Rustom Ghazali, Syria's former Military Intelligence Chief in Lebanon, has died in Damascus

The Daily Star (Lebanon) published an interesting compilation, here, on the reports of the cause of Rustom Ghazali’s death, announced this morning.

The Daily Star noted that “reports conflicted over his cause of death, and when and where he died. The news comes nearly two months after he was reported to have been badly beaten by Syrian security forces”.

In 2002, Ghazali became head of Syrian Military Intelligence, replacing General Ghazi Kanaan [who is said to have committed suicide, an explanation at odds with the circumstances, including the number of shots to his head].

As The Daily Star put it, “Ghazaleh succeeded Ghazi Kanaan as head of military intelligence in Lebanon in 2002 during Syria’s tutelage over Lebanon, which lasted until Damascus pulled its troops from the country in 2005. It is widely speculated that he was one of the men who orchestrated the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Damascus denies any involvement in the 2005 killing”.

In 2012, The Daily Star wrote today, “Ghazaleh was appointed the chief of Syria’s infamous political security branch”.

According to an AFP report cited by The Daily Star, a “family source” said that Ghazaleh “had been fired after getting into a fight with another Syrian official in early March”.

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Extremely angry Lebanese General wants justice for false imprisonment by UN Tribunal

Al-Jazeera has reported that “A Lebanese general who called the country’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, a liar and urged people to topple his government, has been summoned for questioning by the state, according to a judicial official. Brigadier-General Jamil Sayyed, who made the comments, was among four military officers who were jailed without charge for nearly four years for the 2005 assassination of Hariri’s father, Rafiq al-Hariri. They were freed last year for lack of evidence“.

And the UN swallowed all of it … making a continuing contribution, as some warned at the time, to the crisis in the country.

The Al-Jazeera story indicated that Brig-Gen. Sayyed made the remarks on Sunday in a news conference [in Beirut? or in Damascus?]. The story added that “Earlier this year, Sayyed asked the UN tribunal investigating al-Hariri’s assassination to release his secret case file so that he might know who accused him”.

He reportedly “accused Hariri of selling his father’s blood to frame Syria for the killing … Sayyed, who left Lebanon shortly after his remarks, also said Saad Hariri supported ‘false witnesses’ who misled the investigation into the 2005 killing. He warned Saad Hariri that he must be held accountable or I will do it someday with my own hands’. Sayyed later said he meant he would get justice through the courts. ‘The Lebanese people must unite against this [government] and topple it, even if by force’, he said”.

As we have also reported here, Al-Jazeera noted in its report that “last week, in a sweeping reversal, Saad Hariri said it was a mistake to blame Syria”.

Sayyed, who is reportedly now in Paris, apparently also travelled to Damascus where, Rula Amin reported for Al-Jazeera, the extremely angry general “asked the judicial system there to pursue some of these witnesses as some of them are Syrians … Some of the people Sayyed has been naming are very close to Saad Hariri and his attempt here is seen as very dangerous”…

The Al-Jazeera report is published here.

Second thoughts

According to a report on France 24, Lebanon’s current Prime Minister Saad Hariri (son of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri who was assassinated by bombing as his car drove in the Lebanese capital Beirut on 14 February 2005), has now admitted, in an interview with the London-based, Saudi-owned “Pan-Arab” newspaper AshSharq al Awsat, that: “At some point, we made a mistake … At one stage, we accused Syria of assassinating the martyred premier. That was a political accusation, and that political accusation is over … There is a (UN) court that is doing its job, and we for our part must reassess what happened … The tribunal is completely independent of our political accusations, which were made prematurely”… This report can be read in full here.

The France 24 report added that “The United Nations set up the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in 2007 to find and try those behind the Hariri assassination. Preliminary reports by a committee of The Hague-based tribunal concluded there was evidence implicating Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services in Hariri’s murder but there are no suspects currently in custody”.

For several years, four Lebanese Generals were held by the UN Tribunal with no possibility of bail. Two Lebanese and one Syrian civilian were also held; they were released earlier than the four Generals.

The Hariri Tribunal was set up under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

One of our earlier posts on this UN project – now called the Special Tribunal for Lebanon — (“So, it wasn’t Syria” – posted on 29 March 2008 here) noted that the UN reported to the UN Security Council that “Evidence shows that a criminal network was responsible…”

Continue reading “Second thoughts”

Meir Javendanfar worries about war, now

After noting that he usually tries “not to get worked up about reports of imminent war in the Middle East”, Iranian-born Israeli analyst Meir Javendanvar has just written, on the Real Clear World website, that “this time I really can’t shake the feeling that something ominous is about to happen, involving Hezbollah.  It will either be a massive confrontation with Israel, or armed conflict inside Lebanon”.

Javendanfar says that “the recent [3 August] border skirmish” — when the IDF insisted on going ahead with a “routine maintenace” tree-trimming operation that left 3 Lebanese Army soldiers, one Lebanese journalist, and one IDF Captain dead, in a firefight that ensued — ” has actually made Hezbollah more popular inside Lebanon”.

It has made Hizballah more popular everywhere in the Arab world.  And Hassan Nasrallah’s speech this past week — which many Western commentators thought offered little new — was regarded as an act of genius by many analysts here in the Palestinian West Bank [including East Jerusalem].

Continue reading “Meir Javendanfar worries about war, now”

S0 — it wasn't Syria

In advance of the Arab League Summit Meeting — which is being attended by very few heads of state or government — that opened Saturday in Damascus, the UN rushed through several steps in its preparation for the formation of the tribunal to judge those responsible for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

Lebanon boycotted the Damascus summit entirely. Tensions around Syria’s role and possible responsibility in the Hariri killing have greatly complicated the atmosphere.

The UN said Friday that “Evidence shows that a criminal network was responsible for the massive car bombing that killed the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others in Beirut in February 2005, the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) says in a new report to the Security Council”. The UN Spokesperson, Michele Montas, said that UNSG BAN had just submitted the latest report of the IIIC, which is headed by Daniel Bellemare, to the 15 UN Security Council members. The UN News Centre [The UN uses British English spelling] story is posted here .

Bellemare, a Canadian who replaced Serge Brammertz as head of the investigation commission, will also be the chief prosecutor of the Hariri Tribunal once it begins to function.

The UN spokesperson Michele Montas told journalists at UNHQ/NY on Friday that “The Secretary-General, in a letter to the Security Council, said that the Commission reports that it has evidence that a network of individuals acted in concert to carry out Hariri’s assassination and that this criminal network, or parts of it, are linked to some of the other cases within the Commission’s mandate”. The transcript of the UN’s regular noon briefing for journalists is posted here .

As far as I can tell, this latest IIIC report has not been made public. However, the Associated Press seems to have obtained a copy, and has reported that “In his first report to the UN Security Council, Daniel Bellemare said the first priority of the investigating commission he heads is to gather more evidence about the ‘Hariri Network’, its scope, the identity of all its participants, their role in other attacks and links with people outside the network. Bellemare said the commission would not disclose any names to preserve confidentiality. ‘Names of individuals will only appear in future indictments filed by the prosecutor, “when there is sufficient evidence to do so’, he said. Four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals have been under arrest for almost two years for alleged involvement in the murder. Syria denies any involvement in Hariri’s assassination, but the furor over the attack forced Syrian troops to withdraw from Lebanon after a 29-year presence. Bellemare said Syria’s cooperation with the commission ‘continues to be generally satisfactory’. The former Canadian prosecutor said evidence indicates the network existed before his assassination, that it conducted surveillance of the former premier, and that at least part of the network continued to operate after he was killed along with 22 others in a bombing in Beirut on February 14, 2005. ‘The commission can now confirm, on the basis of available evidence, that a network of individuals acted in concert to carry out the assassination of Rafik Hariri and that this criminal network – the “Hariri Network” – or parts thereof are linked to some of the other cases within the commission’s mandate’, Bellemare said. The commission has been providing technical assistance to Lebanese authorities in 20 other ‘terrorist attacks’ that have killed 61 people and injured at least 494 others, he said. Eleven attacks have targeted politicians, journalists and security officials and nine involve bombings in public places. In coming months, Bellemare said, the commission will also focus on identifying links between the Hariri network and the other attacks it is assisting in investigating, and ‘where these links are found to exist – the nature and scope of these links’ … ‘The commission faces additional challenges including the magnitude of the attacks, their continuing nature, and the fact that the investigations are conducted in an environment dominated by ongoing security concerns’, he said. Bellemare stressed the difficulties of operating in the ‘deteriorating security situation’ in the last four months when Lebanon has been paralyzed by the failure to elect a new president. He also noted that six new cases had been given to the commission since November 2006 without any additional resources to meet the increased workload. ‘The number of investigators and analysts continues to be far lower than in comparable investigations’, he said”. This AP report was published in the Jerusalem Post here .

The day before the Bellemare report was presented to the Security Council, the Council welcomed (on 27 March) the latest report of the UN SG (S/2008/173 – 12 March 2008) on setting up the international tribunal to identify and bring to justice those responsible for the massive 14 February 2005 car bombing that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others in downtown Beirut.

The UN legal counsel, Nicholas Michel (of Switzerland) told journalists in a separate briefing that the tribunal had been requested by the President of Lebanon.

In the briefing, Michel said that “Member States had provided $60.3 million, including $34.4 million in funds already sent and $25.9 million in pledges, to cover the costs of setting up the Tribunal in The Hague and its first year of operation, he said, adding: ‘The Tribunal should not be expected to start operating with all of its organs overnight. The Secretary-General’s report, in paragraph 38, clearly indicates that the Tribunal will start functioning in phases’. The time frame would depend on the availability of funds, the outcome of consultations with the Lebanese Government and progress in the Commission’s work … In February, the Secretary-General and the Lebanese Government had formally created a Tribunal Management Committee, he continued, listing its members as Lebanon, France, Germany, Netherlands, United Kingdom and the United States. They had each contributed $1 million or more and the Netherlands was providing rent-free space to house the Tribunal in The Hague during its first three years of operation. He declined to disclose the other contributors, saying it was up to the Management Committee to decide if and when to release that information. Furthermore, the judges’ names would not be made public until their first meeting, during which they would draft the rules of procedure and evidence and elect the presidents of the Tribunal’s Trial and Appeals Chambers. The Appeals Chamber President would also serve as President of the Tribunal. During the ensuing question-and-answer period, the Legal Counsel said the Tribunal only had jurisdiction over the Hariri case at present, but it had the power to extend its jurisdiction to cases that occurred between 1 October 2004 and 12 December 2005. The United Nations and the Lebanese Government could also agree, with the Council’s approval, to extend the Commission’s jurisdiction to more recent cases deemed to be connected to the Hariri assassination. The Tribunal’s three-year mandate would be extended if its judicial process was not completed in that time frame, he added”. This UN press release summarizing Michel’s briefing to journalists is posted here.

The AP reported, after the Michel briefing, that “Many Lebanese have blamed neighboring Syria for the assassination, and four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals have been under arrest for almost two years for alleged involvement. Syria denies any involvement, but the furor over the attack forced Syrian troops to withdraw from Lebanon after a 29-year presence …The United States has been one of the biggest contributors, pledging $14 million”. This AP report is posted here .

The 12 March report of the UN SG, which was welcomed by the UN SC on 27 March, contained this information:

“…negotiations between the United Nations and the authorities of the Netherlands had been successfully concluded. The agreement provides, inter alia, that the host State has no obligation to let persons convicted by the Special Tribunal serve their sentence of imprisonment in a prison facility on its territory. It also stipulates that the Registrar shall take all necessary measures to arrange the immediate relocation to third States of witnesses who for security reasons cannot return to their home countries after testifying before the Tribunal …

“…on 10 July 2007, the Government of Lebanon had forwarded to me, in a sealed envelope, a list of 12 candidates proposed for judicial appointments by the Lebanese Supreme Council of the Judiciary, as set forth in article 2, paragraph 5 (a), of the annex to resolution 1757 (2007). I also informed you that, with a view to my appointing Lebanese and international judges at the same time, on 1 August 2007 the Legal Counsel sent a letter to all Member States, on my behalf, inviting them to consider submitting
candidates for appointment as judges of the Tribunal no later than 24 September 2007. The names of 37 international candidates were submitted … On 4 December 2007, having interviewed the short-listed candidates, the selection panel made its recommendations to me, which I subsequently accepted. Mindful of security considerations, I will proceed with the formal appointments of the judges and announce their names at an appropriate time in the future …

“…On 8 November 2007, the selection panel recommended to me that Daniel Bellemare (Canada) be appointed as the Prosecutor. I subsequently accepted the recommendation. On 14 November 2007, I appointed Mr. Bellemare as the Prosecutor of the
Special Tribunal pursuant to my authority under article 3 of the annex. He will, however, commence his official duties as the Prosecutor at a later date in keeping with the provisions of the annex. On the same day, after the Security Council took note of my intention, I also appointed Mr. Bellemare to succeed Serge Brammertz as Commissioner of the Investigation Commission. I am of the view that, as called for in article 17, paragraph (a), of the annex, this approach will ensure a coordinated transition from the activities of the Investigation Commission to those of the Office of the Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal …

“…With respect to the Deputy Prosecutor, as I noted in paragraph 13 of my last report, the Government of Lebanon forwarded to me, in a sealed envelope, a list of candidates for the position. In December 2007, pursuant to consultations held between the Government of Lebanon, the Prosecutor-designate of the Special Tribunal and myself, a Deputy Prosecutor was identified. The appointment of the Deputy Prosecutor falls within the authority of the Government of Lebanon …

“… On the basis of the recommendation of the selection panel that I established, on 10 March 2008, I appointed Mr. Robin Vincent as Registrar of the Special Tribunal for a period of three years to commence at a later date, to be determined in the light of the progress achieved in establishing the Tribunal…

“…As the premises of the Tribunal have now been identified, estimated costs in those areas may be integrated into overall financial requirements. The annual rental cost for the building will amount to approximately $5 million and will be paid for the first years by the host State, whose generosity in this regard I applaud. Operating costs for the building are estimated at $1 million
per year. Refurbishment packages are currently under review. The packages provide for basic or advanced adaptations of the building in respect of security, holding cells, courtroom and offices”
… S/2008/173 – 12 March 2008

Hariri Tribunal mandate

After the apparent assassination of Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus this week, a journalist (Benny Avni of the NY Sun, as it happens) asked if the UN will investigate this death, too. Here is the exchange, from 14 February daily noon briefing at UNHQ/NY — after which an clarification is later issued:

“Question: As to follow up on the question on the others in the Hariri case, which is a Security Council resolution, of course, that other related assassinations should be investigated by the UN. Does the UN plan to investigate the assassination of Mugniyah?

“Spokesperson: I have nothing beyond the statement today, Benny. The Security Council, as you say, the mandate stands. I have nothing further on this today.

[The Spokesperson later clarified that resolution 1757 (2007) states that the mandate of the Special Tribunal is to prosecute persons responsible for the attack of 14 February 2005 resulting in the death of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and in the death or injury of other persons. According to article 1 of that resolution, if the Tribunal finds that other attacks that occurred in Lebanon [emphasis added here] between 1 October 2004 and 12 December 2005, or any later date decided by the parties (Lebanese Government and the UN) with the consent of the Security Council [emphasis added here too], are connected in accordance with the principles of criminal justice and are of a nature and gravity similar to the attack of 14 February 2005, it shall also have jurisdiction over persons responsible for such attacks. This connection includes but is not limited to a combination of the following elements: criminal intent (motive), the purpose behind the attacks, the nature of the victims targeted, the pattern of the attacks (modus operandi), and the perpetrators.]” This briefing transcript is available here.

Hariri Tribunal to have seat in the Netherlands

A spokesperson for UNSG BAN Ki-Moon announced that a headquarters agreement was signed on Friday to establish the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the Netherlands.

The SG said, in the statement issued by the spokesperson, that “The Agreement will now be submitted to the Parliament of the Netherlands for ratification. In the meantime, the United Nations and the Netherlands authorities will continue taking steps to establish the Tribunal in The Hague”.

The statement also says that “the Secretary-General has received the report of the Selection Panel constituted pursuant to article 2 of the Annex to Security Council resolution 1757 (2007) to make recommendations regarding the selection of judges of the Special Tribunal … [and] The Secretary-General has accepted the Selection Panel’s recommendations and will announce the names of those selected at an appropriate time in the future. The judges will assume their functions on a date to be determined by the Secretary-General as set forth in the Annex to resolution 1757 (2007)”.

Unlike the other UN-based International Tribunals, the one for Lebanon will have a “Management Committee”, which “will be composed of the major donors to the Special Tribunal and will have as its main responsibility providing advice and policy direction on all non-judicial aspects of the operations of the Special Tribunal, including questions of efficiency”.

The SG’s announcement is posted here.

UNSG BAN visits Lebanon to urge agreement on new President

During his brief visit to Lebanon this week, the BBC reported, UNSG BAN Ki-moon “urged Lebanese MPs to elect a new president on time … [Otherwise] there are fears that the government could split into rival administrations if a candidate cannot be agreed.”

The BBC says that SG BAN held talks with politicians across the spectrum — including Hizballah.

He told journalists in Beirut that unless responsibilities were shouldered, the country might be moved to ‘the brink of the abyss’ … President Emile Lahoud’s term ends on 23 November and parliament has so far failed to elect a successor. A meeting is expected next week … [F]actions are deadlocked in what is seen as the most serious crisis since 1990″.

The vote has already been re-scheduled three times.

The split in the country is described as being between “pro-Syrian” and “anti-Syrian” forces — or, alternatively, between “pro-Syrian” and “pro-Western” forces, but these descriptions may be far too simplistic.

The BBC reported that *Mr Ban is bolstering a French-led initiative to break the deadlock”.

Since their hold on the country after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, France has seen its role as a special protector of Christians in the Levant. According to the Lebanese Constitution, which has set up a “power-sharing” system on the basis of a population census several decades out of date, the president must be a Maronite Christian.

The BBC adds that the “Parliament is scheduled to meet again on 21 November. Mr Lahoud says he will appoint an interim administration, headed by the army chief, if his successor is not in place”. The BBC report on UNSG BAN’s remarks during his visit to Lebanon last week is here.

An earlier BBC story reported that UNSG Ban held “talks with the Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, who is reported to have drawn up a list of candidates that may be acceptable to government and opposition … France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner held talks with the patriarch on Tuesday. Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa are also due in Beirut later in the week and Mr Kouchner returns next week for his sixth visit in six months”. The other BBC report is here.

Rice: Lebanon expected to uphold UN Security Council resolutions

As a general rule, that’s good — UN member states should uphold UN Security Council resolutions.

It’s what U.S. Secretary of State Condolezza Rice said, as she met the son of slain Lebanese politician Rafic Hariri at the State Department in Washington today.

Saad Hariri, head of the Future Block in the Lebanese Parliament, was asked by Rice, in front of the assembled press representaives, how he was, and he replied that he was “Good. Good. I’m hanging in there, trying to get things done in Lebanon”.

Secretary Rice replied: “Well, you know how supportive we are of the efforts that you’re making. A democratic and sovereign Lebanon is not just in everybody’s interest, it’s everybody’s obligation to help that come about. And so I look forward to talking with you about how we sustain that. The international community is very supportive of Lebanon’s democracy and Lebanon’s sovereignty. And I know it’s been a very difficult time, a lot of people trying to intimidate Lebanon, but the international community is not going to stand for that. The United States won’t stand for it”.

MR. HARIRI responded: “Thank you so much for the support that you have been giving to our
army also — and also to the Lebanese people that (inaudible) of members of parliament and (inaudible) issue for us and it is not stopping and it is also one thing I would like to talk to you about.

SECRETARY RICE: “Yes. And I look forward to talking with you about how we make certain that the tribunal is accelerated, that the upcoming elections are within Lebanon’s constitutional framework, and without foreign interference. And so I look forward to those discussions and – let’s get busy now.
QUESTION (from a journalist): Madame Secretary is Lebanon going to be invited to the international meetings?

SECRETARY RICE: As I said, the international meeting — it would be natural for the members of the Arab League Follow-Up Committee to be at that meeting. We haven’t made any invitations, but when I look, I believe Lebanon is a member of that committee.

QUESTION: Secretary, how about the elections in Lebanon, how important is it that the next president will uphold for UN resolutions 1559 and 1701?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, since Lebanon is a law-abiding country, I would expect that any Lebanese Government would uphold UN Security Council resolutions that are the obligation of any member of the international — of the UN and Lebanon is a member of the UN. Thank you”.

Transcript issued a few hours ago by the U.S. Department of State.

Hariri trial court to be based in Netherlands, not Cyprus

Was it for reasons of economy of scale that the UN decided to base the Hariri trial chambers in the Hague, in the Netherlands? That would put it near the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and the International Criminal Court — not to mention the venerable International Court of Justice? Only Rwanda has its trial chambers outside, in Tanzania — and there has been some consideration given to moving them back to the Hague, as well. (Sierra Leone’s court is a different hybrid).

The UN announced the decision a week ago Friday from New York.

Cyprus was thought to be a leading contender to house the Hariri court and prisons — it is much closer to Lebanon. Why didn’t it get the nod? Was it thought to be not secure enough? Was it because of Cyprus’ persistent divisions?

The AP’s indefatigable Edith Lederer wrote on 18 August that: A deeply divided U.N. Security Council approved a resolution on May 30 to unilaterally establish an international tribunal after the speaker of the Lebanese parliament refused to call a session to have members ratify the statutes to create it. The vote was 10-0 with major powers Russia and China among the five abstentions. The resolution gave the Lebanese parliament until June 10 to act. When it didn’t, the U.N.-Lebanon agreement automatically entered into force, creating a tribunal outside Lebanon with a majority of international judges and an international prosecutor. Council diplomats have said that establishing the court could take a year. The suicide truck bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others in Beirut in February 2005 sparked huge protests against Syria, which was widely seen as culpable. Syria denied involvement but was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, ending a 29-year presence. The issue of an international tribunal has since fueled a deep political conflict between Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora’s Western-backed government and the (words deleted here in the interests of objectivity) … opposition… Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen told Dutch radio Thursday that the Netherlands will insist as a condition for hosting the Lebanon tribunal that those convicted serve their sentences in another country. Verhagen said the Netherlands also wants assurances of the Lebanon tribunal’s funding.”
See full report here