HEAD OF COMMISSION INVESTIGATING HARIRI ASSASSINATION REPORTS FURTHER PROGRESS, DESPITE LEBANON CONFLICT
HEAD OF COMMISSION INVESTIGATING HARIRI ASSASSINATION REPORTS FURTHER PROGRESS, DESPITE LEBANON CONFLICT
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5539th Meeting (AM)
HEAD OF COMMISSION INVESTIGATING HARIRI ASSASSINATION
REPORTS FURTHER PROGRESS, DESPITE LEBANON CONFLICT
Serge Brammertz Says 20 Major Investigation Projects Ongoing;
Forensic, Communication Analysis Strengthening Links with 14 Other Cases
The head of the independent panel probing the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri told the Security Council today that, despite the month-long war in Lebanon, progress had been made in the investigation over the last three months and in the assistance provided to Lebanese authorities in the investigation of other crimes.
Serge Brammertz, Commissioner of the International Independent Investigation Commission, said 20 major investigation and analysis projects were ongoing, focusing on consolidating the results of the extensive forensic examination of the crime scene. The DNA analysis of human remains found at the scene had indicated that several of those remains appeared to correspond to a man in his early twenties, who had allegedly detonated the improvised explosive device. It was now estimated that the device used in the killing of Mr. Hariri and 22 others had contained some 1,800 kilograms of explosives.
The Commission continued to investigate the modus operandi and was analyzing communications traffic, he said. It had also increased the technical assistance for forensic, communications analysis and interviews in 14 other cases. As a result, it had strengthened its preliminary conclusion that those 14 cases had not been commissioned and executed by 14 disparate and unconnected persons or groups with separate motives. It anticipates further links would become evident upon further investigation.
Noting that the Commission required the assistance and full support of States on technical, legal and judicial matters relevant to the investigation, he said most Member States had responded in a prompt and positive manner to requests for assistance, by providing forensic technical assistance, technological support, tracking and analysis of telephone communications, and by facilitating witness interviews. Syria’s cooperation with the Commission had continued to be timely and efficient.
Before the Council went into closed consultations to further consider the matter, the representative of Lebanon welcomed progress made in the investigation and hoped that cooperation with all relevant parties would continue and improve. She said her Government, in cooperation with the United Nations legal department, was pursuing the establishment of a court with an international character, which, she hoped, would be supported by the Council. Such a court enjoyed wide support among the people of Lebanon and was seen as an expression of hope that the country would no longer be a place for political assassinations.
Syria’s representative said that one of the most dangerous things facing the investigation was the attempts by some in the region to exploit the Commission and provide prefabricated conclusions and unsupported information. The report stressed the fact that knowing the truth and reaching a final conclusion would require a huge effort, and that the investigation must be neutral, objective and free from political interference. The report had also noted that Syria’s cooperation had been satisfactory and effective.
The meeting started at 10:10 a.m. and adjourned at 10:45 a.m.
The Security Council had before it a letter from the Secretary-General transmitting the fifth report of the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission (document S/2006/760). The report details progress made by the Commission since its June report in investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 other victims, and in providing technical assistance to the Lebanese authorities in their investigation of certain other attacks perpetrated in Lebanon since 1 October 2004.
The period 15 June to 15 September 2006 was marked by the conflict and the untenable security situation in Lebanon, resulting in the temporary relocation of the Commission to a base in Cyprus on 21 July, the report states. All efforts were made to manage the impact of the relocation on the Commission’s work, and operations resumed immediately upon arrival in Cyprus. The gradual process of moving international personnel back to Beirut has started, the report adds.
While the Commission faced delays and logistical difficulties in accessing witnesses and information as a result of the conflict in Lebanon, these problems were minimized. As a result, progress has been made in all investigative areas. The Commission continues to investigate systematically and thoroughly all leads, and continues to interact closely with the Lebanese authorities on all matters relevant to its mandate and appreciates their support. The Commission has also continued to provide technical assistance to the Lebanese authorities in their investigation of other attacks perpetrated in Lebanon since 1 October 2004. The Council’s expansion of the Commission’s mandate in resolution 1686 (2006) has enabled it to take a more proactive role in these cases, resulting in tangible progress both in individual cases and in their potential linkage to each other.
In the Hariri investigation, the report notes that the Commission continues to finalize its primary crime scene work, including its forensic research and analysis, and is satisfied that it has largely established the facts “to an evidential standard”. The crime scene and associated elements are now providing investigative leads of a secondary nature, as the Commission delves deeper into some of the issues that have arisen from its work on these topics.
The Commission will continue to develop its understanding of linkage to the perpetrators at all levels in the Hariri investigation, the report adds. In the coming reporting period, the Commission’s strategic objectives are to undertake some 50 key linkage-related interviews; collect and analyze a large amount of already identified electronic data, technical intelligence and documentation; develop its communications, horizontal and vertical linkages between all the cases; continue with its forensic programme; and develop further sensitive sources.
The Commission’s work in relation to the 14 other cases help place the attacks into the prevailing context at the time, and is beginning to produce links, notably in identifying potential conjoining motives, the report states. Establishing the depth, breadth and nature of those links to an evidential standard is an investigation priority over the next months. As the investigation narrows its focus methodologically and refines its working hypotheses, progress will be accelerated from the development of further witnesses with inside knowledge of the crime and its associated elements. The Commission is putting in place witness-protection mechanisms to allow more individuals with the appropriate knowledge to step forward and assist it in this sensitive area of work.
The assistance the Commission receives from States continues to be critical to the investigation’s progress, especially as it develops its more complex investigative themes, the report says. The cooperation that the Commission has received from Syria has remained generally satisfactory, and the Commission continues to require its full support in providing information and facilitating interviews with individuals located on Syrian territory.
The Commission’s strategic objectives are contingent on its operational support systems being able to function at the same operational tempo as its investigation activities, the report says. This is especially important in the recruitment of personnel, where the Commission will work with the broader United Nations system to ensure that employment time scales match the current operational demands.
Noting the progress made towards the establishment of a tribunal of an international character -- and given its current mandate regarding the provision of assistance to Lebanon’s Prosecutor General -- the Commission will ultimately handover responsibilities to a prosecutor’s office in either case, the report concludes. By applying the principles of objectivity and balance, and by respecting international legal standards in its working methods, the Commission aims to provide the best possible platform for either office to continue the work.
Introduction of Report
SERGE BRAMMERTZ, Commissioner of the International Independent Investigation Commission, introducing that body’s report (document S/2006/760), said the reporting period had been marked by the conflict in Lebanon, but despite that situation, the Commission had made progress in its investigation of the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others, and in the expanded technical assistance it provided to the Lebanese authorities in the investigations of certain other crimes.
He said 20 major investigation and analysis projects were ongoing in the Hariri investigation, focusing on consolidating the results of the extensive forensic examination of the crime scene and on conducting a number of important interviews, with a view to identify the perpetrators at all levels. The DNA analysis of human remains found on the crime scene indicated that several of those remains appeared to correspond to a man in his early twenties who had allegedly detonated the improvised explosive device. Further tests were taking place to establish the regional origin of the person.
Independent tests carried out in two separate environments earlier in the year, as well as explosion experiments, had corroborated the findings of the Commission regarding the characteristics and nature of the 14 February 2005 explosion. It was now estimated that the quantity of explosives used was close to 1,800 kilograms. There were also conclusions and scientific explanations regarding issues that had been unclear, such as the fact that two sounds had been heard by some witnesses, but there had been only one explosion. The Commission was examining information suggesting that Mr. Hariri had been the subject of earlier surveillance or attempts to kill him. It was likely that the alleged bombing team had known about electronic countermeasures and that they had chosen a method of attack that would not be impeded by such measures.
He said that, as a priority, the Commission was analysing the communications traffic, which had demonstrated a complex network of telecommunications among a number of individuals relevant to the investigation. That work remained ongoing and was one of the areas where comparative analysis with the 14 other cases was being pursued. The Commission’s strategic objectives for the coming months were to undertake some 50 key linkage-related interviews, collect and analyze a large amount of already identified electronic data, technical intelligence and documentation and develop its communications.
Security Council resolution 1686 (2006) had expanded the Commission’s mandate in relation to the technical assistance it provided to the Lebanese authorities in 14 other cases. The Commission had concentrated on three main areas. The first one was in forensic investigation and analysis for each case to establish the nature and location of the explosive devices used. Forensic evidence in those cases was being compared with that of the Hariri case.
The second area was the communication analyses, he said. The objective was to lift from the vast amount of communications traffic occurring in Beirut during the period of the attacks those numbers common to some of the attacks, and to link other relevant numbers. The third area concerned the conduct of interviews, where interviewees could provide information on individual cases, as well as on multiple cases’ commonalities. As a result of the work done during the reporting period, the Commission had strengthened its preliminary conclusion that the 14 cases had not been commissioned and executed by 14 disparate and unconnected persons or groups with separate motives. The Commission anticipated that further links between the cases would become evident upon further collection of information and evidence.
Regarding interaction with the Lebanese authorities, he said the Commission had continued to interact closely with the Lebanese authorities, the Government of Lebanon, the Prosecutor General and his senior staff, the investigating judges assigned to the cases, as well as with the liaison officer appointed by the internal security forces. The Commission had continued to share with the competent Lebanese judicial authorities all relevant documentary, testimonial and physical information obtained in the course of its investigations, including information relevant to individuals who were detained, and the assessment of the credibility of witnesses. The Commission was grateful to the Lebanese authorities for the outstanding support and work undertaken, especially given the difficult circumstances that had marked the reporting period.
On international cooperation, he noted that the Commission required the assistance and full support of States on technical, legal and judicial matters relevant to the investigation. Between 15 June and 15 September, a total of 39 new formal requests for assistance had been sent to 12 different Member States and international organizations. Most Member States had responded in a prompt and positive manner, providing forensic technical assistance, technological support, tracking and analysis of telephone communications, and had facilitated witness interviews.
Pursuant to the common understanding reached between the Commission and Syria earlier in the year, Syria’s cooperation with the Commission had continued to be timely and efficient, he said. During the reporting period, the Commission had submitted 11 formal requests for assistance to Syria, seeking information and documentation about certain individuals and groups. Syria had also provided documentation relating to experiments it had conducted concerning the properties and impacts of various controlled explosions. Follow-up meetings had taken place with experts from the Commission to discuss the experiments. The level of assistance provided by Syria during the reporting period remained generally satisfactory.
The Commission was satisfied with the progress made so far in the investigations, and would continue to attain the best possible results throughout the next reporting period and until the end of its current mandate in June 2007, he concluded. Those results could only be achieved with the continued support of all States. In that context, three areas were of particular importance, namely requests for assistance, witness protection and resources. During the last six months, more than 70 requests had been sent to States for their assistance. Timely answers by States remained of paramount importance, given the time constraints facing the Commission, and witness-protection measures were crucial to the further development of the investigation. Strengthening the Commission’s institutional capacity was also critical. Recruiting and retaining component personnel remained a concern, as it affected the Commission’s ability to fulfil its mandate in a timely manner. The Commission trusted that the Council and all States would continue to support it in managing those and other challenges.
CAROLINE ZIADE (Lebanon), thanking the Council for having so closely followed the question of the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri and commending the Commission’s efforts, said the report reflected professional and precise work. She welcomed progress made in the investigation into the murder of Mr. Hariri and other crimes, and hoped that cooperation with all relevant parties would continue and improve.
She said her Government, in cooperation with the United Nations legal department, was pursuing the establishment of a court with an international character, which, she hoped, would be supported by the Council. Such a court enjoyed wide support among the people of Lebanon and was seen as an expression of hope that the country would no longer be a place for political assassinations. Lebanon would continue to insist on the uncovering of the whole truth regarding the death of Mr. Hariri and other crimes.
BASHAR JA’AFARI (Syria) welcomed Mr. Brammertz’ presentation of his third periodic report, which noted significant milestones in Syria’s efforts to fulfil its obligations and its continued cooperation on all levels, as well as its efforts to provide information in accordance with agreed deadlines. Syria’s cooperation with the Commission was based on its keenness to help to find the truth about the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri and to reveal the parties responsible for the crime. The report also provided a description of the technical matters on which the Commission was working, including the crime scene and the alleged tools that had been used to perpetrate the crime. He hoped the investigation would reveal the parties responsible.
In that regard, he said he wished to repeat what had been said on previous occasions, that one of the most dangerous things facing the investigation was the attempts by some in the region to exploit the Commission and provide prefabricated conclusions and unsupported information. The report stressed the fact that knowing the truth and reaching a final conclusion would require a huge effort. Indeed, Mr. Brammertz had reaffirmed today that the investigation must be neutral, objective and free from political interference.
While he would not go into the details of the report, he said it noted that Syria’s cooperation had been satisfactory and effective. Syria had cooperated fully, completely and continuously with the Commission, since the beginning of its work until the present time. The ad hoc judicial committee established by Syria to follow up with its cooperation to the Commission had responded to all of the requests for help. The accuracy of the demands presented to the ad hoc committee had allowed it to provide the Commission with the information it requested in a short period of time. The report noted Syria’s response to the Commission in terms of documentation and assistance, as well as the satisfactory level of its response to the Commission’s requests for setting up interviews.
Continuing, he said Syria had noted the importance the Commission attached to looking into new hypotheses regarding the assassination. In that regard, he stressed the importance of scrutinizing all forms of evidence and of examining it in a manner that followed international investigative procedures. Those who had provided false testimony should stand before the judicial parties and be required to reveal the persons who had forced them to provide false testimony. The Commission had made huge efforts within its expanded mandate to investigate the terrorist crimes committed in Lebanon since 1 October 2004.
In that context, he said, many, in Lebanon in particular and the region in general, would have expected the Council to attach importance to the war crimes and crimes against humanity that had been perpetrated recently during the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon. It was important that the investigation also emphasize the terrorist crimes that had resulted in the assassination of two brothers this year. The Commission’s mandate should include that crime, and others.
He said the Commission needed time and resources to continue its work to reach a level of actual evidence free from false hypotheses. Syria, through its ad hoc committee, would continue to cooperate with the Commission as long as it remained professional and expert. Syria would work to reveal the truth, which was in his country’s interest.
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