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Head of inquiry into Hariri assassination asks Security Council for time extension

Head of inquiry into Hariri assassination asks Security Council for time extension

Daniel Bellemare, Commissioner of the Independent Inviestigation Commission (IIC) for Lebanon
The head of the independent probe into the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri today asked the Security Council to extend the inquiry’s mandate for another six months so it can continue its investigations into the February 2005 attack and a series of other recent killings in Lebanon.

Daniel Bellemare told a Council meeting in New York that the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) needs more time beyond its current expiration date of 15 June, even as preparatory steps to establish the Special Tribunal for Lebanon are continuing.

He stressed that while his team was working as quickly as possible to complete its investigations and avoid unnecessary delays, it was also important to allow the search for justice to follow its course.

“In saying so, I understand and share the frustration of the surviving victims, the families of the deceased, and the people of Lebanon who expect quick results,” said Mr. Bellemare, a Canadian prosecutor who succeeded Serge Brammertz as Commissioner at the start of the year.

Mr. Bellemare also said the inquiry would not be deterred by the ongoing bombings in Lebanon, including two deadly attacks since the Commission last reported to the Security Council.

“The Commission will yield to no pressure, political or otherwise, and the identification of suspects will be based on sound legal standards supported by concrete evidence.”

He reiterated the need for confidentiality around the investigation, balanced against transparency to the extent possible without jeopardizing the security or safety of the Special Tribunal, the Commission or possible witnesses.

In his most recent report Mr. Bellemare said a criminal or terrorist network is responsible for the massive car bombing in downtown Beirut in 2005 that killed Mr. Hariri and 22 others.

The investigation has found that the network had conducted surveillance of Mr. Hariri before the attack and that at least part of the network continued to operate after the assassination.

The IIIC is currently probing the links between members of the network and others outside the group, and what role the network has played in Lebanon’s other recent political killings.

Speaking to the press after the briefing, Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa, which holds the rotating Council presidency this month, said the 15-member panel generally welcomed Mr. Bellemare’s request for an extension to his mandate.

Council members also welcomed the progress in the investigation and backed the need to keep information confidential until indictments issued to ensure the non-politicization of the process.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN are currently taking steps to establish the Special Tribunal, which will try those accused of Mr. Hariri’s murder. It will be up to the Tribunal to determine whether other political killings in Lebanon since October 2004 are connected and should therefore be dealt with by it.