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UN Chief Asks Netherlands to Host Hariri Tribunal

Daily Star - Lebanon
July 24, 2007

The United Nations has asked the Netherlands to host a special court to try the suspected killers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a UN spokeswoman said Monday. Deputy UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe said UN chief Ban Ki-moon had sent a letter to the Dutch government, asking that the tribunal be established in the Netherlands. The Hague already hosts the UN war-crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the International Criminal Court and other global tribunals.

At the request of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, the UN Security Council voted to set up the special tribunal on June 10, despite opposition from anti-government parliamentarians. Diplomatic sources at the UN said Ban telephoned Siniora on Sunday night to notify Siniora of Ban's efforts to "finalize everything related to the tribunal issue so it can exercise its functions." An-Nahar newspaper said the UN was working hard to set up the court after the Beirut government proposed the Lebanese judges to serve on the court.

UN Security Council Resolution 1757 to establish a mixed Lebanese-international court to try suspects in the February 2005 Hariri assassination was ratified on May 30 and has sparked loud debate in Lebanon. Ban's telephone discussion with Siniora came less than two weeks after Serge Brammertz, head of the UN team investigating Hariri's assassination, released his eighth report to the Security Council. Brammertz signaled for the first time that the investigation commission would be wrapping up its work and transferring its files and findings to the international tribunal.

Justice Minister Charles Rizk said he hoped the international tribunal would work as a "unifying rather than a divisive factor among the Lebanese." Speaking during an interview with LBCI television Monday, Rizk said the government had sent Ban a list of magistrates approved by the government to serve on the tribunal. In June, the Higher Judicial Council nominated 12 Lebanese magistrates to serve on the international court, and the government signed off on the list. Ban will select four of the 12 nominees to serve on the court. One Lebanese judge will serve in the tribunal's trial chamber, along with two international judges, while two Lebanese judges will serve in the appeals chamber with three international judges.

The deputy prosecutor at the court will be Lebanese and will be appointed by the Lebanese government in cooperation with the UN. Meanwhile, head of the Center for Democracy and the Rule of Law Mohammad Mughraby called for an "open and transparent process of judge selection for the tribunal." "The UN secretary general is called upon to adopt a judge-selection process for the prospective Hariri court which would be open, transparent and subject to contribution from qualified jurists led by judges from the International Court of Justice," Mughraby said in a letter addressed to Ban. Mughraby said international jurisdiction, represented by the UN, "should complement rather than replace domestic jurisdiction."

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