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Hariri murder tribunal awaits approval after UN and Lebanon sign deal

Hariri murder tribunal awaits approval after UN and Lebanon sign deal

The United Nations today signed an agreement with Lebanon setting up a Special Tribunal to prosecute the suspected killers of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his hopes that the Government will ratify it in line with the country’s “constitutional requirements.”

“The accord was earlier signed in Beirut by the Director-General of the Ministry of Justice on behalf of the Lebanese Republic. The Secretary-General designated Mr. Nicolas Michel, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, the Legal Counsel, to sign on behalf of the United Nations,” a UN spokesperson said in New York.

“It is up to the competent Lebanese authorities to take the steps necessary under the Lebanese Constitution for the approval and ratification of the Agreement, to allow it to enter into force. The Tribunal could then be made operational with the full support of the United Nations.”

Speaking to reporters after briefing the Security Council today on his recent overseas trip, Mr. Ban reiterated that he was studying the whole Special Tribunal issue and hopeful that the Lebanese Government would ratify the process.

“This matter is something to be discussed by the members of the Security Council… I am considering the Special Tribunal issue… and we hope that the Lebanese Government will take the necessary measures to be able to ratify this process, in accordance with their constitutional requirements,” he said.

A senior UN official said that the signing of the Agreement is not the end of the process but is only one part of it, emphasizing that Lebanon’s constitutional process needs to continue while also acknowledging the difficulties that lie ahead because of the country’s extremely sensitive political situation.

“The main stumbling block for now seems to be the establishment of a framework for dialogue that would produce the expected results. So that is why we are encouraging as much as we can the parties to find a way of exchanging their views, of having a substantial dialogue, and that is really why we encourage the mediation efforts,” the official said.

Last December, the head of the UN probe into the 2005 assassination of Mr. Hariri told the Security Council that his investigation into the deadly explosion and 14 other bombings was “approaching a sensitive and complicated phase.”

Delivering his latest progress report on the work of the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC), Serge Brammertz said the process of interviewing witnesses in such a politically charged inquiry required extreme delicacy.

The Security Council set up the IIIC in April 2005 after an earlier UN mission found Lebanon’s own investigation was seriously flawed and that Syria was primarily responsible for the political tensions that preceded the assassination. Its mandate runs until June this year. Last November, the Council gave its support to the establishment of a “tribunal of an international character” to try those alleged responsible for the killing.