HEAD INVESTIGATOR INTO KILLING OF RAFIK HARIRI BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL, SAYS PROGRESS MADE IN UNDERSTANDING CIRCUMSTANCES, MODUS OPERANDI

16 March 2006
SC/8663

HEAD INVESTIGATOR INTO KILLING OF RAFIK HARIRI BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL, SAYS PROGRESS MADE IN UNDERSTANDING CIRCUMSTANCES, MODUS OPERANDI

16 March 2006
Security Council
SC/8663
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

5388th Meeting (AM)

HEAD INVESTIGATOR INTO KILLING OF RAFIK HARIRI BRIEFS SECURITY COUNCIL,

SAYS PROGRESS MADE IN UNDERSTANDING CIRCUMSTANCES, MODUS OPERANDI

Cannot Publicly Discuss Details of Current Lines of Inquiry,

But Optimistic Those Responsible Will Be Identified, Held Accountable

Briefing the Security Council this morning on the status of the probe into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others, Serge Brammertz maintained that further progress in the investigation had been made, and outlined the challenges still confronting the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission, including its resource needs, making progress in obtaining Syria’s cooperation, and managing the high level of expectations, both within Lebanon and outside.

“We have advanced our understanding of the crime, its circumstances and modus operandi”, stated the new Commissioner, who assumed his responsibilities on 19 January.  “We have developed new lines of inquiry, pursued and further evaluated existing leads, and discarded others.  I am optimistic that this progress will provide critical links in identifying and holding accountable, those responsible for the crime, at all levels of the chain of command.” 

While he understood the strong public interest in learning about further details on the status of certain lines of inquiry, he had agreed with the Prosecutor General of Lebanon not to publicly discuss such details at the current stage of the proceedings.  Such a policy was necessary to safeguard the integrity of the ongoing investigation and to avoid revealing the Commission’s strategy.  Also, bearing in mind the possible establishment of a tribunal of an international character, it was critical to respect the rights of the defence and not jeopardize the security of witnesses or other sensitive sources. 

Describing the challenges facing the Commission, he noted that there were only six investigators left, out of a budgeted number of 48, when he arrived in Beirut.  Finding qualified people with expertise in highly complex criminal and terrorism investigations was an ongoing serious problem.  Good people had jobs, were not available for short-term assignments, or were not being released by their organizations.  He urgently needed the support of Member States in quickly identifying and making available qualified investigators.

Improved and timely cooperation from Syria would be a critical factor in successfully continuing the work of the Commission, he stated.  Therefore, it was of utmost importance to achieve clarity with the Syrian authorities about the legal framework for cooperation, as well as access to information, sites and Syrian citizens.  With its expectations vis-à-vis the Syrian authorities high, the Commission had already prepared several new requests for cooperation.  “The coming weeks will prove whether our requirements will be fulfilled, and our cautious optimism was justified.”

He added that management of expectation remained a key challenge.  With expectations very high, sometimes unrealistically so, the Commission had to strike a balance between the understandable interest for transparency into its work, on the one hand, and the need to protect the confidentiality of its findings, on the other.

The newly appointed Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Syria, Fayssal Mekdad, reiterated that his Government would continue to cooperate with the Commission, being keen to unveil the truth behind Mr. Hariri’s assassination.  The work of the Commission had entered a new stage, which would, hopefully, help to identify the parties responsible for that and other crimes that had transpired in Lebanon.  The most dangerous thing facing the investigation was encroachment on the investigation by some parties, whose well-known aim was to fulfil their own preconceived notions.  It had become clear that false allegations had been made to mislead the Commission and lead it to false political conclusions.

Boutros Assaker, Acting Secretary-General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of Lebanon, said the demands for the truth behind other previous and subsequent murders and attempted assassinations -- starting with the attempt against Minister Marwan Hamadé up to the assassination of Gebran Tueni -- would reinforce stability in Lebanon and throughout the region.  They would also deter the perpetrators from repeating such terrorist acts, especially because Lebanon had suffered over the years from frequent assassinations and attempted assassinations.

With regard to the establishment of a tribunal of an international character to try all those involved in the assassination, he hoped his Government’s request for the tribunal would receive the Council’s support and a final formulation regarding its structure and operation would be reached, as soon as possible.

The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 10:35 a.m.

Briefing by Commissioner

SERGE BRAMMERTZ, Commissioner of the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission, presented the third report of the Commission, which he said provided an update on the progress made in investigating the killing of Rafik Hariri and 22 others, and gave an initial account of the technical assistance extended to the Lebanese authorities’ investigations of 14 other cases of alleged terrorist acts.  The report also detailed recent developments in securing the much needed cooperation from Syria.

When he assumed his responsibilities as the new Commissioner eight weeks ago, on 19 January, his first priority was to address the many concurrent challenges that confronted, and was still confronting, the Commission:  its resource needs; ensuring continuity; making progress in the investigation; providing technical assistance to the Lebanese authorities; making progress in obtaining Syria’s cooperation; and managing the high level of expectations within Lebanon and outside.

When he arrived in Beirut, he said, there were only six investigators left, out of a budgeted number of 48.  As a result, while working to ensure continuity in the investigation, he was rebuilding the investigative team.  As of today, the Commission had 16 staff members in the Investigation Division, with 21 vacancies remaining.  Finding qualified people with expertise in highly complex criminal and terrorism investigations was an ongoing serious problem.  Good people had jobs, were not available for short-term assignments, or were not being released by their organizations.  While the mandate extension for six months had provided some more stability, 15 June was not far off.  He urgently needed the support of Member States in quickly identifying and making available qualified investigators.

Ensuring continuity in the investigation had been a critical priority since his arrival, he said.  Yet, it was important to remember that the Commission had entered a new phase in its work.  During its initial three-month mandate, the Commission naturally focused on quickly collecting information in support of, and for further use by, the national judicial authorities.  After the adoption by the Council of resolution 1644, with the possibility of a tribunal of an international character looming, a more systematic and methodological approach would be essential.

It was necessary to ensure that the investigation was conducted with utmost professionalism and in adherence to recognized standards of international criminal law.  Only then would it be accepted and thus provide the basis for a judicial process, possibly before such a tribunal.  Professionalism was not only reflected in the Commission’s investment in highly qualified staff, but also in its tools.  Adequate investigation capacity required:  appropriate information and case management; development of the necessary analytical capability and methodology for a case of such high complexity; legal advice that ensured adherence to the recognized standards of law; readily available “in-house” expertise in forensics; and adequate capacity to address witness protection needs.

With that more systematic approach, he said, further progress had been made in the investigation.  “We have advanced our understanding of the crime, its circumstances and modus operandi.  We have developed new lines of inquiry, pursued and further evaluated existing leads, and discarded others.  I am optimistic that this progress will provide critical links in identifying and holding accountable those responsible for the crime, at all levels of the chain of command.”  While he understood the strong public interest in learning about further details on the status of certain lines of inquiry, he had agreed with the Prosecutor General of Lebanon not to publicly discuss such details at the current stage of the proceedings.  That policy was necessary to safeguard the integrity of the ongoing investigation and to avoid revealing the Commission’s strategy.  In addition, bearing in mind the possible establishment of a tribunal of an international character, it was critical to respect the rights of the defence and not jeopardize the security of witnesses or other sensitive sources.

Progress had also been made, he said, in implementing the request to provide technical assistance to the Lebanese authorities in their investigations of 14 other cases of a possible terrorist nature.  The Commission had completed a first round of evaluations on all cases and agreed with the Prosecutor General and the investigation judges on what assistance was needed.  It had also started to provide, on a case-by-case basis, practical assistance in such areas as forensics, analytical and legal expertise.  However, structural problems within Lebanese law enforcement and judicial systems had become apparent.  Investing in technical assistance to the relevant Lebanese authorities was, thus, an investment in the Commission’s investigation.  However, the Commission would not be able to address the broader capacity problems alone.  It would be for the international community at large to support the Lebanese authorities through more in-depth needs assessments and targeted longer-term assistance programmes.

Improved and timely cooperation from Syria would be a critical factor in successfully continuing the work of the Commission, he stated.  Therefore, it was of utmost importance to achieve clarity with the Syrian authorities about the legal framework for cooperation, as well as access to information, sites and Syrian citizens.  By addressing those issues, the Commission could now focus its efforts on the substance of its requests for cooperation from Syria.  Its expectations vis-à-vis the Syrian authorities were high.  The Commission had already prepared several new requests for cooperation to the Syrian Foreign Ministry.  “The coming weeks will prove whether our requirements will be fulfilled, and our cautious optimism was justified.”

Management of expectation remained a key challenge, he said.  Expectations were very high, sometimes unrealistically so, and differed depending on one’s perspective.  Therefore, the Commission had to strike a balance between the understandable interest for transparency into its work, on the one hand, and the need to protect the confidentiality of its findings, on the other.  At the current stage, transparency could only mean reporting on working methods and professional standards applied, and revealing in general terms the progress made in the investigation.  And confidentiality required that the Commission not disclose information on the “investigate strategy” or harm the rights of the accused.  He could not predict the outcome of the investigation, or guarantee that it would be finalized in a few months.  But he would work to ensure that the best possible investigative result was achieved.

Statements

BOUTROS ASSAKER, Acting Secretary-General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants of Lebanon, said that the Security Council was convening at a time when the Conference of Lebanese National Dialogue had announced some decisions which reiterated the consensus of the Lebanese people and their leaders to reveal the complete truth behind the assassination of Mr. Hariri and his companions, to achieve justice, and to fix and demarcate the remaining Lebanese occupied territories.

The establishment of a tribunal of an international character to try all those involved in the assassination had been agreed upon and demanded by the Lebanese people, he said.  That tribunal, in turn, would foster their consensus and internal stability.  The issue was beginning to take its legal form, following the consultative visits and the understanding agreed upon in previous weeks between the authorities concerned at the United Nations Secretariat and the Lebanese judicial delegation.  Hopefully, the Lebanese Government’s request for the tribunal would receive the Council’s support and a final formulation regarding its structure and operation would be reached as soon as possible.

He said that the demands for the truth behind other previous and subsequent murders and attempted assassinations -- starting with the attempt against Minister Marwan Hamadé up to the assassination of Gebran Tueni -- would reinforce stability in Lebanon and throughout the region.  They would also deter the perpetrators from repeating such terrorist acts, especially because Lebanon had suffered over the years from frequent assassinations and attempted assassinations.  The truth would foster Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty, as well as help the Lebanese Government to strengthen the foundations of a capable, strong and just State.

FAYSSAL MEKDAD, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Syria, reiterated his Government’s continued cooperation with the Commission, being keen to unveil the truth behind Mr. Hariri’s assassination.  The Commission’s latest report moved the investigation to a new stage, which would, hopefully, help to identify the parties responsible for that and other crimes that had transpired in Lebanon.  The most dangerous thing facing the investigation was encroachment on the investigation by some parties whose well known aim was to fulfil their own preconceived notions.

Noting that the report referred to the joint understanding between Syria and the Commission regarding its request for the Syrian Government’s assistance, he stressed that the joint understanding took into account the country’s rights and jurisdiction under international law..  Syria had cooperated with the Commission since its inception, and the ability of the Syrian Judiciary Commission to provide that cooperation revolved to a great extent around the Commission’s need for information relating to some aspects of its work that related to Syria.

Emphasizing that Syria continued to make every effort towards cooperation with the Commission, he said it had become clear that false allegations had been made to mislead the Commission and lead it to false political conclusions.  It was to be hoped that the Commission would follow the previously identified leads mentioned in its report.  While Syria was satisfied with the professionalism with which the Commission had treated the question of confidentiality, it had had noted the attempts by some parties to offend Syria in their attempts to achieve their own special goals.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.