image Photo: Reuters

Int’l court orders life terms for 2005 Lebanon bombers

Appeals judged at the Hague sentenced two men in absentia to life imprisonment for their role in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

By Erin Viner

Both convicts, Hassan Habib Merhi and Hussein Hassan Oneissi, remain at large despite being tried and found guilty of the massive bombing by the United Nations-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon at the Hague.

“The attack terrorized not only the direct victims but more generally the people of Lebanon,” presiding judge Ivana Hrdlickova said as she handed down the maximum possible sentence.

Hariri served as prime minister of Lebanon five times following the country’s 1975-90 civil war. He and 21 others died in a devastating truck bomb on 14 February 2005.

In March this year, the appeals chamber reversed an earlier acquittal and found Merhi and Oneissi guilty of terrorism and murder.

A lower court ruled in 2020 that a former member of the Iran-backed, Shi’ite Hezbollah terror group, Salim Jamil Ayyash, was responsible the attack that murdered the veteran Sunni Muslim leader and 21 others. Ayyash was also sentenced to a life term behind bars.

The Lebanon tribunal was created by a 2007 UN Security Council resolution and has been funded by voluntary contributions and the Lebanese government.

Thursday’s ruling concludes the court’s main case. It is expected that the court, which has been plagued by a funding crisis in the past years, will close down with only minimal staffing to handle outstanding issues.

Hariri’s son Sa’ad also served multiple terms as the Lebanese Premier before withdrawing from politics just before the last round of national elections in May.