Global Policy Forum

International Tribunal to be Launched March 1, No Specific Charges Made Yet

January 23, 2009

The Registrar of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon Robin Vincent has said no one has been charged yet in the assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri, stressing that the court would start operating on March 1. "No specific charges against any person have been made yet," Vincent told a gathering at the (Beit al Muhami) Attorney's Home in Beirut on Thursday evening via a live close circuit televised address. The meeting was attended by Interior Minister Ziad Baroud, Head of the State Consultative Council Judge Shukri Sader, former minister Elias Hanna, British Ambassador Frances Guy, Head of the Beirut Bar Association Ramzi Jreij and others.

"Court logistics preparations at the Hague are still ongoing," Vincent said. He added that investigations into the Hariri crime would continue throughout 2009. He explained that an agreement was signed with the Dutch government for the court to have its headquarters in The Hague. The tribunal will start operations on Sunday March 1, he said. "On that date, Special Commissioner Daniel Bellemare becomes an international prosecutor. He and his team would gradually move from Lebanon to the Hague," Vincent said. He added that once Bellemare is in the Hague, a special meeting would be held to establish the rules, governing procedures and proof, adding that this would be completed at the appropriate time, while respecting the specified time schedule for placing information systems. Vincent assured his audience "the tribunal will be clear and transparent, meaning every citizen has the right to learn about the tribunal's progress."

From 2002 to 2005, Vincent served as Registrar of the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Since then, his work has included temporary service as Deputy Registrar of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and advising on the establishment of other international tribunals, including the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. Judge Sader said the tribunal's mission is to uncover all international terror cases in Lebanon and not just that of Hariri. "This means uncovering all assassination crimes from the attempt on Marwan Hamadeh to that of Gebran Tueni," Sader said, adding that all victims are equal in the eyes of the international community. "The tribunal also has the power to look for possible future terror attacks that could take place following the court's establishment," Sader said. He explained that the Security Council adopted the tribunal under Article 7 of the U.N. Charter to avoid going through the Lebanese parliament "out of respect for Lebanon." U.N. Secretary-General at the time Kofi Annan and his legal assistant Nicolas Michel both failed to obtain the approval of the Lebanese parliament, he said. He pointed to one issue that will need to be cleared under article seven, that the court does not have the right to force a third party to cooperate in the case.

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