimming in the minds of the Lebanese as they followed developments in their country like spectators from the end of the civil war to the present, i.e., since the warlords of that conflict took control of the state and led it to bankruptcy.

The most famous film in the history of world cinema, "The Godfather," is never far from their minds. However, in Lebanon, each sect or armed group that has come to power (the Corleones) organizes its corruption and safeguards its interests. The behavior of the political regime in Lebanon somewhat resembles that of the Sicilian mafia groups - one difference, however, is that the former operated openly while the latter collaborated with corrupt politicians to secure its interests in secret.

From Palermo to Beirut, it's essential to revisit an article by Michael Young, senior editor at the Carnegie Middle East Center, titled "Beirut - Palermo.” In it, Young states: "What Sicily showed, and Lebanon would replicate and perfect, is that at the heart of successful criminal commonwealths is a pact between those who govern and those who commit crimes, so that the criminals take on certain responsibilities of the state, and the state relies on assistance from the criminals for what is legally prohibited."

In both cases, the rule of law was previously nonexistent. However, the difference is that the state and society in Italy decided to change this through the courts. Between 1986 and 1992, brave judges waged a legal battle against the leaders of the mafia in Sicily and all of Italy, weakening them and limiting their influence.

“In Lebanon, however, we approximate a more perfect criminal republic. Here, the ones committing the crimes are those actually in senior positions of authority," Young explains. There is plenty of evidence to support Young’s claim. The most notable testament to this fact is the obstruction of the investigation into the Beirut port blast, which can be attributed to the near-complete control of the ruling clique over the judiciary and its success in subjugating the judiciary. Indeed, the Lebanese judiciary has been forced to safeguard the interests of the ruling sectarian groups and give up its independence.

To Beirut, where the state is waning further by the day and state institutions are being eviscerated, and where the regime insists on maintaining its corruption, buttressing it with a service-based patronage network both within and without its institutions. It insists on turning back the clock to before October 17, 2019, to before mass protests filled the country’s streets and squares of Lebanon demanding the appointment of Judge Nawaf Salam of the International Court of Justice as the head of a reform government. In response, the regime awakened its demons and woke up to a threat coming from two fronts. First, the Lebanese people had woken up to the fact that they had alternatives. Second, a group of Lebanese living citizens unbound by sectarian considerations and constraints had decided to stand up to them. The regime then threw all of its tools in both directions to tarnish the image of potential alternatives like Nawaf Salam and others like him, seeking to hollow the uprising out from within and fragment its objectives.

From The Hague, we received confirmation: Nawaf Salam, who was rejected by the "Shiite duo" under the pretext of being pro-Western, and was attacked by the pillars of the regime weary of losing their influence and gains, was elected president of this court. This gives us an idea of the degree to which his professionalism is respected. For the authorities, this appointment raises his profile internationally on the one hand and, on the other, sends a clear message that reform can only be achieved through a sound judicial system, as justice is the foundation of governance. Nawaf Salam pointed to this in his first response to his election on "X.The first thing that comes to mind at this moment is a concern that is always with me, my city, Beirut, becoming the mother of laws, as is its title, once again, for us as Lebanese to succeed in establishing a state of law in our country, and for justice to prevail among its people."

Yes, we were right. We October revolutionaries, change advocates, and the opposition, were right to grant Nawaf Salam the popular legitimacy he deserves because the Lebanese will not regain trust in their state and its institutions without a fair judiciary.