Posted on December 21, 2010 in Press Releases

CONTACT: Omar Tewfik
(202) 429-9210 ext. 31


AAI and ATFL convene a Lebanese American
meeting with the Administration

On Friday, December 17, a group of Lebanese Americans met with officials from the Obama administration to discuss the situation in Lebanon in light of the impending indictments by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) for the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Al Hariri. The meeting was convened by the Arab American Institute (AAI) and the American Task Force for Lebanon (ATFL), and brought together Lebanese Americans from across the country. The following statement was released by the co-conveners at the conclusion of the meeting:

We support the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), and reject the notion that Lebanon must choose between stability and justice. Lebanon can and must have both, and must further provide for an open, fair and transparent judicial process to ensure that justice is done. We reject threats and other forms of intimidation, and call on all parties in Lebanon to remain calm as this judicial process unfolds. Despite rumors, nobody knows who will be indicted. We urge the Obama Administration to continue to support the national unity government in Lebanon, and pay special attention to the need to safeguard the country against violent escalation.

AAI President James Zogby said “for far too long, political assassinations have been committed with impunity in Lebanon, and the murderers of former Prime Minister Rafik Al Hariri must be brought to justice in order to bring an end to this era of impunity.”  Commenting on the “premature volatility” of the situation, he also said,

It’s important to remember that the anticipated indictments are just that – indictments. They must first be approved by a judge and then followed by trials where the accused will have the opportunity to present evidence to prove their innocence. We further support the open, transparent and fair judicial process that should follow these indictments as outlined by the STL.

ATFL Executive Director George Cody stated:

Unfortunately, Lebanon's modern history is filled with political assassinations and since 1976, few, if any, have resulted in trials of the culpable. Thus, it's no surprise that they have continued. We knew former Prime Minister Rafik Al Hariri well. We hope his tragic death and the trials of the accused will spell the end of the heinous practice of political killing in Lebanon.

The co-conveners described their meeting as “constructive,” and said that it gave the Administration the opportunity to hear the concerns and recommendations of the Lebanese-American community, and helped the community understand the specifics of US policy firsthand from policymakers. They said the central message out of this meeting was “the reaffirmed mutual commitment for strong US-Lebanon ties, and for sovereignty, independence, and justice for Lebanon.”  Both AAI and the ATFL are encouraged that the Administration is committed to more discussions with Lebanese groups, and is planning a more comprehensive gathering in the New Year.