Global Policy Forum

Rice: UN Will Take Action on Tribunal

Daily Star - Lebanon
May 9, 2007

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Tuesday that Washington and the UN would act on their own if the Lebanese Parliament failed to give the go-ahead for the establishment of an international tribunal to try suspects in the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Rice made her comments in a front-page editorial published Tuesday in local newspaper An-Nahar, and in an interview with Al-Arabiyya Television aired late on Monday. "Absolutely. If we have to, we would push for setting up the tribunal under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter because it is extremely important that the court is set up so that Lebanon goes back to normal," Rice said. Chapter 7 status would allow the court to begin work without Parliament's approval.

Speaker Nabih Berri's refusal to convene a parliamentary session has prompted the ruling majority to demand that the Security Council impose the court on Lebanon, but the council has so far refrained from doing so. UN chief Ban Ki-moon sent special legal counsel Nicolas Michel to Beirut last month to seek a way out of an impasse over the tribunal, but without success. Diplomats have said Western powers believe Lebanon's feuding politicians are unlikely to agree any time soon to endorse the tribunal and that UN action is needed, but council members such as Russia disagree.

"Setting up the tribunal should take place despite the dead end it reached in Lebanon because the killers of Hariri should face justice," Rice said. The tribunal is a key sticking point between the Lebanese government and its political opponents, who say the court could be used as a partisan tool. Pro-government leaders have repeatedly called for specific objections to a tribunal draft proposal from the opposition, which has voiced support for the court in principle.

"The special tribunal for Lebanon will help end this sad era of impunity," Rice wrote in the editorial, titled "A Tribunal for Lebanon: Time to End Impunity for Murder." The editorial was apparently aimed at assuring US allies in Lebanon that the United States had not changed its policy after Rice's meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in Sharm el-Sheikh last week.

A UN investigation into Hariri's murder has implicated the Syrian regime in the crime, a charge that Damascus denies. Rice wrote that the tribunal would not only help uncover those responsible for the killing, but help strengthen security and stability in the country. "The United States believes the best option will be for the court to be approved by the Lebanese Parliament," Rice said. "If that proves impossible, then the international community - consistent with its pledge to help the Lebanese people achieve their vision of a free and democratic Lebanon - will use every means at its disposal to further the pursuit of justice and to put an end to the current campaign of assassinations."

Rice said that the "enemies of truth have resorted to subterfuge and intimidation to prevent the establishment of the tribunal to deprive the Lebanese of justice." She also criticized the Hizbullah-led opposition's campaign to unseat Premier Fouad Siniora's government. "The democratically elected government of Premier Fouad Siniora should be supported. Lebanon and the Lebanese people can count on the United States," said Rice. "I would like to say to all in a very direct fashion that the democracy and sovereignty of Lebanon are critical issues for the US and that we see them as some of our most prominent interests."

More Information on International Justice
More Information on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon
More Information on Lebanon and Syria
More Information on the US Intervention in Syria


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