Ban Ki-moon receives Lebanese memo on planned tribunal for Hariri killing
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has received a memorandum from 70 Lebanese parliamentarians asking him to act under the United Nations Charter and set up a special tribunal to try those alleged responsible for the 2005 assassination of the country’s former prime minister Rafik Hariri, a UN spokesperson confirmed today.
Mr. Ban is currently studying the memorandum, spokesperson Michele Montas told journalists, adding he remains concerned about Lebanon’s continuing political impasse, which has delayed a parliamentary vote on the tribunal proposal.
Ms. Montas said Mr. Ban hoped the relevant Lebanese institutions would take the necessary steps under the constitution to conclude the formal agreement to set up the tribunal, but also noted the difficulties described by the lawmakers in their memorandum.
Many Lebanese lawmakers have been calling for a session of the country’s Parliament to be convened so that they can vote on the proposal for a special tribunal. Although the Government has reached a deal with the UN on the tribunal’s form and structure, the Parliament needs to ratify the agreement for the tribunal to enter into force.
The planned tribunal will be of “an international character” to deal with the assassination of Mr. Hariri, who was killed along with 22 others in a massive car bombing in downtown Beirut in February 2005.
A senior UN official told journalists today at UN Headquarters in New York that it will be ultimately up to the tribunal to determine whether other political killings in Lebanon since October 2004 are connected to Mr. Hariri’s assassination and can therefore be dealt with by the tribunal.
Under the proposed statute, the tribunal’s 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).
The judges of the trial chamber and those of the appeals chamber will then each elect a presiding judge to conduct the proceedings in their chamber, with the presiding judge of the appeals chamber serving as president of the tribunal.
The prosecutor, who will be independent of the Lebanese Government, will be appointed by the UN Secretary-General for a three-year term that can be renewed as the Secretary-General decides in consultation with the Government. He or she will have the power to question suspects, victims and witnesses, collect evidence and conduct on-site investigations, and should be assisted by Lebanese authorities where necessary.
The senior UN official stressed that many of these measures were introduced specifically to ensure that the tribunal is as independent and impartial as possible, and reflects the form and structure of other international tribunals, such as those covering the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Cambodia.
The special tribunal in Lebanon has the power to impose penalties leading up to and including life imprisonment for anyone found guilty of crimes committed.
In April 2004 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. Its mandate runs out next year.
Serge Brammertz, the current head of the IIIC, told the Council last September that evidence obtained so far suggests that a young, male suicide bomber, probably non-Lebanese, detonated up to 1,800 kilograms of explosives inside a van to assassinate Mr. Hariri.