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UN probe into murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister makes ‘significant progress’

UN probe into murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister makes ‘significant progress’

Serge Brammertz briefs Security Council
The United Nations probe into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has made good progress over the past three months, the head of the commission told the Security Council today, highlighting an increasing number of interviews carried out and a growing body of evidence gathered regarding the February 2005 killing.

Briefing the Council, International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) chief Serge Brammertz said the Commission had carried out 42 interviews over the past three months linked to the case, adding that seismological and explosion experiments had confirmed the likelihood that “a single blast was detonated above the ground.”

“In the last quarter, the Commission has made significant progress in several areas by further developing crime scene leads and expanding the forms of evidence relating to the perpetrators and building the linkage and context aspects of the case,” he said, while reiterating that more time is needed to complete the investigations after the Commission’s current mandate expires in June.

Allegations of tampering at the scene of the crime, which killed 22 other people, were being investigated, while efforts to identify the “geographic origin of the bomber” are also making good progress, Mr. Brammertz added.

In the IIIC report, released on Tuesday, he said the team expects to develop a “unifying factual theory” behind the crime in the next three months or so, and pointed to Mr. Hariri’s likely 2005 election victory as a possible motive behind the killing.

“The Commission’s understanding of the facts has advanced substantially, producing valuable links within and between the main components of the case. In the next reporting period, and potentially beyond that, the Commission believes that it will be able to develop further a unifying factual theory built upon newly identified linking evidence,” the report stated. The IIIC reports to the Council every three months.

“It is of some note that Hariri was killed on the day that Parliament was scheduled to debate the electoral law to be applied in the forthcoming elections. Another working hypothesis for the Commission is that those who decided upon the assassination saw it as beneficial to kill him before he formally began his election campaign, especially given the perception in the media at the time that he was likely to win.”

The 20-page report acknowledged the full support of the Lebanese Prosecutor General in the investigation, as well as noting the IIIC’s assistance in helping probe other attacks in Lebanon since October 2004, including the murder last year of Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel.

It observed that other requests for assistance made to Lebanon, Syria and other States have “received mostly positive and timely responses,” while stressing that such help remains essential to allow the Commission to carry out its investigative work effectively. The report of the IIIC, set up in April 2005, also highlighted the effect of the “volatile political and security environment” in Lebanon on the Commission’s ability to work.