The United Nations-backed tribunal set up to try those alleged responsible for the 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri today submitted to the country’s authorities a sealed indictment and arrest warrants for an unknown number of suspects.
Daniel Fransen, a pre-trial judge with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), confirmed an indictment related to the killing of Mr. Hariri and 21 others on Tuesday, and that indictment and a confidential number of accompanying arrest warrants were sent to Lebanon’s prosecutor-general today.
In a press statement the tribunal stressed that while the confirmation of the indictment means Judge Fransen is satisfied there is enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial, “this is not a verdict of guilt and any accused person is presumed innocent.”
Judge Fransen ruled that the indictment shall remain confidential to help Lebanese authorities in fulfilling their obligations to arrest the accused, and the tribunal said it would not comment on the identity of the person or persons named in the indictment.
Under the tribunal’s rules, Lebanese authorities will have to report to the STL within 30 days on the measures they have taken to try to arrest the accused.
Prosecutors submitted an indictment for Judge Fransen’s review on 17 January but subsequently amended it three times, with the last amendment at the request of the pre-trial judge.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement issued by his spokesperson, said the contents of the indictment and warrants have not been shared with the UN.
He stressed that the STL is an independent court of law created at the request of the Lebanese Government, with a clear mandate issued by the Security Council.
“The Secretary-General reiterates his strong support for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, and for its efforts to uncover the truth and send a message that impunity will not be tolerated,” the statement said.
“He calls on all States to support the independent judicial process, in particular by cooperating with the Special Tribunal in the execution of the indictment and arrest warrants. The Secretary-General expects the new Government of Lebanon to uphold all of Lebanon’s international obligations and to cooperate with the Special Tribunal.”
Mr. Hariri and 21 others died when a massive car bomb exploded on 14 February 2005 while his motorcade passed through central Beirut.
The International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC), set up after an earlier UN mission found that Lebanon’s own probe into the bombing was seriously flawed, determined that Syria was primarily responsible for the political tensions that preceded the attack.