31 October 2005 The United Nation Security Council today unanimously called on Syria to detain Syrian suspects identified by an independent probe into the terrorist assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and clarify all unresolved issues, holding out the possibility of "further action" in the case of non-compliance.
At a special ministerial-level session, the 15-member body adopted a resolution endorsing the findings of the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) into the assassination. Resolution 1636 took note "with extreme concern" of the UNIIIC's conclusion that "while the Syrian authorities have cooperated in form but not substance with the Commission, several Syrian officials tried to mislead the Commission by giving false or inaccurate information."
The resolution called on all States to prevent the entry or transit of suspects designated by the Commission or the Government of Lebanon and to freeze all assets of such person on their territory. It took this action to assist the investigation and "without prejudice to the ultimate judicial determination of guilt or innocence of any individual."
The measures will stay in place until "all the investigative and judicial proceedings relating to this terrorist attack have been completed" unless the Council decides otherwise. The Council also set up a committee to register the individuals concerned, remove anyone who is deemed to be no longer a suspect, and approve exceptions such as travel for religious or humanitarian purposes.
"Syria's continued lack of cooperation to the inquiry would constitute a serious violation of its obligations under relevant resolutions," the Council said, insisting that Syria "not interfere in Lebanese domestic affairs, either directly or indirectly, refrain from any attempt aimed at destabilizing Lebanon, and respect scrupulously the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of this country."
The Council requested UNIIIC to report back on the progress of its inquiry, including Syria's cooperation by 15 December or earlier if it deems that such cooperation does not meet the resolution's requirements, "so that the Council, if necessary, could consider further action."
The resolution determined "that any involvement of any State in this terrorist act would constitute a serious violation by that State of its obligations to work to prevent and refrain from supporting terrorism."
The Council resolved that Syria must detain "those Syrian officials or individuals whom the Commission considers as suspected of involvement in the planning, sponsoring, organizing or perpetrating of this terrorist act, and make them fully available to the Commission."
"The Commission shall have the authority to determine the location and modalities for interview of Syrian officials and it deems relevant to the inquiry," it declared.
In an interim report earlier this month the Commission, headed by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, determined that "converging evidence" pointed at both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in the 14 February assassination of Mr. Hariri, in which 22 other people also died.
The Council endorsed Secretary-General Kofi Annan's extension of the Commission's mandate until 15 December and decided to extend it further if so recommended by the Commission and requested by the Lebanese Government.
The assassination led to renewed calls for the withdrawal of all Syrian troops and intelligence agents who had been in Lebanon since the early stages of the country's 1975-1990 civil war, and the UN reported that Syrian troops were withdrawn in April.