12.15.2007

Ninth report of Hariri International Investigation Commission

Brammertz' Report: Progress Led to Identification of New 'Persons of Interest'

Naharnet
28 Nov 07

A U.N. inquiry has made progress in linking people to the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri and is closely examining the possibility that two or more teams may have prepared and carried out the attack, chief investigator Serge Brammertz said Wednesday.

While not identifying anyone, Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz said in his final report to the Security Council that progress by the U.N. International Independent Investigation Commission in the last four months has led to the identification of new "persons of interest" and new investigative leads.

"The commission has also deepened and broadened its understanding of the possible involvement of a number of persons of interest, including persons who have recently been identified by the commission, who may have been involved in some aspects of the preparation and commission of the crime or who may have known that a plan to carry out the crime was being prepared," Brammertz said.

"In addition to the progress made in linking various persons of interest to the commission of the crime, the commission has also established links between some of these persons," he said, adding that pursuing this line of inquiry will be a priority in the coming months.

Brammertz said the commission also confirmed its hypothesis that "operational links may exist" between the perpetrators of 18 other targeted assassinations and bombings in Lebanon, adding that confirming these links and establishing new links will also be a priority in the near future.

The report was issued just after the Security Council unanimously approved Brammertz' nomination to head the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands. The U.N. chief has appointed former Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare to head the Hariri probe.

Investigators have previously confirmed that a single blast from a Mitsubishi Canter van packed with 3,960 pounds (1,800 kilograms) of high explosives was detonated "most likely" by a male suicide bomber in central Beirut on Feb. 14, 2005, killing Hariri and 22 others.

The first U.N. chief investigator, Germany's Detlev Mehlis, said the plot's complexity suggested that Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services had a role, but Brammertz has not echoed his view. Four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals have been under arrest for almost two years for alleged involvement in the murder.

Syria denied involvement in Hariri's assassination but was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, ending a 29-year presence. Brammertz reiterated in Wednesday's report that Syria's cooperation with investigators "remains generally satisfactory," noting that the commission had made 11 requests for information to Syria in the last four months, bringing the total to 68 since January 2006.

Brammertz stressed that as a growing number of areas of the Hariri investigation are concluded and as the investigations narrow, "the commission has taken an increasingly cautious approach to the management of information linked to the investigation."

The commission, he explained, is very concerned about protecting the identity of sources and potential witnesses, and about the safety of people identified as "persons of interest" as well as its own staff.

Since his last report in July, Brammertz said the commission has produced a 2,000-page report on the Hariri investigation which has enabled investigators to assess evidence and identify remaining gaps in the inquiry as well as potential new leads.

It will be "one of the major tools" handed to prosecutors at the new U.N.-backed tribunal that will prosecute suspects in the Hariri assassination, he said.

Thanks to "encouraging" progress made in the last four months, he said, "the commission is increasingly able to draw preliminary conclusions on an important number of aspects of the investigation" including the type of explosives used, the van, and the individuals involved in the surveillance on Hariri.

The commission also advanced its understanding of the identity of the alleged suicide bomber and possible motives for the attack, he said, noting that the main emphasis has been on Hariri's political activities but his leadership in the Sunni community could also be a factor.

"Given the possibility that a combination of factors may have influenced the motive to assassinate Hariri, the commission is closely examining the possibility that two or more teams of perpetrators may have taken part in the preparation and commission of the attack," he said.

In the last four months, Brammertz said, investigators focused on tracing the origin of the explosives used in the bombing and are reviewing new information on individuals, groups and institutions which may have had access to the material.

"The commission is also reviewing cases of possible disappearances of explosives in the period prior to the attack," he said.

Brammertz said the commission also has information which indicates that two men purchased the Mitsubishi van used in the bombing with counterfeit documents and gave false contact details to the seller.

"The commission is working to identify them and to clarify their background and possible involvement in the crime," he said.

As for the presumed suicide bomber, Brammertz said expert findings received recently suggest he was exposed "to significant quantities of a specific type of lead, possibly through proximity to military ammunition between the age of 16 and 20."

"This could indicate that he was either living close to a conflict area or to an area where weapons were used on a regular basis such as a military training camp," he said.

New expert findings also provide additional information on his possible place of birth and the location where he may have spent his childhood, which Brammertz did not disclose.

He said the commission is trying to match the man's characteristics with more than two million people who entered Lebanon, as well as missing persons.

Brammetz said the commission is satisfied that it now understands the background of Ahmed Abu Adass, a Palestinian who lived in Lebanon and appeared on a video tape claiming responsibility for the attack, though investigators have said he is not the suicide bomber.

Progress has also been made in establishing the identity of the individual who disappeared with Adass on Jan. 16, 2005, he said.

Brammertz said a database containing more than 330 DNA profiles, 160 fingerprints and 24 sketches of persons of interest to the investigation has recently become operational and has started "to bear some significant results by generating new avenues for investigation and, equally importantly, allowing the commission to close down other investigative tracks."
Hariri, a popular five-time prime minister, was killed along with 22 others in a massive explosion on the Beirut seafront on February 14, 2005.

Senior officials from Syria, which for three decades was the powerbroker in its smaller neighbor, have been implicated in the Hariri slaying.

Damascus strongly denies any connection with that murder as well as with the string of assassinations of other anti-Syrian Lebanese figures. (AP-Naharnet)

You can download the full report by clicking here

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here are some excerpts from the report:

15. Most of the forensics projects undertaken by the Commission have now been completed. Of the 66 forensic projects undertaken since January 2006 in the Hariri investigation, only 23 remain open, including eight new projects initiated during the reporting period. The Commission will focus its efforts in the next reporting period on obtaining the results of the remaining forensics projects in order to complete the extensive work undertaken in this area since 2005. As in other areas, all the new results will be added to the Commission’s consolidated reports, which will be fully updated before the end of its mandate.

27. As indicated in the Commission’s previous report to the Council, the Commission has brought together more than 330 DNA profiles, 160 fingerprints and 24 sketches of persons of interest to the investigations which have been collected in the course of the Commission’s investigations. These have all been placed in searchable databases which have recently become operational and are used by the Commission to carry out comparisons with similar existing national and international criminal databases. These comparisons have started to yield some significant results by generating new avenues for investigation and, equally importantly, allowing the Commission to close down other investigative tracks.

28. Progress has been made in completing the Commission’s exhibits database. So far, more than 3,000 physical and biological exhibits accumulated in the course of the investigations have been entered into the database, and the Commission will aim to finalize this project in the next reporting period. This database will be linked to a project involving a three-dimensional visualization of the crime scene.

29. In order to ensure the integrated and coordinated management of the exhibits in preparation for the transition to the Tribunal, the Commission has assumed custody of most of the remaining forensic exhibits from the Hariri crime scene, some of which were previously held by the Lebanese authorities. The Commission will complete a review and inventory of these items and carry out additional forensic examinations where appropriate.

40. One of the principal investigative tools used by the Commission in the Hariri investigation, as well as in the other cases where it is providing technical assistance to the Lebanese authorities, continues to be the analysis of very large volumes of call records, text messages and other forms of telecommunications data. The Commission has recently devoted additional technical and human resources to this aspect of the investigations. Currently, the Commission is working on a data set in excess of 6.5 billion call records covering various time frames of interest to the investigations.

41. The communications analysis components of the investigations continue to form an essential tool to test and support findings and conclusions developed in other areas of the investigation. The analysis of call records in particular is an essential part of the preparation of witness interviews.

45. As described in the Commission’s previous report, considerable efforts have been made since the establishment of the Commission to reach a comprehensive understanding of the factors which are likely to have shaped the environment from which the motive to assassinate Rafiq Hariri emerged. Based on the critical review of the Commission’s holdings on possible motives, the Commission is satisfied with progress made so far in this area.

46. As detailed in the Commission’s consolidation reports, the Commission has largely narrowed down the possible motives for the assassination to those linked to Rafiq Hariri’s political activities in the months and years leading up to his death. During the reporting period, the Commission continued to expand its understanding of the relevance of several political events to the possible motives. These events include the adoption of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004) and the possible or perceived role played by Rafiq Hariri in the inception and implementation of that resolution, the extension of President Emile Lahoud’s mandate and the proposed reform of the electoral law, as well as Rafiq Hariri’s political posture regarding the 2005 parliamentary elections.

47. As indicated previously, the Commission is continuing to evaluate the relevance of attempts made to facilitate a rapprochement between Rafiq Hariri and certain other individuals with whom he may have been at odds in the period preceding his assassination. The Commission is now also satisfied with its inquiries into specific threats, warnings and assurances conveyed to Hariri regarding his safety in the months before the attack.

48. During the reporting period, 27 interviews were conducted and several other investigative steps were taken based on the action plans outlined in the Commission’s previous report. The work of the Commission in this area during the reporting period has refined some of its working hypotheses regarding likely motives for the attack. The Commission has also worked to investigate and evaluate how these possible motives may potentially link the other cases in which the Commission is providing technical assistance with the Hariri assassination.

49. While the Commission is now satisfied with its general understanding of these events and their relevance to possible motives for the crime, certain specific lines of inquiry will continue to be pursued into the next reporting period.

50. In addition, throughout the course of the investigation, the Commission has fulfilled its obligation to adequately examine and consider alternative hypotheses. As stated in the previous report, this includes the possibility that Hariri was targeted by extremist groups for several possible reasons, including the fact that he was widely seen as a leading figure in his community. As it cannot be excluded that the motive to assassinate Hariri may have arisen from a combination of political and sectarian factors, the Commission has continued to examine these issues in order to properly understand and assess the viability of each hypothesis. Given the possibility that a combination of factors may have influenced the motive to assassinate Hariri, the Commission is closely examining the possibility that two or more teams of perpetrators may have taken part in the preparation and commission of the attack.

51. Since the Commission’s previous report, special emphasis has been placed on the analysis of the de jure and de facto structures of several organizations which present a particular interest to the investigation due to their role in Lebanon in the period leading up to the assassination. The Commission is continuing to examine the reporting lines, flows of information, means and operational capacities of these organizations during the period of interest to the Commission. This examination has given the Commission valuable insight and perspective into these organizations, which has proved essential to a proper understanding and evaluation of the situation that existed in Lebanon prior to the assassination.

52. In particular, a number of interviews conducted during the reporting period with senior Syrian and Lebanese officials have either confirmed or enhanced the Commission’s understanding of the structures of some of these organizations and have led the Commission to further refine its investigative priorities. These interviews have also allowed the Commission to deepen its understanding of the level of cooperation which existed between Syrian and Lebanese security agencies during the period of interest.

53. The Commission has also deepened and broadened its understanding of the possible involvement of a number of persons of interest, including persons who have recently been identified by the Commission, who may have been involved in some aspects of the preparation and commission of the crime or who may have known that a plan to carry out the crime was being prepared. In addition to the progress made in linking various persons of interest to the commission of the crime, the Commission has also established links between some of these persons. This line of inquiry will continue to be a priority in the next reporting period.

54. As mandated by the Security Council, the Commission has continued to provide technical assistance to the Lebanese authorities in their ongoing investigations of 18 other cases, including the assassination of Member of Parliament Antoine Ghanem on 19 September 2007.

55. During the reporting period, the Commission focused on the implementation of the workplans developed on the basis of the consolidation of the Commission’s information and findings on each of these cases. Of the 100 priority interviews identified in the workplans of the 18 cases, 40 were conducted in the reporting period. The Commission also conducted follow-up visits to the crimes scenes of the targeted attacks and to associated locations in order to complete further crime-scene assessments.

56. Taking into account the fact that the Commission’s principal focus remains the Hariri assassination, as well as the limited resources it has to provide assistance to the Lebanese authorities in their investigations of a growing number of other cases, progress during the reporting period has been satisfactory.

57. During the reporting period, the Commission started to assemble crime reference reports for each of the 18 cases, commencing with the nine attacks targeted at Marwan Hamedeh, Samir Kassir, George Hawi, Elias El-Murr, May Chidiac, Gebran Tueni, Pierre Gemayel, Walid Eido and Antoine Ghanem. These reports bring together the most relevant statements, photographs, crime-scene sketches, forensic reports and other crime-related information for each case. While the consolidated reports have successfully focused and directed the investigation by identifying gaps and leads, the crime reference reports will provide a complementary resource which will enable investigators to easily access all relevant case-related material in a single location. These reports will be passed on to the Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to allow the Prosecutor to evaluate the existence of any links in the light of the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.

58. In the past four months, the Commission has held meetings with each of the investigating judges in charge of the nine targeted attacks and the Prosecutor General to discuss investigative leads, evaluate the status of each investigation and identify areas where the Commission can provide additional technical assistance. The meetings also served to ensure that the steps taken by the Commission and by the Lebanese authorities are coordinated. These discussions have proved productive, and the results are currently being reviewed. Appropriate follow-up action will be taken by the Commission and the Lebanese authorities. Meetings with the investigative judges in the other cases are also being planned during the next reporting period. A large number of additional technical reports were recently handed over to the Lebanese authorities.

60. During the reporting period, the Commission conducted several key forensic examinations related to the 18 cases, some of which have yielded important results.

61. For these 18 cases, 39 forensic investigation projects were initiated, mostly related to crime-scene investigations, explosives analysis, fingerprint research, ballistic examinations, DNA profiling, bloodstain research, digital imaging, seismological analyses and forensic biological examinations. A total of 19 of these projects were completed, and the final results were shared with the Prosecutor General and the investigating judges.

62. The analysis of seismological data recorded by the National Centre for Geophysics in Lebanon allowed the Commission to conduct some useful comparisons on the seismological properties of the blasts in some of the non-targeted bomb attacks. This analysis shows, for example, that the seismic waves recorded after the explosions in Broumana, New Jdeidh and Jounieh show some similarities to the blast in the Hariri case and show different characteristics compared to the explosion in Zalka. These differences confirm some of the Commission’s previous conclusions regarding the position and size of the improvised explosive devices used in each of these cases.

63. In the investigation of the assassination of Minister Pierre Gemayel, the Commission conducted several important new examinations during the reporting period. The Commission has conducted an analysis of several DNA profiles found on the crime scene and has isolated the DNA profiles of several unidentified individuals as belonging to potential perpetrators. Acting on a request for assistance from the Lebanese authorities, the Commission conducted extensive forensic examinations on the bodies of two deceased individuals considered as suspects based on witness interviews conducted by the Lebanese authorities. The Commission’s expert findings indicate that the DNA profiles of these two deceased individuals do not match the DNA profiles of the unknown individuals identified as possible perpetrators.

64. In connection with the Gemayel investigation, the Commission has conducted detailed investigations on a black Honda CRV vehicle originally seized by the Syrian authorities and then handed over to the Lebanese authorities and which is suspected, according to one witness statement, of having been used by the perpetrators and of having come into contact with the victim’s vehicle. International experts working with the Commission conducted extensive forensic examinations linked to this vehicle, including examinations of fingerprints, hair, fibre, glass, plastic and paint as well as analysis of gunshot residues, DNA sampling, detailed examinations of the vehicle’s exhaust pipe and ballistic investigations. On the basis of preliminary results, the Commission is not able to draw meaningful conclusions at this stage on this vehicle’s connection to the crime.

65. The Commission also obtained more detailed information regarding the different types of weapons used in the attack as well as bullet trajectories and the approximate location where each weapon was used. The Commission and the Lebanese authorities have conducted comparisons with similar weapons seized by the Lebanese authorities in other cases.

66. In the investigation of the Ain Alaq bus bombings of 13 February 2007, the Commission has conducted examinations of 175 exhibits recovered from the crime scene, including DNA samples, explosives samples, ball bearings and transfer traces. Among the 13 DNA samples taken from the crime scene, three particularly relevant genetic profiles have been obtained from four different locations on the buses. The DNA analyses conducted by the Commission in the Ain Alaq case have produced interesting results directly linked to possible perpetrators. The Commission has also reached some additional conclusions about the type and position of the improvised explosive device as well as the exact modus operandi used by the perpetrators. All results of these examinations have been provided and continue to be provided to the Lebanese authorities, which are in the process of prosecuting several suspects.

67. The Commission has obtained further results from examinations conducted on exhibits recovered from the scene where Member of Parliament Walid Eido was killed on 13 June 2007 in central Beirut. The Commission has transmitted to the Lebanese authorities a number of forensic reports containing information related to the explosives used, the vehicle which was allegedly used to carry the improvised explosive devices as well as the victim’s vehicle.

68. The Commission applies the same communications analysis techniques used in the Hariri case to the 18 other cases. During the reporting period, the Commission conducted cell site surveys of the locations where the nine non-targeted attacks occurred, in Kaslik; Sid-El-Bouchria; the Plaza shopping centre in Broummana; at the premises of the “Voice of Charity” radio station in Jounieh; on Monot Street in Ashrafieh; the Zalka area; Naoum Libki Street in Ashrafieh; Ain Alaq in the Metn region; and New Jdeidh. The data obtained from these surveys as well as data related to particularly relevant call records have been incorporated into the Commission’s integrated communications analysis tools and are being analysed for each case. In addition to assisting the Commission in understanding the communications activities of potential perpetrators, it also allows for comparisons among the 18 cases and with the Hariri case itself.

69. In conjunction with the technical assistance provided to the Lebanese authorities in these cases, the Commission has focused on identifying possible links among these cases and between these cases and the Hariri case. The Commission continues to examine commonalities between the profiles of the victims, the modus operandi and the possible motives for these attacks. In order to assist in this endeavour, the Commission has successfully created several analytical tools and projects aimed at highlighting possible links as well as any potential differences between these cases.

70. During the previous reporting period, the Commission initiated a number of investigative projects which are common to both the Hariri investigation and the 18 other cases. These projects include forensic and communications analysis, comparisons of the type of explosive used, examinations of the vehicles used in some of the attacks, inquiries into possible commonalities in the supply and registration of vehicles used in several of the attacks, a comprehensive analysis of the available data pertaining to the entry into and exit from Lebanon of certain individuals as well as other common analytical projects.

71. As outlined in the Commission’s previous report to the Council, the Commission has given specific attention to the investigations into the possible motives for these crimes, in particular regarding the public and political activities of the victims of the targeted attacks, as it is likely that these may have played an important role in shaping the motives for the crimes. In order to advance this line of inquiry, and among other common projects, the Commission has initiated a media analysis project which will examine the public stances, declarations, statements and articles by or about the victims of the targeted attacks. This project, which will also include the Hariri investigation, will be developed in the next reporting period.

72. By evaluating the evidence obtained thus far and utilizing the analytical tools and projects described above, the Commission has been able to focus the ongoing investigations on the most productive lines of inquiry establishing links.

73. Investigative steps taken during the reporting period have confirmed the Commission’s hypothesis that operational links may exist among some of the possible perpetrators of these different crimes. These inquiries will be pursued as a priority in the next reporting period, bearing in mind the Commission’s approach regarding the management of sensitive information. Additionally, the consolidated reports, supported by the crime reference reports, will be updated to reflect advances made in each of the cases and the identification of potential links.

74. These tools and resources will ultimately assist the transition to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon by providing cogent information to the Office of the Prosecutor of the Tribunal which reflects both the investigative history of the cases as well as the analytical work of the Commission to date.

75. On 19 September 2007, Member of Parliament Antoine Ghanem was killed along with five other persons when a car bomb exploded close to his vehicle as he was leaving a meeting in the Horsh Tabet area of eastern Beirut. More than 70 people were wounded in the attack. Ghanem, a member of the parliamentary majority, was the sixth Member of Parliament killed in Lebanon since 2005.

76. On 21 September 2007, following a request from Prime Minister Siniora to the Secretary-General, the Commission was mandated to provide technical assistance to the Lebanese authorities in their investigation into this attack. A team of experts from the Commission was immediately dispatched to the crime scene.

77. International forensics experts working with the Commission arrived on 22 September 2007 and worked for 10 consecutive days on the crime scene in coordination with the Lebanese authorities. A total of 108 exhibits were recovered, and most of them were sent for further scientific analysis. Although the investigation into this attack is still at an early stage, the Commission was able to isolate four DNA profiles of interest to the investigation as well as 12 shoe prints taken from locations which could have been used to conduct surveillance. Initial expert findings indicate that the type of explosive used in this attack was RDX. The Commission also determined the exact time of the explosion to be 17:21:12.

78. Two key interviews were conducted in this case, and several others are planned for the next reporting period. The Commission has also put together a profile of the victim and a timeline of the events preceding the attack. The Commission has started to examine possible links with other attacks.

79. Antoine Ghanem had returned to Lebanon from a prolonged trip overseas only three days prior to his assassination, indicating that the perpetrators had quickly established surveillance of his movements. At the time of the attack, Ghanem was leaving a meeting with a friend. The meeting had been scheduled on very short notice and lasted approximately one hour. The preliminary findings of the investigation indicate that, within a very short period of time, the perpetrators were able to conclude their surveillance and mobilize a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device in order to carry out the attack. This is an indication of the advanced operational capabilities of the perpetrators and may suggest that a number of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices were prepared in advance, possibly in several locations, in order to be mobilized on short notice.

87. In the previous reporting period, 14 requests for assistances were sent to 11 States in addition to those sent to Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic, bringing the total number of requests for assistance addressed to other States since January 2006 to 120. When responses have been provided in full and on time, the Commission has been able to make considerable progress thanks to the assistance provided by these other States.

88. The Commission is grateful for the support, information and expertise it has received from a number of States and international institutions during the reporting period. As noted in the Commission’s previous reports to the Council, the Commission will be able to effectively complete its mandate only if it can rely on the cooperation of all States to provide it with the support and information requested.

89. Following the adoption of Security Council resolution 1757 (2007) calling for the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and in line with the report of the Secretary-General submitted pursuant to resolution 1757 (2007), the Commission has devoted resources in the reporting period to planning the handover of its work to the Office of the Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The Commission’s activities in this regard are geared to ensuring a seamless transition between the two institutions.

90. The Commission has undertaken several projects related to the management, storage and eventual handover of the substantial amounts of data, documents, exhibits and other information currently held by the Commission.

91. As indicated in the previous report to the Council, the Commission has carried out a thorough inventory of its data and documentary holdings. At the end of the reporting period, the Commission had collected approximately 1,500 gigabytes of data in approximately 850,000 files. In addition, the Commission has about 1,100 gigabytes of data related to its communications analysis work and 960 gigabytes of forensic data, including more than 40,000 pictures relating to the investigations.

92. The majority of the Commission’s electronic data holdings are stored, retrieved and analysed using specialized analytical software. The process of importing the data into this software is both resource-intensive and time-consuming, but it is expected that once it is complete, this will be an important resource for the Office of the Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

93. The Commission also has large volumes of physical evidence and documents in its possession, as well as corresponding databases, which are being stored in order to facilitate access and transport while ensuring the integrity and chain of custody of this material.

94. As indicated previously, the Commission’s consolidated reports comprehensively document the investigative history of each case. In addition, the Commission has started to compile crime reference reports which bring together all of the pertinent information, including witness interviews and photographs, for each case. These reports are designed to assist in the transition by providing the Special Tribunal for Lebanon with a comprehensive, organized, indexed and accessible resource for each case.

95. Procedures to ensure the integrity and ease of transfer of all of the information currently in the custody of the Commission are being put in place, and the Commission expects that such a transfer will be able to take place on relatively short notice. The Commission continues to work with the transition team established within the United Nations Secretariat on these issues.

96. As the Commission indicated in its previous report to the Council, measures to ensure the safety of possible witnesses who may be called upon to provide testimony to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon must be put in place in order to guarantee that potential witnesses can cooperate with the Tribunal without fear of retribution. In coordination with the transition team, the Commission has designed a draft witness-protection strategy which suggests some of the first steps to be taken towards the creation of a comprehensive witness-protection programme adapted to the specific circumstances of the transition to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. This draft strategy will need to be refined and several additional steps taken before the programme can be implemented. The Commission stands ready to work with the transition team in order to ensure that this important aspect of the transition is in place at the appropriate time.

98. The Commission notes that the success of the transition from the Commission to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will depend not only on an efficient handover of the Commission’s findings and evidence but also on the institutional memory of the Commission. It is the view of the Commission that the Office of the Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will be able to start working immediately and effectively if it can rely on the experience gained by the Commission’s staff since 2005. The Commission is currently working with the transition team and the relevant United Nations departments to establish adequate bridging mechanisms between the two institutions.

102. Given the general political and security environment in Lebanon as well as certain other specific indirect threat warnings received by the Commission during this reporting period, the Commission, working in conjunction with the Lebanese authorities as well as other United Nations agencies in Lebanon, has conducted a thorough review of its security risk assessment, adopted additional security measures and increased the level of caution with which it conducts all of its activities.

Conclusions

106. As a growing number of investigative projects are concluded and as the investigations narrow, the Commission has taken an increasingly cautious approach to the management of information linked to the investigation. The Commission has implemented a number of measures in this direction and has sought to avoid jeopardizing the integrity of the investigation and the legal process as well as the safety of individuals by enforcing appropriate information-management procedures. As a result, the Commission is of the opinion that only limited information can be placed in the public domain regarding its ongoing investigations.

107. Since its previous report to the Council, the main focus of the Commission has been the implementation of the detailed action plans drawn up at the end of the previous reporting period. Thanks to the progress made in the past four months, the Commission is increasingly able to draw preliminary conclusions on an important number of aspects of the investigation of the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, including issues related to the crime-scene examinations, the type of improvised explosive device used, the Mitsubishi Canter van used in the attack and the individuals involved in the surveillance of Rafiq Hariri. The Commission has also advanced its understanding of the profile and involvement of Ahmed Abu Adass, the identity of the alleged suicide bomber and its grasp of the possible motives for the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. These steps have allowed the Commission to identify additional persons of interest to the investigation.

108. The Commission will devote the next reporting period to those areas of the investigation where a number of important questions remain unanswered. In particular, on the basis of its understanding in several areas of the investigation, including of the factors which may have shaped the motive to carry out the attack, the Commission will concentrate its efforts on continuing to establish additional links between crime-scene evidence, possible motives and persons of interest who may have been involved in some aspects of the preparation and commission of the crime. Several promising avenues emerged in the previous reporting period and will be pursued as a priority.

109. The Commission has also continued to support the Lebanese authorities in their investigations in 18 cases of targeted assassinations and bombings in Lebanon since October 2004, including the assassination of Member of Parliament Antoine Ghanem on 19 September 2007. Despite the growing number of cases and limited investigative resources, the Commission has been able to provide the Lebanese judicial authorities with assistance, particularly in the area of forensic examinations and witness interviews. In line with the jurisdiction of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, particular emphasis has been placed on identifying possible links and commonalities between the Hariri case and the other cases under investigation. Several results obtained during the reporting period have confirmed the Commission’s hypothesis that operational links may exist between some of the possible perpetrators of these crimes. Confirming these links and establishing new links will also be a priority for the Commission in the next reporting period.

110. The Commission notes that evidence uncovered in the Hariri case and some of the other attacks, including the recent assassination of Antoine Ghanem confirms the fact that the perpetrators or groups of perpetrators had and still have advanced and extensive operational capacities available in Beirut and built on very specific expertise, equipment and resources.

111. During the past four months, the Commission has continued to enjoy a close and collegial working relationship with the Lebanese authorities, including the Prosecutor General and his staff and the investigative judges assigned to the different cases. The pace of the investigation has increased again during the reporting period, as highlighted by the number of interviews conducted and requests for assistance made, to which the Lebanese authorities have continued to respond fully.

112. The Commission also notes that the Syrian Arab Republic and other States have continued to provide responses to the Commission’s requests for assistance. The Commission acknowledges these responses and reiterates its call on all States to provide the required information and support to the Commission in a timely manner.

113. Given the acute and ongoing political tension in Lebanon, as well as certain specific threats the Commission faces due to the nature of its mandate, the Commission is particularly grateful to the Lebanese Armed Forces for the protection they afford to the Commission’s staff and premises. That support is essential to the Commission’s ability to carry out its mandate effectively.

114. The Commission is actively preparing to hand over the results of its investigation to the Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon when the Tribunal starts functioning. The data, documents, files and exhibits held by the Commission are being inventoried, archived and packaged in a way which will facilitate handover and transport on short notice. The Commission is also working in cooperation with the team established to oversee the transition on a number of issues which will need to be addressed to ensure that the transition between the two institutions is successful.


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