The United Nations-backed court set up to try suspects in the 2005 murders of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others has condemned this morning’s attack against three of its staff members in Beirut, pledging that the incident will not deter its investigation.
“The attack this morning in Beirut against staff members of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon is a deplorable attempt to obstruct justice,” the Tribunal, which is based in The Hague, stated in a news release.
“Those who carried out this attack must know that violence will not deter the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, a court of law, from fulfilling its mandate,” it added.
Two investigators from the Office of the Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal and their interpreter were attending a pre-arranged meeting at a doctor’s office in Beirut as part of the investigation when a large group of people “showed up unexpectedly” and violently attacked the three staff.
According to the Office of the Prosecutor, several items belonging to the staff were stolen during the attack. The Lebanese army extracted the three staff members and brought them back safely to the Tribunal’s office where they were provided with medical attention.
“The Office of the Prosecutor takes this incident very seriously and is currently gathering the facts,” it stated, adding that Lebanese authorities have launched an investigation.
Denouncing the use of violence, the Office stated that the investigation into the Hariri attack will continue undeterred by today’s incident.
The Tribunal is an independent body that was set up following a probe by the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) after an earlier UN mission found that Lebanon’s own inquiry into the massive car bombing in February 2005 that killed Mr. Hariri and the others was seriously flawed and that Syria was primarily responsible for the political tensions that preceded the attack.
The investigation of the murders is being carried out under the guidance of the Tribunal’s Prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, a Canadian prosecutor and former head of the IIIC.