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.