|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5790th Meeting (PM)
HEAD OF INVESTIGATION INTO RAFIQ HARIRI ASSASSINATION BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL;
SAYS SATISFIED WITH PROGRESS, CONFIDENT OF SUCCESSFUL CONCLUSION
In Final Appearance, Serge Brammertz Highlights Important Results,
Commission’s Work to Ensure Easy Transition to Lebanon Special Tribunal
“When I am asked whether I am satisfied with the progress made so far, my answer is absolutely yes,” the head of the International Commission investigating the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the former Prime Minister of Lebanon, told the Security Council this afternoon.
Briefing the Council for the last time in his capacity as the Commissioner of the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission, Serge Brammertz said that, despite numerous challenges, important results had been achieved in many areas of the investigation. Based on the progress made in recent months, he was more confident and optimistic than ever that the investigation could be concluded successfully. To achieve that result, it was of paramount importance that the Commission continued to receive the administrative support it needed, particularly in the area of recruitment and staff retention.
While focused on continuing the investigation, the Commission was also working to ensure an easy transition to the Office of the Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon when the latter began functioning. The Commission’s consolidated reports were being kept up to date and supplemented by a number of other analytical products, and several projects were being developed related to the management, storage and eventual handover of sizeable amounts of data, documents, exhibits and other information. The Commission and also worked with the team set up to oversee the transition on the important issue of witness protection.
Describing the Commission’s activities, he said that, over the past four months, it had continued to pursue the investigation into the assassination of the former Prime Minister and 22 others in February 2005, and had continued to assist the Lebanese authorities in their investigations of 18 other cases of bombings and targeted assassinations in Lebanon since October 2004. That growing list of cases included the assassination of Member of Parliament Antoine Ghanem, killed on 19 September in eastern Beirut. He had been the sixth Member of Parliament killed in Lebanon since 2005. With the investigation still at an early stage, initial findings indicated that the perpetrators had been able to conduct surveillance and mobilize a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device within a very short window of time. Preliminary results suggested that the perpetrators had operational capabilities available in Beirut.
The Commission had focused on the implementation of detailed action plans in each area of the Hariri case, he continued. Since his last briefing, it had conducted more than 70 interviews in Lebanon and a number of other countries, and had engaged in other investigative actions, particularly in the field of forensics and communications analysis. Progress had been made in several areas, including the facts surrounding two males who had bought the Mitsubishi van used in the attack; the area where the suicide bomber might be from and how and when he might have entered Lebanon; the person who had disappeared with Ahmed Abu Adass and his possible links to extremist groups; and deeper analysis of the structures, capacities, information flow and reporting lines of certain organizations of relevance to the investigation. Technical assistance to the Lebanese authorities included over 40 interviews conducted by the Commission in the reporting period, as well as provision of important results from forensic examinations of those cases.
Emphasizing the importance of striking a balance between transparency and the Commission’s duty to protect the confidentiality of its investigation, he said that managing expectations remained an important challenge. As investigative tracks had advanced, the scope of the investigation had narrowed. The Commission was increasingly cautious in managing information linked to the investigations. That approach had been taken in full agreement with the Lebanese judicial authorities in order to provide security for people who cooperated or wished to cooperate, to protect the rights or potential suspects and -- not least -- to ensure security of the Commission’s staff. Heightened emphasis on confidentiality had also been taken in light of the transition to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, in order not to compromise any possible future legal process.
Having inherited a very small team of six investigators upon his arrival in Beirut almost two years ago, he had immediately started to build a more robust investigation division, he said. Today, the division consisted of 47 international staff and was supported by the administrative, language and security sections. Over the following months, the Commission had launched 24 concurrent investigative and 66 forensic projects, the majority of which had been concluded. Three central questions addressed by the investigators related to how the attack on 14 February 2005 had been planned and executed; who had prepared and carried it out; and why Mr. Hariri had been killed. Initially, the emphasis had been placed on crime scene investigations, using advanced forensic techniques. Databases containing physical and biological exhibits, DNA profiles, sketches and other information would be an important legacy of the Commission.
He went on to describe several other projects and said that, based on hundreds of interviews and examinations, the Commission had been able to answer – or significantly narrow down its investigations into many questions. At the same time, the list of possible motives for the crime had been progressively narrowed mainly to those linked with Mr. Hariri’s political activities, without excluding the possibility that motive might have arisen from a combination of factors. The focus had also been placed on reviewing the evidence in an objective and methodical manner in order to establish links between the crime scene, the physical perpetrators and the remote perpetrators.
He said the Commission had identified a number of persons of interest who might have been involved in the preparation and execution of the crime or who might have been aware of the plan to carry out the attack. In the past, the Commission had noted the existence of possible commonalities between the nature, the modus operandi, the profile of the victims and possible motives in 18 attacks investigated by the Lebanese authorities, as well as those cases and the Hariri case. Recent findings appeared to indicate that some operational links might exist between some of the perpetrators in various attacks. Confirming those links would be one of the Commission’s highest priorities in the months to come.
Operating under difficult conditions, the Lebanese law enforcement community faced some challenges in investigating crimes, due in part to the lack of specific expertise. Limited progress had been achieved in that regard, particularly in the area of crime scene investigations and cooperation between law enforcement agencies. Increased international support would be needed to remedy those shortcomings. Few results could have been achieved without productive cooperation between the Commission and the Lebanese authorities, which included almost daily meetings with the Prosecutor and his staff, as well as meetings with the investigating judges in each of the targeted attacks.
Based on the understanding reached with the Syrian authorities in January 2006, cooperation had improved considerably, he added. The Commission had been able to interview a number of Syrian officials, including at the highest echelon of the State, access archives and successfully conduct numerous missions to Syria. That cooperation remained essential to the successful completion of the Commission’s mandate. Also of paramount importance was cooperation with other States. The Commission continued to rely on all States to provide information, make individuals available for interviews and provide technical support, as requested.
As for when the investigation would be completed, he said that an investigation was never an exact science. The completion of the investigation would depend on the final results of several ongoing projects and on cooperation of all States. Equally important would be the Commission’s capacity -- and in the next phase, the ability of the Office of the Prosecutor -- to encourage additional witnesses to come forward.
Following the briefing, Council President Marcello Spatafora ( Italy) warmly thanked Commissioner Brammertz for his outstanding performance in addressing a “difficult and challenging mandate” in a “delicate” political environment. With the Commissioner moving to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, where he would soon become Prosecutor, he said that the Commission’s loss would be the gain of the Tribunal. The President also warmly welcomed the new Commissioner, Daniel Bellemare, who would also serve as the Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal.
The representative of Lebanon congratulated Mr. Brammertz, the “honest” Commissioner for his “studious” work. Mr. Brammertz and his team had managed to narrow the scope of the investigation concerning the circumstances surrounding the assassination of Mr. Hariri. The Commission had provided a more specific clarification of the motives of the assassination. Numerous findings had proved the hypothesis of a practical and operational link between the perpetrators of the crime and those of other acts. Above all, the Commission had found that teams of perpetrators were still free to move and that they had broad operational capacities.
The ninth report of the Investigation Commission is contained in document S/2007/684.
The meeting started at 3:10 p.m. and was adjourned at 3:40 p.m.
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