Some may view last week’s road rage incident which ended in the brutal murder of Lebanese man George al-Reef in the heart of Beirut as an individual act that can happen anytime and anywhere. Security officials may not view it as unusual and may say the daily crimes which cities like New York, for example, witness are a lot more than what happens in Lebanon.
However what’s scary for Lebanon and particularly regarding the murder of Reef are three things. First of all, Tarek Yateem, the assailant, has a past criminal record which he hasn’t been penalized for, and he may once again escape punishment despite the fact that his murder of Reef was committed in broad daylight and witnessed by dozens of onlookers. Escaping punishment encourages perpetrators to repeat their crimes and violates the law, especially when provided with a political or security cover.
Another scary side to the incident is the number of witnesses who did nothing to help Reef. It seems the Lebanese people’s instinctive and traditional nobility has diminished to the extent of overlooking a crime and just settling with watching it happen, or even worse, record it on their cellular phones for no reason other than brag about being the first to publish it on social networking websites.
The third aspect is related to the judicial and security system. Security forces often fail to arrest a criminal or a suspect due to corruption in the institution itself. For example, a wanted man would know a patrol is heading to arrest him and is thus given enough time to escape. Corruption does not end here as it also includes the interrogation process and the documenting of the official report as sometimes the judiciary receives case files that are void of details often resulting in unfair rulings.
Therefore, the murder of George al-Reef in broad daylight is not an ordinary crime, and it’s rather “a rehearsal” for crimes that can be committed everyday as long as crimes go unpunished in this country. If we add the kidnapping of Czechs and a bank manager in Beqaa – regardless of the different motives –, the death of Rita Francis who was the victim of a hit-and-run in Jbeil, the attacks of stray shells on people in Fanar and other similar incidents in which the perpetrators were not arrested, we’d realize that security plans are useless and are governed by political agendas which different parties scheme and agree on for the purpose of eliminating certain troublemakers. These implementation of these plans is similar to the implementation of the new Lebanese traffic law as the latter applies to ordinary people but not to armed convoys, influential figures motorcades and those of their relatives and, worst of all, security officials who are tasked with implementing the law itself!
It’s an unfortunate reality where appeals may be futile. What’s certain however is that silence and surrender are not a solution. Therefore, we will continue to demand that justice be served. So will Reef’s murderer be tried and punished and therefore help save some of the security forces, judiciary and Lebanese state deteriorating reputation?