The independent inquiry into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri has acquired new information potentially implicating additional individuals to the network that carried out the suicide car bomb attack, according to a new report to the Security Council released today.
In its report, the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) requests a two-month extension of its mandate until 28 February to prevent any break in the inquiry before the international Special Tribunal becomes on operation on 1 March.
“For every inch of progress there is a mile of effort,” the IIIC stresses, thanking the Lebanese security forces for “their relentless and effective support and assistance” in protecting its staff and premises, without which it could not continue its work.
It also reports that cooperation provided by the Syrian authorities continues to be generally satisfactory.
The Council was set up the IIIC in April 2005 after an earlier UN mission found that Lebanon’s own inquiry into the massive car bombing that killed Mr. and 22 others was seriously flawed and that Syria was primarily responsible for the political tensions that preceded the attack. It has also been mandated with investigating 20 other attacks and has found additional elements linking some of them to the network behind the Hariri assassination.
“Those responsible for the attacks were professional and took extensive measures to cover their tracks and hide their identity. Much of the Commission’s activity at this point in the investigation focuses on piercing this smokescreen to get at the truth,” the report says, stressing that the panel has faced difficulties in obtaining potentially sensitive information for investigative purposes.
While the vast majority of formal requests for assistance for specific information sent to Member States are responded to in a timely and comprehensive manner, the Commission notes that late or incomplete responses slow progress in the investigation.
“There remains a significant amount of additional investigation work that must be undertaken in all the cases within the Commission’s mandate,” the report concludes. “The Prosecutor (at the new Special Tribunal) will therefore need to continue the investigation into these cases once he assumes his office in order to establish which cases are connected to the Hariri case.”
Announcing earlier this month that the tribunal is on track to begin its work on 1 March, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said IIIC staff in Beirut would gradually transfer to The Hague starting on 1 January. “This will be carried out in a manner that ensures that there is no interruption to the IIIC investigation,” he noted.