|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5642nd Meeting (AM)
SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS MADE BY COMMISSION INVESTIGATING ASSASSINATION
OF FORMER LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER HARIRI, SECURITY COUNCIL TOLD
Head of Investigation, Representative of Lebanon Brief Council
The United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission had made significant progress in several areas of its investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others on 14 February 2005, Commissioner Serge Brammertz told the Security Council this morning.
Briefing on the Commission’s activities over the last quarter, he said it had conducted 42 interviews in the Hariri case, the main focus of its work. The Commission had further developed crime scene leads and expanded the forms of evidence relating to the perpetrators and built the linkage and context aspects of the case.
He said results from seismological and other experiments confirmed the likelihood that a single blast had been detonated above the ground. Analysis of vehicle parts confirmed that the devise had likely been detonated from within a Mitsubishi van. The issue of alleged tampering with the crime scene remained under scrutiny. Efforts to determine the geographic origin of the bomber, based on isotope data, were also making good progress. The Commission continued to investigate issues relating to Ahmad Abu Adass, the man who had claimed responsibility for the assassination and had been associated with a number of individuals linked with extremist groups.
The Commission had significantly narrowed down its enquiries into the motive to kill Rafik Hariri to those linked to his political activities, he continued. A number of factors had shaped Hariri’s environment leading up to 14 February 2005, including the inception of resolution 1559 (2004) and the implications of its implementation, the extension of the term of President Emile Lahoud, the dynamics between Mr. Hariri and other leaders in Lebanon and Syria, and preparations for the parliamentary elections of May 2005.
On the provision of technical assistance to the Lebanese authorities regarding 16 other cases, including the assassination of Minister Pierre Gemayel and the bombing of two buses in the village of Ain Alaq, he said the Commission had conducted 17 interviews related to the six attacks targeting specific persons, resulting in various leads. It would continue to examine potential linkages between those cases and the Hariri case. Investigations into the eight attacks where no individual appeared to have been targeted were also ongoing.
In the Gemayel case, the Commission had conducted interviews, analysed witness statements, performed forensic work and conducted communications analysis. Based on a detailed ballistics analysis, it could now be concluded that a minimum of five different weapons had been used. Sketches of the alleged assassins had been publicized by the Lebanese authorities. Several individuals had been arrested last week by the Lebanese authorities in connection with the Ain Alaq bombings.
He said that cooperation with Syria remained generally satisfactory. The Commission had conducted three interviews with Syrian officials. Following those interviews, two missions had been organized to get access to relevant documents, which had elicited useful results. The Commission was grateful for the professional and well-organized support of the Syrian authorities in arranging those missions. The Commission had also sent a total of 40 new requests for assistance to 23 States during the reporting period. Almost all outstanding matters on former requests had been resolved satisfactorily.
Measures had also been taken to improve support operations and fill vacant post, he said. During the reporting period, 35 international and 5 national staff had been recruited. The investigation division now had 41 staff and consultants. Recruiting efforts would continue until the Commission had reached a satisfactory level of staffing. The Commission continued to face problems in recruiting and retaining Arabic language interpreters, translators and transcribers.
In conclusion, he said that, in light of the current and planned investigative activities, it was unlikely that the Commission would complete its work before the current mandate expired in June. In anticipation of the creation of a Special Tribunal for Lebanon, the Commission welcomed the request for an extension of its mandate.
The representative of Lebanon said that two years had passed since the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri and, in that time, there had been other reprehensible violent attacks against other political figures and civilians. All that had strengthened the Lebanese Government’s will to get to the bottom of the matter, discover the truth and bring justice to the perpetrators. That determination had been met by the sincere will of the wider international community, as well as the Council, with cooperation and, ultimately, the establishment of the Commission. That body had submitted seven reports and had worked steadfastly to find the truth.
She said that Lebanon appreciated the progress made by Commissioner Brammertz, and she paid tribute to the technical assistance provided in the criminal investigations into the initial attack that had killed the former Premier, as well as the other attacks. On the bombings of the two buses in the village of Ain Alaq, she told the Council that several of the perpetrators had been imprisoned and that cases involving other suspects were currently on the court dockets.
Lebanon was cooperating with the Commission and would call on all other parties to cooperate in a like manner, particularly in providing requested information and evidence to help with investigations. She said that Lebanon had requested that the Commission’s mandate be extended for one year from 15 June. The Lebanese Government hoped the Council would look favourably on that request. She thanked Commissioner Brammertz and his team for their determination and professionalism as they worked to shed as much light as they could on the killings. Completion of the work would help bring peace and justice to Lebanon, she added.
The meeting started at 10:15 a.m. and adjourned at 10:40 a.m., after which the Council retired to closed consultations on the issue.
When the Security Council met this morning, it had before it the seventh report of the International Independent Investigation Commission established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1595 (2005) (document S/2007/150) detailing progress made by the Commission since its previous report dated 12 December 2006 (document S/2006/962, Press Release SC/8911 of 18 December 2006). The Commission investigating the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 other victims has been 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 was transmitted to the Council as an annex to a letter by the United Nations Secretary-General to the Council’s President, dated 15 March.
In his report, Commissioner Serge Brammertz notes that, since his last report, the security environment in and around Lebanon has remained unstable. Discussions about the creation of a Special Tribunal for Lebanon remain at the top of the political agenda in Lebanon and in the region. The Commission, therefore, continues to monitor those issues for potential impact on its investigation activities and requirements for its security. It continues to maintain a close working relationship with Lebanese authorities and has also received extensive and timely assistance from a number of other States. Cooperation with Syria remains an important component of the Commission’s work.
During the reporting period, the Commission’s investigation of the Hariri assassination has expanded the scope of information and evidence being collected. The provision of technical assistance to the Lebanese authorities has continued in the 16 other cases, including the Pierre Gemayel case and the Ain Alaq bombings. The overarching objective remains to develop each case individually, while seeking evidence of possible linkages between the cases. The majority of the Commission’s time, however, is devoted to the Hariri case.
According to the report, a total of around 250 individuals have been identified for interview, and the commission will seek to interview approximately 50 of them in the next reporting period. The Commission also plans to acquire further documentary information, additional electronic material and communications data for analysis. It has narrowed down possible motives to those linked with Hariri’s political activities. The Commission’s understanding of the facts has advanced substantially, producing valuable links within and between the main components of the case.
The Commission believes that, during the next reporting period, and possibly beyond that, it will be able to develop further a unifying factual theory built upon newly identified linking evidence. The aim remains to link together the most responsible perpetrators with others who knew about the crime, those who participated in the execution of it and those who assisted in the preparation of the necessary components for its execution. Regarding other cases, the Commission continues to identify horizontal links between each case and with the Hariri case where possible.
In conclusion, the report notes that, in anticipation of the creation of a Special Tribunal for Lebanon and in light of the current and planned investigative activities, it is unlikely that the Commission will complete its work before its current mandate expires in June 2007. The Commission, therefore, welcomes the request for a mandate extension.
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