6.12.2007

Special Tribunal for Lebanon Comes Into Force

Hariri court to come into force automatically on June, 30

AFP, June 8, 2007

UNITED NATIONS , June 8, 2007 (AFP) - In line with a Security Council ruling, an international court to try suspects in the murder of Lebanese ex-premier Rafiq Hariri is to come into force automatically Sunday, but will not be up and running for several months.

On May 30, 10 of the council's 15 members passed a resolution setting Sunday as the date on which a 2006 agreement between the United Nations and the Beirut government to establish the court is to enter into force.

Five members, including veto-wielding Russia and China, abstained, objecting to a decision that bypasses Lebanon's constitutional process.

The UN ruling was also condemned by the powerful pro-Damascus Shiite movement Hezbollah as illegal and as "an aggressive interference in (Lebanon's) internal affairs."

Syria, Lebanon's former power broker, was widely blamed for the Hariri killing but has denied all involvement.

Hariri, who was a leading opponent of Syrian domination of Lebanon, was killed along with 22 others in a massive bomb blast in Beirut on February 14, 2005.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's Western-backed government charges that the opposition is working at the behest of its masters in Damascus to block the court.

Sunday's date for the entry into force of the court was set under a so-called "sunrise clause" to give the rival Lebanese sides a final chance to break their deadlock over the tribunal.

But in the absence of a domestic accord, Belgium's UN Ambassador Johan Verbeke, who chairs the Security Council this month, said Friday: "the sunrise clause is being activated."

"This is an automatic clause so it will be entering into force automatically as of June 10," he told reporters.

Verbeke said the council did not plan any formal meeting on the case either Sunday or Monday.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem warned last week that Damascus would not cooperate with the tribunal and deplored "the speed with which the Security Council decided on a tribunal without unanimity either on an international or Lebanese level."

In any case, the court will not be up and running for several months, diplomats and UN officials say.

The tribunal is to be held in an as yet undetermined "neutral" location. For reasons of security, administrative efficiency and fairness, the location will be outside Lebanon, with both Cyprus and Italy mooted as possibilities.

It will include a three-member trial chamber -- two foreigners and one Lebanese -- and a five-judge appeals chamber -- two Lebanese and three foreigners.

All foreign judges are to be named by UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who will also appoint the prosecutor from nominations made by a panel of two international judges.

Meanwhile, the UN probe of the Hariri case continues under the leadership of Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz. Last March, he said the murder was most likely politically motivated and spoke of progress in the investigation although he did not identify any suspects.

Nine suspects, including Lebanon's once feared top pro-Syrian security chiefs, have however been under arrest for about two years over the murder and may stand trial before the international court.

Four of the main suspects were Syria's key security generals in Lebanon until Damascus was forced to complete a troop pullout from Lebanon in 2005 after 29 years of military dominance.

They include presidential guard chief General Mustafa Hamdan, former general security chief General Jamil al-Sayed, ex-internal security head General Ali al-Hage and former army intelligence director General Raymond Azar.

U.N. investigators have implicated top Syrian and Lebanese officials in the suicide truck bombing in Beirut that killed Hariri and 22 others in February 2005. Syria denied involvement.

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Suspects Under Arrest in the Hariri Murder

Naharnet
31 May 07

Nine suspects, including Lebanon's once feared top pro-Syrian security chiefs, have been under arrest for about two years over the murder of former premier Rafiq Hariri.
The nine may stand trial at the international tribunal which the U.N. Security Council decided in a binding resolution on Wednesday should come into force by June 10.

Four of the main suspects were Syria's key security generals in Lebanon until Damascus was widely accused of the Hariri murder and forced to complete a troop pullout after 29 years of military dominance.

They include presidential guard chief General Mustafa Hamdan, former general security chief General Jamil al-Sayed, ex-internal security head General Ali al-Hage and former army intelligence director General Raymond Azar.

Since they were arrested in August 2005, the four have been held in a special building at the Roumieh central prison, in a mountainous village northeast of Beirut.

They are accused of murder with premeditation, attempt to murder with premeditation, terrorist actions, as well as the possession of weapons and explosives, according to judicial sources.

As the international tribunal due to try the Hariri murder is governed by the Lebanese criminal law, the four may be sentenced to death if found guilty.

The four security chiefs have all denied links to the Hariri murder and have demanded they be released, according to their defense lawyers.

Sayed has also written a letter to the United Nations commission of enquiry requesting his release as he has never been formally indicted.

During the massive protests that followed the Hariri murder in a February 2005 bombing attack, demonstrators carried "wanted" posters of the four generals.

A few months after the detention of the four, five other suspects were rounded up. They are Lebanese Mahmoud Abdel-Al, his brother Ahmad Abdel-Al, Ayman Tarabay and Mustapha Misto as well as a Syrian national whose identity has not been revealed.

The five are accused of hiding information, misleading the investigation and selling pre-paid telephone cards to suspects in the Hariri murder case, according to judicial sources.

Mahmoud Abdel-Al, a member of the Islamic charity Al-Ahbache which has strong links with the Syrian regime, was reported to have called President Emile Lahoud and Azar on their personal mobile phones minutes before Hariri was murdered, a U.N. inquiry report said.

While Lahoud's office has denied the president took a phone call from a suspect just before the murder, a spokesman later acknowledged that someone had phoned one of the office mobiles but did not speak to the president himself.

Ahmad Abdel-Al is named as another suspect by the U.N. report which exhaustively details phone calls he made to Hamdan and other top security figures in the days leading up to the blast.

U.N. inquiry reports said that U.N. interrogators have interviewed at least five Syrian nationals as suspects, but none of them has been jailed.

They include Brigadier General Rustom Ghazaleh, the former Syrian military intelligence chief in Lebanon who once dominated Lebanese politics.

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Related Materials:

- Statute of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon

- The International Tribunal for Lebanon


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Nassim Yaziji's Neo-Internationalism

Nassim Yaziji's Articles

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