27 March 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

press conference by United Nations legal counsel on special tribunal for lebanon

The Secretary-General had not yet set an opening date for the prosecution of those responsible for murdering former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 other people, but he had appointed key judicial officials of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and received sufficient funds to cover its initial start-up costs, Nicolas Michel, Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and United Nations Legal Counsel, said at a Headquarters news conference this afternoon.

He said that, in implementing Security Council resolution 1757 (2007) and its annex, the Secretary-General had selected the Tribunalís 12 judges, appointed its Prosecutor and Registrar and was in the process of recruiting the head of its Defence Office, who would be appointed in consultation with the Tribunalís President.† The United Nations Secretariat was working with the Independent International Investigation Commission, whose mandate was due to expire on 15 June, to ensure a smooth transfer of authority from the Commission to the Tribunal.

Member States had provided $60.3 million, including $34.4 million in funds already sent and $25.9 million in pledges, to cover the costs of setting up the Tribunal in The Hague and its first year of operation, he said, adding: †ďThe Tribunal should not be expected to start operating with all of its organs overnight.† The Secretary-Generalís report, in paragraph 38, clearly indicates that the Tribunal will start functioning in phases.Ē† The time frame would depend on the availability of funds, the outcome of consultations with the Lebanese Government and progress in the Commissionís work.

Speaking after he briefed the Council on the Secretary-Generalís second report on implementation of resolution 1757 (2007), he said: †ďOur mandate and our objective is to establish a purely independent judicial body which aims at establishing the truth that all Lebanese people want to know and helping in ending impunity of political assassinations in Lebanon.Ē

In February, the Secretary-General and the Lebanese Government had formally created a Tribunal Management Committee, he continued, listing its members as Lebanon, France, Germany, Netherlands, United Kingdom and the United States.† They had each contributed $1 million or more and the Netherlands was providing rent-free space to house the Tribunal in The Hague during its first three years of operation.

He declined to disclose the other contributors, saying it was up to the Management Committee to decide if and when to release that information.† Furthermore, the judgesí names would not be made public until their first meeting, during which they would draft the rules of procedure and evidence and elect the presidents of the Tribunalís Trial and Appeals Chambers.† The Appeals Chamber President would also serve as President of the Tribunal.

During the ensuing question-and-answer period, the Legal Counsel said the Tribunal only had jurisdiction over the Hariri case at present, but it had the power to extend its jurisdiction to cases that occurred between 1 October 2004 and 12 December 2005.† The United Nations and the Lebanese Government could also agree, with the Councilís approval, to extend the Commissionís jurisdiction to more recent cases deemed to be connected to the Hariri assassination.† The Tribunalís three-year mandate would be extended if its judicial process was not completed in that time frame, he added.

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For information media • not an official record