17 December 2008
Security Council
SC/9543

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

6047th & 6048th Meetings (AM & PM)


SECURITY COUNCIL GRANTS TWO-MONTH EXTENSION TO INTERNATIONAL COMMISSION


INVESTIGATING FORMER LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER’S ASSASSINATION


The Security Council today extended until 28 February 2009 the mandate of the International Independent Investigation Commission in Beirut probing the terrorist bombing that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and others on 14 February 2005.


Unanimously adopting the French-sponsored resolution 1852 (2008), the Council took note of the Commission’s request for an extension that would allow it to continue its investigation without interruption and gradually transfer its operations, staff and assets to The Hague with a view to completing the transition in time for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to start functioning.


(The Commission was established on 7 April 2007 by consensus resolution 1595, with the approval of the Government of Lebanon, to investigate all aspects of the deadly attack.  See Press Release SC/8353 for details.)


On 30 May 2007, the Council, in a divided vote, adopted resolution 1757 authorizing the Special Tribunal to try suspects.  On 21 December, the United Nations and the Netherlands signed a Headquarters agreement to base the Special Tribunal’s seat in that country.  (See Press Release SC/9029.)


Briefing the Council in an earlier meeting today, Daniel Bellemare, Commissioner of the International Independent Investigation Commission, indicated that the investigation would continue even after the Special Tribunal was up and running on 1 March 2009.  “Fast food justice is not on the menu.  And, let me be clear, there will be no indictment of convenience.”


Mr. Bellemare appealed to the Council for the two-month extension this morning, saying it would allow the investigation to maintain its momentum.  Rather than have a two-month gap between the end of the Commission’s activities and the start of the Tribunal’s, the investigation could continue as seamlessly as possible.  The extension would also provide a period of time in which the Commission could gradually transfer its investigative operations from Beirut to The Hague, while remaining operational.


The investigation had made progress since his last report, he said.  Evidence had established that a network of individuals had acted in concert to carry out the assassination and, since then, the Commission had identified new information that might allow it to link additional individuals with the network.  Progress had also been made in relation to identifying the geographical origin of the suicide bomber in the Hariri case and extensive work had been concluded in relation to the Commission’s inventory of exhibits.


In relation to the other attacks, he said there had been two main developments:  first, the Commission had found additional elements to corroborate the links already found between the Hariri case and some of the other attacks; and the Commission had found elements to link one additional attack to the Hariri case.


Stressing that he would not argue his case in the media or in public, he said he would present his case to a judge who would decide whether he had sufficient evidence to proceed with indictments.  He could not predict when the investigation would be completed; while he could direct its pace, he could not dictate its progress.  “Accepting this uncertainty, we must continue to be determined and resolute.  We must stay the course -– on all the cases within the Commission’s mandate.”


Following Mr. Bellemare’s presentation, Lebanon’s representative took the floor to express his deep appreciation for the efforts of the Independent Commission and to affirm that the meeting had profound meaning to his country on the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which concerned rights that terrorists sought to undermine by assassinating Lebanese leaders.  Lebanon had only been asking for truth and justice, and the country’s President had already registered its commitment to the process.


Regarding the Commission’s latest report, he welcomed the progress in investigations that would allow determination of the identities of those who had committed and supported the crimes.  To complete that work and pave the way for the Special Tribunal, the Council should support the extension.  Lebanon pledged its continued cooperation.


The Council then went into closed consultations, as previously agreed.


The first meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and ended at 10:40 a.m.  The second meeting began at 12:20 p.m. and ended at 12:40 p.m.


Resolution


The full text of resolution 1852 (2008) reads as follows:


The Security Council,


Recalling all its previous relevant resolutions, in particular resolutions 1595 (2005), 1636 (2005), 1644 (2005), 1664 (2006), 1686 (2006), 1748 (2007), 1757 (2007), 1815 (2008), 1373 (2001) and 1566 (2004),


Reaffirming its strongest condemnation of the 14 February 2005 terrorist bombing, as well as of all other attacks in Lebanon since October 2004, and reaffirming also that those involved in these attacks must be held accountable for their crimes,


Having examined the report of the International Independent Investigation Commission (S/2008/752) (“The Commission”), submitted pursuant to resolutions 1595 (2005), 1636 (2005), 1644 (2005), 1686 (2006), 1748 (2007) and 1815 (2008),


Taking note of the Secretary-General’s announcement that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (The Tribunal) is fully on track to commence functioning on 1 March 2009,


Taking note of the Commission’s request to extend its mandate up to 28 February 2009, so that it can continue its investigation without interruption and gradually transfer operations, staff and assets to The Hague with a view to completing the transition by the time the Tribunal starts functioning,


Taking note of the letter of the Prime Minister of Lebanon of 4 December 2008 (S/2008/ 764, Enclosure) to the Secretary-General expressing the hope that the Security Council will respond favourably to the Commission’s request,


Commending the Commission for its extensive work and the progress it continues to achieve in the investigation on all cases within its mandate, and looking forward to further progress in this regard by the Commission as well as by the Office of the Prosecutor, once it begins to operate and takes over the continuation of the investigation into the death of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and other cases which may be connected with the attack of 14 February 2005, in conformity with the Statute of the Tribunal,


Recognizing the commitment of Member States to the work of the Commission and underlining the importance of the continuation of their full cooperation with the Commission and, once it begins to operate, with the Office of the Prosecutor, in accordance with resolution 1757 (2007), in order to enable effective investigations and prosecutions,


“1.   Welcomes the report of the Commission;


“2.   Decides to extend the mandate of the Commission until 28 February 2009;


“3.   Decides to remain seized of the matter.”


Summary of Briefing


DANIEL BELLEMARE, Commissioner of the International Independent Investigation Commission, presented the eleventh report of the International Independent Investigation Commission (document S/2008/752), saying it outlined the progress made in the investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and other attacks falling within the Commission’s mandate since his last report to the Security Council on 28 March.


Emphasizing that public confidence was essential to the credibility of any investigative or judicial process, he said the public, whether the people of Lebanon or the international community, must believe in the process established to find the truth, seek justice and, eventually, put an end to impunity.  The public must believe that the Commission was professional; that it operated according to the highest international standards; and that the process it followed was objective, neutral and impartial.


Understandably, emotions were high, but there was no room for emotion or sentiment in such a fact-driven process, he said, adding that the process must be allowed to follow its course despite anxiety and impatience.  More importantly, while the process might have political fallout, it must not be influenced by politics.  The paradox was that the elements that made the process credible were the very same that made it frustrating for the observer.


He said that, while the creation of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon may, at the outset, have been a political decision, the response it was expected to provide would be a legal rather than a political one.  Indeed, once created, the Tribunal would be expected to act independently, according to rules of procedure and evidence based on recognized principles of international law.  It should not be allowed to be politicized.


Acknowledging that there was still some confusion about the Tribunal and what would happen after 1 March, he said much of that confusion resulted from the terminology.  For many people, the word “tribunal” equated with trial.  It was, therefore, not surprising that, when the Secretary-General had announced that the Tribunal was fully on track to start functioning on 1 March 2009, people had immediately thought that indictments would be filed and that a trial would start soon thereafter.


Explaining his future role as Prosecutor, he said he had been given two distinct responsibilities:  first, the responsibility to investigate; and second, the responsibility to prosecute.  Accordingly, those who had established the Tribunal in 2007 had foreseen two successive phases in the process before the Tribunal -- an investigation and, eventually, a prosecution.


The second phase could not begin before the first one was completed, he said, adding that, when he became the Prosecutor, it should not be surprising to see him continue as an investigator.  That was the very nature of the process.  “Fast food justice is not on the menu.  And, let me be clear, there will be no indictment of convenience.”


He said he had determined that, in light of all the circumstances, the time had come for the investigation to move into its “international phase” and that the time had come for the Prosecutor to take the lead from the Lebanese authorities in the Hariri investigation.  The Prime Minister had confirmed that Lebanon -– at whose request the international Tribunal had been established -– was content with the commencement date.


Summarizing the progress made since his last report, he said evidence had established that a network of individuals had acted in concert to carry out the Hariri assassination and that the Commission had identified new information that might allow it to link additional individuals with that network.  Progress had also been made in relation to identifying the geographical origin of the suicide bomber in the Hariri case, and extensive work had been concluded in relation to the inventory of exhibits.


He said the Commission had found additional elements to corroborate the links already found between the Hariri assassination and some of the other attacks, as well as elements to link one additional attack to the Hariri case.  However, it must be remembered that lives were at risk and the case would not be argued in the media or in public.  At the appropriate time, the case would be presented to a judge, who would decide whether there was sufficient evidence to proceed with indictments.


Stressing that he could not predict when the investigation would be completed, he said he could direct its pace, but he could not dictate its progress.  “Accepting this uncertainty, we must continue to be determined and resolute.  We must stay the course -– on all the cases within the Commission’s mandate.”


The Secretary-General had announced at the end of November that the Tribunal was fully on track to start functioning on 1 March 2009, he said, noting that the Commission’s mandate was set to expire on 31 December 2008, and that he had sought a two-month extension so as to allow it to function until the Tribunal started to operate.  That extension would help maintain the momentum of the investigation; rather than have a two-month gap between the end of the Commission’s activities and the start of the Tribunal’s, the investigation could continue as seamlessly as possible from one institution to the other.  The extension would also provide a period of time in which the Commission could gradually transfer its investigative operations from Beirut to The Hague.


He said the Commission had continued to share with the Lebanese authorities all the information required to allow them to make a decision on the situation of detainees in the Hariri case.  The power of the judicial authorities was absolute on such questions, but, if transferred to The Hague, the detainees would be in a position to seek new remedies before the Tribunal.


As for whether the investigative process was worth continuing from the donors’ point of view, he said it “absolutely” was.  The investigation of all the cases within the Commission’s current mandate must indeed continue so that the Prosecutor could establish which ones were connected to the Hariri case in the manner required by the Tribunal’s Statute.


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