[JURIST] United Nations [official website] Special Coordinator Sigrid Kaag on Monday, urged [press release] leaders in Lebanon to end their political divisions in order to pick a new president, warning that the year-long debate over the matter had “undermined Lebanon’s ability to address the growing security, economic and social challenges facing the country.” Monday marks a year [Reuters report] that the country has gone without a president, a significant period of time for the only Christian presidency in the Middle East to remain vacant, as lawmakers continue to struggle to come to an agreement on a suitable candidate. Kaag continued to implore the political leaders to place the needs of the country before their own political agendas, saying that “it has contributed to political polarization” at a time when “a sense of urgency is needed to resolve this issue.” She concluded her remarks by praising Prime Minister Salam, who she said “has succeeded in upholding a unified Government despite enormous pressures and who has shown remarkable leadership in the face of increasingly difficult circumstances.”
Because of its geographic position, Lebanon [BBC profile] has been implicated in much of the discord surrounding the Middle East region, including being one of the countries enumerated in the efforts by the war on terror [JURIST backgrounder]. In recent years, Lebanon has made a concerted effort to deviate and disapprove of the combative actions of its neighbors. In January of last year under the support of the UN backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon [official website; UN backgrounder], the country began the trial [JURIST report] of four Hezbollah [START backgrounder] members accused of executing a terrorist attack that killed a former Lebanese prime minister and 21 others. In April of last year the country passed a law [JURIST report] criminalizing domestic violence after the deaths of multiple women that were said to be by the hands of their husbands. However, there are still strides to be made, as is evidenced by a declaration made in August by Lebanon’s Minister of Justice calling for the “sternest punishment” [JURIST report] to individuals who burned flags belonging to the militant group, Islamic State [JURIST backgrounder].