A mixed tribunal, with both Lebanese and international participation, would best serve justice in the terrorist bombing that killed the country’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan suggested in a preliminary report to the Security Council released today.
“By mandating me to help the Lebanese Government to explore the requirements for a tribunal of an international character, the Security Council reflected a shared assumption that a purely national tribunal would not be able to effectively fulfil the task of trying those accused of the crime,” Mr. Annan said in a report that recounts key issues raised in consultations but reserves recommendations to a further date.
“At the same time, it became clear from our consultations with the Lebanese authorities that the creation of an exclusively international tribunal would remove Lebanese responsibility for seeing justice done regarding a crime that primarily and significantly affected Lebanon,” he said of the 14 February bombing, which killed Mr. Hariri and 22 others.
Following a request from the Lebanese Government and a Council mandate, discussions with President, Prime Minister and National Assembly speaker were conducted in Beirut by a team lead by UN Legal Counsel Nicolas Michel on 26 and 27 January. Then from 24 to 28 February, two senior judges from Lebanon visited UN Headquarters.
Mr. Annan said that the discussions resulted in a common understanding that it would be most appropriate to establish the tribunal through an agreement concluded between Lebanon and the United Nations. If that understanding is acceptable to the Security Council, he suggests the Council adopt a resolution to commence those negotiations.
Additional issues to be discussed in those talks include the funding and composition of the tribunal, as well as whether or not all terrorist attacks since 1 October 2004 should fall into the jurisdiction of the tribunal, since the Council has raised the possibility that the UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) set up to probe the Hariri assignation could be expand its scope to other attacks.
UNIIIC, created after an earlier UN mission deemed Lebanon's own investigation seriously flawed and Syria primarily responsible for the political tension preceding Mr. Hariri’s murder, has already reported finding evidence pointing to both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in the bombing.