Global Policy Forum

UN Inquiry Says al-Hariri Murder


By Michelle Nichols

March 21, 2007

The murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri was tied to his political activities and a special tribunal should be set up to try his killers, the head of a U.N. inquiry said on Wednesday. Serge Brammertz told the U.N. Security Council that when his investigation into the assassination of Hariri and 22 others on February 14, 2005, was completed, the next logical step was for the results to be given to a specially created court, which is still in dispute in Beirut. "It's absolutely the next logical step after an investigation commission to have a tribunal," the Belgian prosecutor told reporters after briefing the council. "Without this step it would be complicated or difficult to justify even the existence of the commission."

He said his investigation had narrowed its focus to motives for the assassination linked to the political activities of Hariri, who opposed Syria's domination of Lebanon, and outlined several factors that likely "created the environment in which the intent to kill Rafik Hariri arose." "These include: the inception of resolution 1559 and the implications of its implementation; the extension of the term of President Lahoud; the dynamics between Hariri and other political parties and leaders in Lebanon, Syria and other countries and preparation ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2005," Brammertz told the council.

The U.N. Security Council resolution 1559 was passed in September 2004 and called upon foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon and for all local militia to disarm. Syria denies involvement in the Hariri slaying, which took place after the former prime minister accused Damascus of meddling in Lebanese politics. Street protests in Lebanon after the killing prompted Syria to withdraw forces that had been in the country for 22 years.

The Lebanese government and the Security Council have approved plans to establish a special court to try Hariri's killers, over objections from the Hezbollah-led opposition, which fears the tribunal may be used as a political tool in its current form, and Lebanon's pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud. But the tribunal is yet to be ratified by the Lebanese parliament to allow it to come into force. Lebanon's parliament speaker Nabih Berri, a key opposition leader, has not yet said when he will convene parliament. Brammertz said when his inquiry was complete it would be handed over to a prosecutor, who would finalize the investigation and prepare indictments for those accused of planning the suicide bombing that killed Hariri. Brammertz asked the Security Council to extend the mandate of his investigation for another year beyond it's current June deadline. French U.N. Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sabliere said it would be likely the council would approve this request.

The Security Council has also asked Brammertz to look at 16 other politically motivated cases, including the November 21 assassination of Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel.

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