12.27.2007

Special Tribunal for Lebanon Gets Base, Judges

UN, Netherlands sign accord to base Lebanon Special Tribunal in The Hague

UN News

21 December 2007 – The United Nations and the Netherlands today signed an agreement to base in The Hague the court to judge recent assassinations in Lebanon, including that of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

The Headquarters Agreement for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was signed in New York by UN Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Larry D. Johnson and Dutch Ambassador Frank Majoor.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has already accepted the recommendations of the selection panel on judges for the Tribunal and will announce the names “at an appropriate time in the future,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement [see below].

According to the Tribunal’s statute, the chambers will consist of one international pre-trial judge; three judges to serve in the trial chamber (one Lebanese and two international); five judges to serve in the appeals chamber (two Lebanese and three international); and two alternate judges (one Lebanese and one international).

In April 2005 the Security Council set up the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) after an earlier UN mission found that Lebanon’s own inquiry into the Hariri assassination was seriously flawed and that Syria was primarily responsible for the political tensions that preceded the attack. Mr. Hariri died in a massive car bombing in Beirut in February 2005 that also took the lives of 22 others.

Earlier this month outgoing IIIC head Serge Brammertz told the Council he was “more confident and optimistic than ever” that the investigation can be concluded successfully.

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New York, 21 December 2007 - Statement Attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon

Earlier today, the United Nations and the Kingdom of the Netherlands signed a Headquarters Agreement that will enable the seat of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to be based in the Netherlands. Mr. Larry D. Johnson, Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, signed on behalf of the United Nations and Permanent Representative Frank Majoor signed on behalf of the Netherlands. This step is the outcome of three months of negotiations that began when Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende informed the Secretary-General that the Government of the Netherlands was favourably disposed to hosting the Special Tribunal. The Agreement will now be submitted to the Parliament of the Netherlands for ratification. In the meantime, the United Nations and the Netherlands authorities will continue taking steps to establish the Tribunal in The Hague.

In a further development, the Secretary-General has received the report of the Selection Panel constituted pursuant to article 2 of the Annex to Security Council resolution 1757 (2007) to make recommendations regarding the selection of judges of the Special Tribunal. The Panel was composed of Judge Mohamed Amin El Mahdi, formerly of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; Judge Erik Mّse, of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda; and Mr. Nicolas Michel, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, the Legal Counsel. The Secretary-General has accepted the Selection Panel's recommendations and will announce the names of those selected at an appropriate time in the future. The judges will assume their functions on a date to be determined by the Secretary-General as set forth in the Annex to resolution 1757 (2007).

In addition, pursuant to article 6 of the Annex and a subsequent agreement between the United Nations and the Government of Lebanon, the Management Committee of the Special Tribunal will soon be established. It will be composed of the major donors to the Special Tribunal and will have as its main responsibility providing advice and policy direction on all non-judicial aspects of the operations of the Special Tribunal, including questions of efficiency.

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The Hariri International Tribunal Gets Base, Judges

Naharnet

The United Nations and the Dutch government have signed an agreement on hosting the international tribunal that would try suspects in the 2005 assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon approved recommendations to assign judges to the body.

The agreement was signed at the U.N. headquarters in New York by an official of the international organization's legal department and the Dutch Ambassador.

In The Hague, officials said the court would be based at a former Dutch intelligence headquarters.

The municipality of Leidschendamm-Vorberg, in the suburbs of The Hague, said the government had decided to house the court in the building once used by the AIVD intelligence service.

Alterations to the building and other preparations would begin next year, while the court would open in 2009 on a five-year lease.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende agreed in August to host the special court after some initial hesitation on security grounds. The Netherlands will be responsible for security.

Witnesses who cannot return to their own country for security reasons will not be able to live in The Netherlands after they have given evidence.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) will try suspects in the assassination of Hariri, the popular ex-prime minister who was killed along with 22 others in a massive explosion on the Beirut seafront on February 14, 2005.

The tribunal will also have jurisdiction over other attacks against anti-Syrian Lebanese figures carried out between October 2004 and December 2005 if they are linked to the Hariri slaying.

U.N. investigators probing Hariri's murder have identified several people who they say may have been involved in the slaying, but no one has been charged.

In his final appearance before the U.N. Security Council earlier this month, outgoing chief of the Hariri probe, Serge Brammertz, said he is more confident than ever that those allegedly involved in the Hariri assassination will face justice.

He said that progress made in the last few months has enabled U.N. investigators to identify "a number of persons of interest" who may have been involved in some aspect of the crime -- or knew about the preparations.

Brammertz also said in his final report that investigators had confirmed their hypothesis that "operational links may exist" between the perpetrators of the 18 other targeted assassinations and bombings in Lebanon.

The Dutch government will take care of the six-year lease, according to the official statement. Lebanon will handle 49 percent of the expenses incurred for the tribunal, while voluntary donations from U.N. member states will pay the rest of the bill.

The Hague is already fast becoming the legal capital of the world, as the seat for several international tribunals such as the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Court.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone, which has its headquarters in Freetown, has also moved the trial of Liberian former president Charles Taylor to The Hague.


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Related materials:

- Statute of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon

- The International Tribunal for Lebanon (Resolution 1757)

- UN Report on the Establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon

- Ninth report of Hariri International Investigation Commission

- Memo for International Tribunal for Lebanon

- Special Tribunal for Lebanon Comes Into Force


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Nassim Yaziji's Neo-Internationalism

Nassim Yaziji's Articles

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12.23.2007

Baath's Crackdown on Syrian Dissent and Bush Statement

Syria: More Activists Arrested Following Opposition Meeting

Human Rights Watch

The Syrian government claims that it wants to engage with the outside world, but its only engagement with peaceful critics inside the country is with the boot of repression. Calling for democratic and peaceful change should not be treated as a criminal offense.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch

(Washington, DC, December 17, 2007) – Syria should immediately and unconditionally release Dr. Ahmad Tohme, Jabr al-Shoufi, Akram al-Bunni, Dr. Fida’ al-Hurani, and `Ali al-Abdallah from detention, Human Rights Watch said today. Authorities detained the five political activists following a meeting of opposition groups in Damascus last week.

State Security officers arrested the five as part of a countrywide crackdown that began on December 9 against people attending the National Council of the Damascus Declaration for Democratic Change, a December 1 gathering of numerous opposition groups and activists calling for democratic reforms in Syria.

“The Syrian government claims that it wants to engage with the outside world, but its only engagement with peaceful critics inside the country is with the boot of repression,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Calling for democratic and peaceful change should not be treated as a criminal offense.”

More than 163 Syrians associated with the National Council of the Damascus Declaration met on December 1 to elect a new executive committee. On December 9, State Security detained over 30 of those who attended, including Dr. Ahmad Tohme and Jabr al-Shoufi, two leaders of the movement. While most activists were released a few hours later, the authorities kept Tohme and al-Shoufi in detention.

State Security officials have continued to harass members of the opposition coalition since then, arresting Akram al-Bunni on December 11, Fida’ al-Hurani on December 16, and `Ali al-Abdallah on December 17. Al-Bunni, a former political prisoner during Hafez al-Assad’s rule, is the brother of prominent lawyer and rights activist Anwar al-Bunni, who in April was sentenced to five years in jail for “spreading false news” when he made a statement that a man had died in a Syrian jail from the inhumane conditions under which he had been held. Al-Hurani is a medical doctor who was elected president of the National Council of the Damascus Declaration for Democratic Change when the group met on December 1. The group chose al-Abdallah, a former political prisoner who already served three separate prison terms for his activism, to be on its executive committee.

All five of the activists remain in custody although the authorities have brought no charges against them yet. The Syrian authorities provided no explanation for the arrests or their continued detention.

“Real domestic political reforms have to be part of any opening up by the authorities in Damascus,” Whitson said. “A crucial first step would be to stop arresting peaceful political activists and release all those now in detention.”

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President Bush Applauds Formation of National Council of the Damascus Declaration

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
December 14, 2007

I applaud the recent formation of the National Council of the Damascus Declaration in Damascus, Syria. The brave men and women who formed this Council reflect the desires of the majority of Syrian people to live in freedom, democracy, and peace, both at home and alongside their neighbors in the region.

The Syrian regime continues to hold hundreds of prisoners of conscience and has arrested more than thirty National Council members in the past few days. All those detained should be released immediately.

The Syrian regime continues to deny its citizens fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of movement, and the right to elect a representative government responsive to their needs. The formation of the National Council is an encouraging sign to all people who support freedom and democracy. We support the National Council's principles of non-violent struggle and open membership to all the people of Syria who believe the time has come for change.

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Background:

Challenged, Syria Extends Crackdown on Dissent

Thanassis Cambanis
12/14/2007

Syrian authorities this week arrested more than 30 people who had been working for political change, escalating a crackdown on dissent just a week after critics elected a leadership committee in an unusually direct and public challenge to President Bashar al-Assad's authority.

A majority of those arrested were questioned and released, dissidents and human rights advocates said. But three of the most outspoken opposition leaders remained in custody on Thursday, and others had been summoned for questioning.

Last month, government security forces shut Facebook, the online host to a vibrant if virtual debate on the president. On Sunday, security agents began rounding up dozens of dissidents who had been meeting to create a joint opposition front, acting like a political party despite emergency laws that ban any group not connected with the government and ruling Baath Party.

The arrests followed Syria's participation in the Middle East peace forum at Annapolis, Md., which was seen in the region as a coup for Syria and a sign of a thaw in relations between Mr. Assad and the White House.

Emboldened by a sense that Syria's tough anti-American policies have paid dividends, human rights advocates say, the authorities have turned to closing the last channels of public debate.

"This goes back to what we've always seen as a problem, that the opening with the West has never been contingent on Syria improving its human rights records," Nadim Houry, who tracks Syria for Human Rights Watch, said. "It's contingent on Syria cooperating on Lebanon, Iraq and the peace process."

Dissidents and human rights advocates contend that the fact that intellectuals with no political organization, and with many leaders who are frail or in jail, still pose a threat is a sign that the government is weak.

Akram Bunni, a newspaper columnist and brother of an imprisoned human rights lawyer, was detained Tuesday; he still writes in Arab papers of the "moral bankruptcy" of Mr. Assad's rule.

"They're concerned about public opinion," he said. "They don't want anyone, internationally or internally, to see that there are public figures who might be an alternative to the regime."

Dissidents say the crackdown is, paradoxically, a sign of strength and of weakness — the government has consolidated enough internal power to re-establish "red lines" limiting public criticism of its absolute leader.

Mr. Assad briefly allowed free expression and civil society activity when he assumed the presidency after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, in 2000. But he has gradually tightened control over the small political class, with arrests and new rules. In the past year, security services have arrested not only seasoned political advocates but also people who posted comments deemed subversive on Web sites.

Still, dissidents challenge the government, disobeying a ban on public meetings.

On Dec. 1, Riad Seif, a former businessman and member of Parliament and now an opposition spokesman, held a meeting with more than 160 advocates who had signed the Damascus declaration in 2005, calling on the state to lift emergency laws and allow free speech and political organization, Syrian rights advocates said.

In a challenge to the government, which prohibits independent political parties, the dissidents formed the National Council, electing a president and leadership committee. The group includes Communists, Islamists, former Baathists and Kurds. [Editor note: liberals won the National Council elections, the council includes leftists and Islamists as well.] Younger dissidents schooled on the Internet have also spoken out, mostly on opposition Web sites and on Facebook groups. Some have ended up in prison, and others, like Ahed al-Hendi and Muhammad al-Abdallah, have fled to Beirut. "They are afraid because people online meet together, share ideas, criticize the regime," said Mr. Hendi, 23, who was held for a month after posting critical reports. "They are strong on one hand, but on another they are so weak they are afraid of an Internet cafe."

Despite contentions that the crackdown stems from insecurity, some Syrian analysts and diplomats say the Assad rule has staved off several crises and now feels strong enough to restore limits that once cowed critics.

"States around us are collapsing and there's a high perception of danger, but Syria is deterring the dangers," an analyst who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of government harassment, said. "The opposition doesn't pose a threat."

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Some related posts:

- Save Syrian People from Brutal Totalitarianism

- Syria under Totalitarianism

- The Beirut-Damascus Declaration

- Syria's Independence: Free Anwar al-Bunni

- Totalitarian Baath and Free Anwar al-Bunni

- Free Kamal Labawani

- Middle East Human Rights 2007

- The Conflict over the New Middle East and the Middle East Totalitarian Axis

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12.22.2007

Middle East Weekly Wire by POMED

These are some excerpts from the latest Weekly Wire by the Project on Middle East Democracy.

December 17, 2007


Stability & Security in Iraq: Last week, one pundit argued that the US can still stabilize Iraq if it steps up its efforts and addresses what Iraq really needs , which is “a surge of political, military, diplomatic, and humanitarian activity across the board,” which will lead to “more ambitious goals” and the possibility that “US forces can begin to withdraw.” Others highlight US counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq and the construction of security walls throughout Baghdad , writing that “While many here are grateful for the newfound calm, they say the price is an increasingly segregated city that is starting to feel like a collective cage.” Another critic argued that calling the security walls “successful” is “ only true if the goal behind them was to achieve less violence, as opposed to broader political reconciliation .”

Thoughts on US Involvement in the Middle East: Last week, various analysts discussed US foreign policy, pundits argued that the US should continue to promote democracy in the Middle East because “ societies where people can freely express support and dissent without fear of tyrannical retribution is something we should fight for and champion .” Still, others argue that “the rhetorical attention devoted to promoting freedom, liberty, and democracy has greatly outpaced actual progress in advancing democracy.” Additionally, one pundit argued for a middle ground in between unilateralism and multilateralism, suggesting a “ path of reform that recognized both the existence of new threats and the vital importance of a rules-based response .”

Lebanon’s Obstacles; Delayed Election, Assassination, and Syria: Last week, the political crisis in Lebanon continued when the presidential election was postponed for the 8th time and rescheduled for December 17th in order to give rival leaders more time to reach a deal to amend the Lebanese Constitution. The crisis was exacerbated when a car bomb killed Brig. Gen. François al-Hajj who “was a top contender to succeed Gen. Michel Suleiman, the army chief who is poised to become the country's next president.” The White House condemned the assassination and pundits weighed in and offered analysis on “ Why was he murdered, who may have perpetrated this terror attack and what could be the consequences of this dramatic development ?” Moreover, one pundit argued that the attack struck “the last remaining symbol of unity” in the country, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). Also, others noted that “ As Beirut's latest political crisis drags on, more and more Christians are leaving the country.
Additionally, one pundit suggested that the attack was “ a message to Suleiman ” from Syria. Still, others maintained that the attack was an indication that “ The Syrians are accelerating their return to Lebanon” while the United States is “comatose ” and “caught between the constraints of the Annapolis process…and the need to reduce pressure on Iran after the release last week of a National Intelligence Estimate.”

Also, it was reported that Syrian authorities began an arrest campaign last week of participants of a conference held by the Damascus Declaration for Democratic Change.

With Emergency Rule Lifted, Many Obstacles Lie Ahead for Pakistan: President Musharraf has lifted six weeks of emergency rule ; however, leading up to the announcement one critic warned that “ Pakistan is heading into a four week election campaign fraught with great uncertainties ,” in which “Intelligence agencies are warning of a new round of suicide attacks” and “Opposition parties are already complaining of electoral fraud…and others planning to contest and then protest the results .” Similarly, another analyst warned that although Parliamentary elections are scheduled for January 8th there are many “worrying signs of corruption…” and “if credible elections are not held, it will have dangerous consequences for Pakistan and the rest of the world community… ” Others warned that “Today, the only thing that unites this country…is Pakistanis' wish to see an immediate a-politicization of the army …” Additionally, as American lawyers and law students show their support for the thousands of Pakistani lawyers who have protested against Musharraf's emergency rule, one observer notes “ there is an important lesson for what American lawyers can do for restoring accountability at home.

Grassroots Counterinsurgency Efforts in Iraq: One analyst highlighted the “ Concerned Local Citizens phenomenon in Iraq ” which are groups of citizens mobilized to fight against militias and terrorists , and called them an “unimaginable success.” Others responded to the “tribal alliances strategy” and said that while “Low level reconciliation is all fine and well…it fundamentally misses the point” and “does nothing to increase state capacity .” Others say that the reduction of violence shows that the “ worst is probably over in Iraq” and the notion that “Iraq's civil war is unstoppable…” is “less certain today .”

Ahmadinejad Facing Iranian Criticism: Last week, “ Hundreds of Iranian students expressed their anger over a government crackdown on activists in a protest…at Tehran University .” Moreover, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s policies were attacked by his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami , “ who warned that political suppression, questionable economic policies and defiance on the nuclear issue were leading Iranians in the wrong direction .”

Terrorism in Algeria: One pundit addressed another analyst's suggestion that poverty may have been a factor in last week's suicide bombing in Algiers , arguing that scholars have made “a pretty persuasive case that poverty has little to do with terror …” Moreover, another pundit said that although Islamic extremists are setting bombs off almost daily in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Turkey, “ Algiers stood apart because it embodied, in agonizingly precise microcosm, the dreary evolution of this global conflict over the decades .”

An End to Muslim Brotherhood Blogging: Last week, one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood blogging movement, Abd al-Monem Mahmoud (“Ana Ikhwan”), “ declared a mournful end to the Brotherhood blogging opening .” Blogging offered many young members of the MB a way to put a human face on an often secretive organization and a means to challenge the organization's status quo and openly discuss its political platform and tactical political decisions.

“Stable Authoritarianism” in Jordan: According to one observer, the Jordanian government's claim that last month's parliamentary elections “reflected a spirited Arab-Islamic democratic example was not very credible…,” however, the observer noted that “ Jordan is neither a shining Arab democracy nor a vile police state …It is, rather, a relatively typical modern Arab security state that assigns top priority to law and order and makes no allowances for opposition forces assuming power or influencing policy-making.”

12.20.2007

News Concerning Middle East Reform

This is the news section of the November issue of Arab Reform Bulletin Published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace:


Headlines:


  • Arab Countries: New Corruption Index
  • Egypt: NDP Conference; Crackdown on Journalists; Ibrahim Trial
  • Jordan: Upcoming Parliamentary Elections
  • Lebanon: Presidential Vote Delayed
  • Syria: Opposition Leader Faces Life in Prison; Activist Arrested
  • Kuwait: Cabinet Reshuffle
  • Oman: Shura Election Results
  • Saudi Arabia: Activist Jailed; Curricula to Be Posted Online
  • Bahrain: Human Rights Authority; Journalists on Trial; Marriage Age Set
  • UAE: New Investment Laws; Foreign Workers Strike
  • Yemen: Terror Convictions
  • Tunisia: Critical Reports; Islamists Released; Hunger Strikes
  • Algeria: Crackdown on Journalists; Censorship of Book Fair
  • Morocco: Prison Sentence for News Agency Director
  • Mauritania: Violent Protests; Journalist Trial; First Slavery Prosecution
  • Upcoming Political Events

Contents:

Arab Countries: New Corruption Index

Arab Parliamentarians Against Corruption (ARPAC) announced on November 5 plans to set up an index to measure the prevalence and cost of corruption in Arab countries. According to ARPAC, the index is the core of an Arab parliamentarian centre for data against corruption. The organization also announced that it will publish detailed studies of corruption in every Arab country.


Egypt: NDP Conference; Crackdown on Journalists; Ibrahim’s Trial

Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) held its ninth General Conference on November 3-7, an event dominated by internal party affairs rather than significant policy initiatives. The main event was the creation of a forty-five-member Supreme Council (hay’ah ‘ulya), including a few members of the party’s old guard but more of the new guard surrounding Gamal Mubarak, to nominate the party’s next presidential candidate. The conference followed several months of internal NDP elections throughout the country, during which the new guard reportedly recruited many supporters. The more than 6,000 NDP members present voted to keep 79-year old President Hosni Mubarak as chairman. Secretary General Safwat al-Sharif retained his position, as did several Assistant Secretaries, including Gamal Mubarak. Click here for details.

A Cairo court convicted two police officers on November 5 for beating and raping a prisoner, and sentenced them to three years in prison. The case has received wide public attention after a video of the rape was widely circulated over the internet. Click here for details. In a related development, another Egyptian man died on November 4 after being tortured for three days while in police custody for suspected drug use. The Egyptian Prosecutor General has ordered an official inquiry. Under Egyptian law, the sentence for torturing a prisoner ranges between three and fifteen years in prison.

A criminal court in the Assiut Province convicted Anwar al-Hawari, editor of al-Wafd opposition newspaper, chairman Mahmoud Abaza, and reporter Younis Darwish on October 27 of “publishing false news,” and sentenced the three men to one month in prison. The newspaper had published an article in March 2007 that accused two NDP members of obtaining land illegally from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. This ruling is the latest in a government crack-down on independent and opposition journalists. Since September 2007, nine have received prison sentences for press-related offenses. Click here for details.

The Southern Cairo Public Prosecutor has declared that Saad Eddin Ibrahim, civil society activist and president of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, will be tried in absentia on several charges brought against him by pro-government politicians and lawyers. Ibrahim is charged with harming Egypt’s interests and economy by calling on the United States to place conditions on military aid . Ibrahim, aged 68, suffered partial paralysis and other health problems during his imprisonment in 2000-03 and is currently in voluntary exile. He faces up to three years in prison in each of the four new cases, which will be heard on November 8, 18 , 20, and December 1.


Jordan: Upcoming Parliamentary Elections

Elections for the Jordanian Chamber of Deputies will be held on November 20, with 984 candidates running in forty-five districts. According to the Civil Status and Passports Department, 2,455,000 citizens are eligible to vote. Comprised of 110 seats, the Parliament includes six seats reserved for women, nine for Christians, and three for the Circassian and Chechen minorities. The 2001 Elections Law permits candidates and their representatives to monitor elections inside polling centers and during vote counting. Independent observers and non-government organizations are allowed to “observe” but not “monitor” elections, which means they are not allowed to enter voting stations or monitor voter registration or vote counting. Jordan held its last legislative election in June 2003, with a participation rate of 58.8 percent.

The Islamic Action Front (IAF), Jordan's largest political party, dismissed five of its members on October 30, after they announced their intention to run as independents. The development comes against the backdrop of a controversy that surfaced last month over the party's official list of twenty-two candidates. Party cadres have disputed the selection process, which they said eliminated strong candidates. Click here for more information.


Lebanon: Presidential Vote Delayed

A parliamentary session to elect a new president has been postponed for the third time until November 21. Two sessions in September and October were postponed due to the lack of consensus between the western-backed ruling majority and the Hizbollah-led opposition supported by Syria. Lebanon's president, a Maronite Christian by convention, is elected by MPs rather than by popular suffrage. Current President Emile Lahoud is due to step down on November 24. Leading presidential candidates include Nasib Lahoud, Boutrous Harb, Robert Ghanim, Jean Obeid, and Michel Aoun, the opposition’s candidate.

Meanwhile, alleged maneuvers by thousands of Hizbollah guerrillas near Israel's border in early November have heightened tensions in Lebanon and prompted a probe by the UN command in the region.


Syria: Opposition Leader Faces Life in Prison; Activist Arrested

A Damascus criminal court adjourned a hearing in the case of Faeq al-Mir, a leader of the leftist People’s Democratic Party, until November 28. Al-Mir is on trial for contacting Elias Atallah, the head of the Democratic Left party in Lebanon and a leader of Lebanon’s anti-Syrian March 14 Movement. He was charged last March with “undertaking acts that weaken national sentiment” during times of conflict and “communicating with a foreign country to incite it to initiate aggression against Syria.” The last charge carries a potential life sentence, or a death penalty, if an aggression against Syria is initiated. Click here for more information.

Syrian police used force to suppress a peaceful demonstration on November 2 organized by the Kurdish Democratic Party (PYD) in the towns of Qamishli and Ain al-Arab. Hundred of Syrian Kurds had gathered to protest of the Turkish military threats to invade Northern Iraq. One man was killed and dozens injured when police forces used tear gas and live bullets to disperse the demonstrators. A number of leading PYD members were arrested, including Isa Hasso, Jamil Abu Adel, and Abbas Abu Rashu.

Syrian opposition activist Jihadeddin al-Musuti was arrested at Damascus airport on November 1 as he was departing for Cairo for a human rights meeting. Al-Musuti has spent over eleven years in Syrian jails as a political detainee in the past.


Kuwait: Cabinet Reshuffle

Kuwait’s Minister of Oil, Bader al-Humaidhi, resigned on November 5 after only eight days in office. Parliamentarians, critical of his performance previously as Finance Minister, strongly opposed his appointment. Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser al-Muhammad al-Sabah had changed nine of his fifteen-member cabinet on October 28 in the second cabinet reshuffle in seven months. Since February 2006, Kuwait has had three governments and a major cabinet reshuffle, amid a government-parliament stand-off that has virtually paralyzed decision-making in the country. Click here for the new cabinet line-up in Arabic.


Oman: Shura Election Results

Omanis voted on October 27 to elect their representatives in the eighty-four member Shura Council. An estimated 388,000 people in sixty-one districts registered to vote, out of a total population of three million. The government estimated voter turnout at 63 percent, down from 74 percent in 2003. No female member was elected, despite a record high of twenty-one women among a total of 631 candidates. The Shura Council, which serves a four-year term, may question ministers and advise the government on economic and social issues, but has no legislative power and no say in defense, internal security, or foreign policy. Click here for a list of new Shura Council members in Arabic.


Saudi Arabia: Activist Jailed; Curricula to Be Posted Online

A Riyadh court convicted activists Abdullah al-Hamid and Isa al-Hamid on November 7 of “violating a security cordon” and “instigating a public demonstration,” and sentenced them four and six months in prison, respectively. The two men were arrested in July in connection with a peaceful demonstration by a group of women against their relatives’ prolonged detention without trial. Click here for more information.

Saudi Arabian Education Minister Abdullah al-Obeid announced November 5 that all textbooks taught in Saudi Arabia’s schools will be made available on the ministry’s website soon. Al-Obeid stated that all critics who had been spreading “misleading information” about the Saudi curriculum will be able to visit the website to find out the truth. Click here for the ministry’s website.


Bahrain: Human Rights Authority; Journalists on Trial; Marriage Age Set

The cabinet announced on November 11 the creation of a National Human Rights Authority. The government authority will be responsible for setting relevant policies, addressing human rights violations, and communicating with international organizations and non-government organizations.

The High Criminal Court convicted al-Saheefa journalists Saleh al-Amm, Muath al-Meshari, and Fareed al-Shayeb on October 21 of libel and ordered them to pay 250 Bahraini dinars (U.S. $665) each. The banned electronic newspaper had published an article criticizing the management of an elderly care center. In a separate case, the Criminal Court of Appeals convicted on October 28 journalist Hisham al-Zayani and the editor-in-chief of Akhbar al-Khaleej Newspaper, Anwar Abdulrahman, of libel against the President of Arabian Gulf University, Rafia Ghabbash. The two men were fined 1,000 Bahraini dinars ($2,650) each. According to the Bahrain Journalists Society, thirty-two libel cases were brought against journalists in 2007. Click here for more information.

The government issued an order setting the marriage age at fifteen for women and eighteen for men. Both Sunni Islamists and the Shi’i Islamic Scholars Council rejected the decision as un-Islamic. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF), the average marriage age in Bahrain is twenty-eight for men and twenty-five for women.


UAE: New Investment Laws; Foreign Workers Strike

Dubai’s Department of Economic Development announced on November 4 that it will revise investment regulations to attract more local and foreign direct investment in the manufacturing sector. Dubai aims to increase the industrial sector’s GDP contribution from 17 percent to 20-25 percent over the next five years.

A week-long labor strike by thousands of foreign construction workers in Dubai was called off on November 2 following government threats of deportation. Workers had demanded higher wages and improved working conditions. Upon ending the strike, the chief of Dubai's police pledged to prosecute any employers not meeting health and safety standards at the work place. Approximately 700,000 South Asians work in the construction industry in Dubai, where labor strikes and trade unions are illegal.


Yemen: Terror Convictions

A Yemeni court convicted thirty-two suspected members of al-Qaeda on November 7 of planning attacks on oil and gas installations in the country, sentencing them to prison terms of up to fifteen years. Four others were acquitted. Six of those convicted remain at large and were tried in absentia. The trial opened in March and authorities did not disclose when or how they were arrested. Three suspects claimed to have been tortured and forced to sign confessions.


Tunisia: Critical Reports; Islamists Released; Hunger Strikes

Amnesty International published a briefing on November 2 criticizing the human rights situation in Tunisia in the wake of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's twentieth anniversary in power. According to the briefing, President Ben Ali’s rule has been marred by gross human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, torture, unfair trials, harassment of activists, and limitations on freedom of expression and association. Reporters without Borders also issued a statement on November 5 criticizing the regime’s limitation of press freedom, pointing to cases of harassment of journalists, censorship of books and internet sites, and banning of foreign publications.

Tunisian authorities released thirty members of the banned Islamist al-Nahda Party from prison on November 5. Those released include former head of al-Nahda, Sheikh al-Habib al-Louz, and four other leading members. Al-Nahda estimates that seventy of its members remain in prison. The Tunisian government began a gradual process of releasing the prisoners a year ago. The majority of al-Nahda prisoners were sentenced in the early 1990s by military courts on charges of terrorism and conspiracy against the state.

Security forces in the city of Safakis arrested six men on October 25 for unauthorized use of CDs and multimedia kits. No further information was provided on the reasons for the arrests. Tunisian security officers also arrested on October 26 Jihan Daly, a second year high school student, and charged her with collecting donations illegally and funding terrorist groups. Daly was detained twice during the past two years for wearing the veil.

Lawyer and activist Muhammad al-Nouri and journalist Salim Boukhdeir began a hunger strike November 1 to protest government restrictions on the movement of political and human rights activists. Meanwhile, Secretary General of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) Mia al-Gariby and Director of the party’s al-Mawakif newspaper Nejib Chebbi ended a month-long hunger strike on October 20. The two staged the strike after a court ordered the eviction of al-Mawkif and PDP from their offices. Click here for more information.


Algeria: Crackdown on Journalists; Censorship of Book Fair

Noureddine Boukraa, bureau chief of the daily newspaper Ennahar, was detained on November 12 and charged with libel against a local businessman. The case referred to an article Bourkaa had written in 2005 accusing the businessman of bribing judges. Click here for more information.

A Djelfa Province court convicted Dhif Talal, correspondent for the Arabic-language newspaper al-Fadjr, of defamation on October 15 for writing an article that criticized poor management in the local Ministry of Agriculture. Talal was sentenced to six months in prison. Ouahid Oussama, correspondent at the daily Arabic-language newspaper al-Bilad, was summoned to appear before the court on November 19. Oussama faces defamation charges for reporting on the failures of the education system in Djelfa. Another Djelfa journalist, Hafnaoui Ghoul of al-Youm, was reportedly harassed by local authorities for his critical reporting. Click here for more information.

Algerian authorities banned nearly 1,200 books from the 12th Annual Algiers International Book Fair, which took place from October 31 to November 9 with the participation of some 600 publishers from twenty-seven countries. According to the fair’s supervisory committee, 90 percent of the banned books promoted extremist ideologies and terrorism, a claim denied by publishers. Under the fair's 2003 statute, books “supporting terrorism or racism, harming national and territorial unity, or harming public morals, God, or the prophets” may not be displayed.


Morocco: Prison Sentence for News Agency Director

A Casablanca court sentenced AIC Press Agency Director Mourad Bourja to two months in prison on October 30 for “disrespecting an agent of the state in the exercise of his duties.” The court also ordered Bourja to pay 4,500 dirhams (U.S. $590) in fines and damages. Bourja was arrested on June 28 during an argument with a policeman outside the Spanish consulate. Click here for details.


Mauritania: Violent Protests; Journalist Trial; First Slavery Prosecution

Violent demonstrations have broken out in several Mauritanian cities since the beginning of November in protest of the rising prices of basic staples such as flour, sugar, electricity, and water. At least two demonstrators died of bullet wounds in the towns of Kankossa and Diguenni after police used force to disperse the protests. The cabinet announced on November 9 that it will introduce temporary food subsidies over the next few months.

Abdel Fattah Ould Abeidna, managing editor of al-Aqsa opposition newspaper, was convicted on November 8 under article 348 of the Criminal Code for “publishing false news” about a local businessman’s alleged involvement in drug trafficking. Ould Abeidna was sentenced to one year in prison and ordered to pay 300,050,000 ouguiyas (U.S. $1.2 million) in fines and damages. Click here for more information.

In the first slavery-related prosecution in Mauritania, two Mauritanians were arrested in the town of Guerrou on October 29 for treating two children as slaves. The suspects were charged with infringing on children's rights and depriving them of a right to education. Slavery has been banned in Mauritania since 1981, but it was not established as a crime punishable by imprisonment until August 2007. Click here for more information.


Upcoming Political Events

  • Jordan: Legislative elections, November 20, 2007
  • Lebanon: Parliamentary session to elect president, November 21, 2007
  • Middle East international meeting, Annapolis MD, November 2007 (tentative)
  • Algeria: Municipal elections, November 29, 2007


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Nassim Yaziji's Neo-Internationalism

Nassim Yaziji's Articles

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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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Nassim Yaziji's Neo-Internationalism

Nassim Yaziji's Articles
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12.12.2007

GEBRAN TUENI... FOR FREEDOM


TO THE LEBANESE SKY-HIGH CEDAR

TO THE ABSOLUTELY-FREE PHOENIX

TO THE EVER-ALIVE HERO


GEBRAN TUENI


WE WILL STAY THE COURSE,

YOUR COURSE AND YOUR WAY



THE FREE SYRIANS WHO STILL

MOURN YOU AND MISS YOU

12/12/2005-12/12/2007


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Tueni Remembered with Prize on Second Assassination Anniversary


The World Association of Newspapers on Sunday awarded a prize, named after the assassination of newspaper magnet, anti-Syrian MP Gebran Tueni, to a Lebanese journalist for writings focused on the freedom of expression.


The Gebran Tueni award went to Michel Hajji Georgiou, senior political analyst at the French-language daily L'Orient-Le Jour, at a ceremony ahead of the second anniversary of Tueni's assassination.


Tueni was killed on December 12, 2005 in a massive car bomb attack blamed on Syria. Damascus denied any involvement. "


In his articles and editorials, Mr. Hajji Georgiou has demonstrated a firm commitment to human rights, public and individual freedoms and human dignity," World Association of Newspapers vice president Thomas Brunegard said.


Brunegard also praised L'Orient-Le Jour, calling it "a major contributor to the intellectual and political debate in Lebanon, bringing balanced and insightful perspectives as well as taking bold editorial stands."


The newspaper is close to the majority which has seen several of its members killed since the murder in February 2005 of popular billionaire and former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.


The first Gebran Tueni Award went last year to Nadia Saqqal, a woman journalist from Yemen.(AFP-Naharnet)

Beirut, 09 Dec 07