|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5719th Meeting (AM)
Chief of Hariri assassination investigation briefs Security Council,
says number of individuals identified who may have been involved
Tells Council Continued Probe of Those Persons Top Priority in Coming Months;
Adds Commission Ready to Cooperate with Special Tribunal to Ensure Smooth Handover
Chief investigator Serge Brammertz told the Security Council today that the independent commission charged with probing the assassination of Rafik Hariri has identified a “number of persons” who may have been involved in the former Lebanese Premier’s death, and that investigators were zeroing in on possible motives for the killing.
Mr. Brammertz, Commissioner of the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission, also revealed that the probe had developed DNA and fingerprint databases, which were being used to identify possible matches using other similar databases. The Commission was investigating new information about the buyers of the Mitsubishi van used in the massive 2005 car bomb attack which killed Mr. Hariri and 22 others in Beirut.
Briefing the Council on the Commission’s progress, he said that consolidated information on Mr. Hariri’s assassination and 17 other murders or attempted murders in conflict-wracked Lebanon had helped identify “important aspects and individuals of common interest across several areas of the investigation”. On the forensic aspects of the investigation, the Commission had consolidated more than 10,000 pages of information and forensic reports since 2005, and had reviewed dozens of experiments and examinations undertaken by the panel and by external experts on the Hariri case.
Regarding the improvised explosive device used in the attack, the consolidated results confirmed the Commission’s conclusions about the type and quantity of the explosives, the initiating system and the container used to carry the device, as well as the exact circumstances of the blast. Investigations were ongoing to trace the precise origin of the explosives and to establish possible forensic links with other cases.
Mr. Brammertz said that, in the last reporting period, during which 32 interviews had been conducted on the Hariri case, special emphasis had been placed on the investigation related to the Mitsubishi Canter van used to carry the improvised explosive device. While it was known that the vehicle had been stolen in Japan before being shipped to the United Arab Emirates and then transported to northern Lebanon in December 2004, the Commission was currently working on new information regarding the sale of the van to individuals who could be involved in its final preparation for the attack.
The Commission had also brought together and advanced its investigations regarding the suicide bomber, he said. Forensic analyses using samples collected in a number of locations had allowed investigators to narrow down the countries where the suicide bomber could originate from, and those experiments were currently ongoing. The Commission continued to further its understanding of the motives to assassinate Rafik Hariri, he added. Some aspects related to the motives had been resolved to the Commission’s satisfaction, including, among others, the role of the Bank Al Madina affair.
He said that the Commission was concentrating on Mr. Hariri’s political activities and on the political events and dynamics in the period leading up to the attack, as those most probably had shaped the motive for the assassination. That included the adoption of Security Council resolution 1559 (2004), the events surrounding the extension of President Emile Lahoud and the perceived outcomes of the 2005 parliamentary elections.
Following a detailed review of information and findings, the Commission’s investigators had identified a number of persons who presented a particular interest to the investigation into the assassination. The findings suggested that those individuals might have been involved in some aspects of the planning or execution of the attack or that they could have known that such a plan had been under way. “This line of the investigation will be a priority for the Commission in the next few months,” he said.
The Commission had conducted a similar consolidation of its findings in each of the 17 other cases where it was mandated to provide technical assistance to the Lebanese authorities, he said. Over 400 pages of consolidated reports had been produced on those cases and the findings from 25 forensic examinations undertaken by the Commission and by external experts had been reviewed. In all, the Commission had conducted 27 interviews on the targeted attacks during the reporting period. Some 25 interviews had been conducted on the nine attacks where no individuals had been targeted, including the Ain Alaq bombings of February 2007.
In the attacks which had targeted Marwan Hamedeh, Samir Kassir, George Hawi, Elias el Murr, May Chidiac, Gebran Tueni and Pierre Gemayel, investigators had focused on analysing threats and claims of responsibility, determining possible motives, examining and comparing the modus operandi, drawing up a profile of each victim and attempting to determine possible commonalities. The Commission also continued to look into possible links between those cases and the Hariri case.
He noted that, on 13 June 2007, Member of Parliament Walid Eido, his son and six other people had been killed by an improvised explosive device in central Beirut. Following the Lebanese Prime Minister’s request for help from the United Nations, the Commission had been tasked to provide technical assistance to the Lebanese investigation into the attack. A team of the Commission’s forensic experts had completed a two-week examination of the crime scene and the panel was currently awaiting the results before proceeding with comparative analyses.
Turning to cooperation, he said the Commission continued to maintain a “close and collegial” relationship with the Lebanese judicial authorities, who had been regularly informed about the progress made in all investigations. Since the last briefing to the Council, the Commission had made 88 requests for assistance to the Prosecutor General of Lebanon and responses had been fully and expeditiously provided. Cooperation with Syria remained “generally satisfactory”, and Damascus had provided timely responses to the Commission’s 11 requests for assistance during the reporting period.
He then told the Council that the security situation in Lebanon had deteriorated since his last briefing. The Commission was very mindful of the prevailing security conditions and of specific threats due to the nature of its work, and, during the reporting period, a number of additional mitigating measures had been put in place. In that regard, the Commission noted that the security of witnesses and persons who cooperated with the panel needed to be guaranteed. That remained a priority for the Commission and would also have to be addressed by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in a timely manner.
Wrapping up his briefing, he reiterated that the comprehensive consolidation effort had revealed “a number of commonalities across cases”. Based on those results, the Commission had produced detailed work plans in each area under investigation. Those plans would help to make the best possible use of the Commission’s limited resources in the next few months.
Against the backdrop of Council resolution 1757 (2007), the confidential consolidated reports would provide a useful starting point in the transition from the Commission to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, he said. That process would be facilitated by a state-of-the-art information management system established by the Commission based on the best practices used in international tribunals. The Commission stood ready to cooperate with the Council and the Special Tribunal to ensure a smooth handover at the time when that newly established court began its functions.
Following the briefing, Lebanon’s representative praised Mr. Brammertz’s efforts and said that Council resolution 1757, which had led to the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, would put an end to impunity, contribute to deterring all those who would continue their terrorist activities and enhance the country’s stability. Commending the Commission’s professionalism, he welcomed the clear progress that the investigation had made and noted that the panel had started taking measures to provide the best conditions for the transition of its work to the International Tribunal.
He emphasized the Lebanese Government’s keenness for the Commission’s security and the safety of its personnel. Political assassinations and terrorist explosions would not be allowed to attack one of the pillars of Lebanese and international justice. The Council’s commitment towards Lebanon’s stability was reiterated every time it condemned the terrorist acts, which had sought to destabilize Lebanon’s diversity, openness and respect for personal and public freedom. Today’s meeting represented the interrelation between justice and stability, and the Council’s quest for peace and security.
The meeting began at 10:15 a.m. and ended at 10:35 a.m.
When the Council met, it had before it a letter from the Secretary-General (document S/2007/424) of 12 July to the Council’s President, transmitting the eighth report of the International Independent Investigation Commission, which describes progress made since the previous report dated 15 March (document S/2007/150) in investigating the February 2005 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 a number of other attacks perpetrated in Lebanon since 1 October 2004.
The report provides information on the Commission’s priority work in the investigation of the Hariri case and into 17 other cases, including the assassination of the former Member of Parliament, Walid Eido, in June 2007. The Commission completed a comprehensive review of all its information, analysis and findings on all past and current investigations, which has, among other things, allowed the Commission to refine its work plans for the next reporting period.
The report notes that the Commission continued to receive generally positive responses to its Request for Assistance to Lebanon, Syria and other States, stating that cooperation from all States remains crucial. In light of the establishment of a Special Tribunal for Lebanon (Council resolution 1757), the Commission has taken several steps to facilitate the handover from the Commission to the Tribunal at a time when the latter shall begin functioning.
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