Ban Ki-moon sends UN legal chief to Lebanon to help break impasse over tribunal

Ban Ki-moon meets with reporters

13 April 2007 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today he is dispatching the United Nations legal chief to Lebanon on Monday to help the Government and the country’s other political leaders to end their political impasse and set up a special tribunal as soon as possible to try the suspected killers of former prime minister Rafik Hariri.

Nicholas Michel, the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, will “offer his legal assistance… to help their constitutional procedures,” Mr. Ban told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, referring to the parliamentary ratification necessary for the tribunal to enter into force.

Mr. Ban said he hoped that Mr. Michel’s trip would help to “clarify all concerns or apprehensions” that might exist about the tribunal.

In February, on behalf of the UN, Mr. Michel signed the agreement with Lebanon to set up the tribunal, but the country’s parliamentary forces have been deadlocked and there has been no vote so far on the tribunal agreement.

The planned special tribunal in Lebanon will be of “an international character” to deal with the assassination of Mr. Hariri, who was killed along with 22 others in a massive car bombing in downtown Beirut in February 2005.

Once it is formally established, it will be up to the tribunal to determine whether other political killings in Lebanon since October 2004 were connected to Mr. Hariri’s assassination and could therefore be dealt with by the tribunal.

Mr. Michel told journalists today that his aim during the visit would be to “help the Lebanese parties to talk to each other and to find common ground so that the institutional process can be promoted towards ratification of the agreement.”

He stressed that the UN had never tried to impose such a tribunal on the Lebanese, but had responded to an initial request from the country’s authorities for such a court.

“So I work in that spirit, in the spirit of an assistance to be brought to the Lebanese authorities, in the spirit of a national dialogue, reconciliation, mutual understanding towards the establishment of the tribunal.”

In April 2004 the Security Council set up the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) after an earlier UN mission found that Lebanon’s own inquiry into the Hariri assassination was seriously flawed and that Syria was primarily responsible for the political tensions that preceded the attack. Its mandate runs out next year.

Serge Brammertz, the current head of the IIIC, told the Council last September that evidence obtained so far suggests that a young, male suicide bomber, probably non-Lebanese, detonated up to 1,800 kilograms of explosives inside a van to assassinate Mr. Hariri.

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