Just over four years after former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others were killed in a terrorist attack in Beirut, the international tribunal set up to try the perpetrators began its work today, marking what Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deemed a historic step in the search for justice.
“The commencement of the Tribunal's work marks a decisive milestone in the tireless efforts by all Lebanese and the international community to uncover the truth, bring those responsible for this assassination and related crimes to justice and end impunity,” Mr. Ban said in a statement issued by his spokesperson.
As the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, an independent body located in The Hague, commenced functioning today, the Secretary-General reaffirmed the UN's commitment to its mission, and called on all Members States to fully support and cooperate with the court.
The Tribunal is designed to try those accused of recent political murders in Lebanon, particularly the February 2005 assassination of Mr. Hariri in a massive car bombing in downtown Beirut that killed 22 others.
The probe into the killings is being carried out by the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC), headed by Daniel Bellemare, a Canadian prosecutor.
As of today, Mr. Bellemare will assume office as Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal and continue his investigations from The Hague.
Mr. Bellemare, in a letter that was published in the media yesterday, noted that the IIIC is unique and precedent-setting in many ways. “Like any new process, it was not perfect. But we adjusted and found solutions where none existed. And as we close down our doors, we will leave behind a series of lessons learned for others to benefit if needed.
“But one thing remains beyond any doubt: the reason for which it was created, that is to help the people of Lebanon find the truth and put an end to impunity is a noble cause that deserves our commitment and collective effort.”
He added that while the investigative work will now continue from The Hague, the Office of the Prosecutor will have a field office in Beirut, which will serve as a base for the investigators who will undertake regular missions to Lebanon to collect evidence and to meet with Lebanese officials and witnesses as required.
UN Legal Counsel Patricia O'Brien is attending today's ceremony in the Netherlands on behalf of Mr. Ban to mark the start of the Tribunal.