17 December 2008 The Security Council today extended for a further two months the mandate of the independent probe into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri and several other political killings in Lebanon.
The 15-member body set up the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) for Lebanon in April 2005 after an earlier United Nations mission found that Lebanon’s own inquiry into the massive car bombing that killed Mr. Hariri and 22 others was seriously flawed and that Syria was primarily responsible for the political tensions that preceded the attack.
The Beirut-based Commission is mandated with investigating 20 other attacks and has found additional elements linking some of them to the network behind the Hariri assassination.
The Council voted unanimously to extend the probe – whose mandate was set to expire at the end of this month – until 28 February 2009, as requested by the head of the Commission and former Canadian prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare.
Briefing the Council today prior to the vote, Mr. Bellemare said the extension will allow the Commission to continue to function until the day the international tribunal being set up in The Hague to try those responsible starts to operate on 1 March.
“It would allow the momentum of the investigation to be maintained,” he noted. “The extension would also provide a period of time in which the Commission could gradually transfer its investigative operations away from a Beirut base to a base in The Hague.”
After the vote, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said there would be a coordinated transition of IIIC staff from Beirut to The Hague. “The Secretary-General underlines his firm commitment to ending impunity and to the need to bring to justice those responsible,” a statement issued by his spokesperson said.
Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Mr. Bellemare reiterated that the investigation will continue even after the Tribunal begins its operations on 1 March.
“The indictments… will be presented to the Pre-Trial Judge for confirmation when I am satisfied that I have enough evidence to meet the threshold that is provided by the statute of the Tribunal, which is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” he stated.
In its latest report to the Council, published last week, the Commission said it has acquired new information potentially implicating additional individuals to the network that carried out the suicide car bomb attack that killed Mr. Hariri.
“Progress has also been made in relation to identifying the geographical origin of the suicide bomber in the Hariri case and extensive work has been concluded in relation to our inventory of exhibits,” Mr. Bellemare reported today.
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.
He stressed that it is not possible to say when the investigation will be completed or dictate its progress. “I cannot predict when all the various elements of evidence required to support an indictment will be discovered.”
At the same time, he pledged to “stay the course” on all the cases within the Commission’s mandate.
“Fast food justice is not on the menu. And, let me be clear, there will be no indictment of convenience.”
He added that, as well intentioned and committed as it is, the Commission cannot conduct its inquiry without information, resources and expertise from countries. “Member States that can help must share the responsibility in the investigation; they have an obligation to help the investigation.”
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