Kouchner rules out compromise on Hariri tribunal
By Nicholas Kimbrell
BEIRUT: French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has voiced concern over Syria's delay in sending an ambassador to Lebanon and reaffirmed France's complete commitment to the special international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri.
In a wide-ranging interview published Friday in the pan-Arab daily Ash-Sharq al-Awsat, Kouchner said there would be "no compromise" on the Hariri tribunal, slated to begin in The Hague March 1.
"We have given our full support and actually contributed in funding [the tribunal] from the very first moment. We will make no compromises over the tribunal. [French] President [Nicolas] Sarkozy has said this to Syrian President [Bashar] Assad," Kouchner said.
Hariri was killed by a massive car bomb in Beirut in 2005, and Syria has been widely accused of having a hand in the assassination, which triggered popular demonstrations in Beirut and led to a Syrian withdrawal from its small neighbor after nearly 30 years of political custodianship.
"This is France's stance and we stick to it - we support the tribunal's mission to try the killers of Prime Minister Hariri and his friends," Kouchner said.
He also spoke of a "road map" agreed to by Paris and Damascus, which, according to Kouchner, included a timely exchange of ambassadors.
"I'm sorry that Damascus has not yet sent an ambassador," Kouchner said, "and we've told the Syrians if the delay is for one or two months that is not a big deal, but if the delay means the Syrians want to reconsider all that has been achieved so far this would be a dangerous thing."
Kouchner did, however, note that "a lot of items in this road map have been fulfilled," like the establishment of diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria and Lebanese President Michel Sleiman's August visit to Damascus.
Lebanon and Syria established diplomatic relations on October 15, 2008, for the first time in the neighbors' history. Both nations won their independence from France in the 1940s, but from 1976 until Hariri's murder in 2005, Syria acted as Lebanon's political "guardian" and maintained a strong military presence in the country.
As part of the normalization of ties, Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh and his Syrian counterpart Walid Mouallem, agreed to exchange embassy-level mission by the end of the last year.
In late January Lebanese diplomat Michel Khoury was named and approved as Lebanon's ambassador to Syria. But although Syria has opened an embassy in Beirut, an ambassador has yet to be named.
Kouchner called this inaction "unfortunate."
On Wednesday, Syria's Assad said that the decision to send an ambassador to Lebanon was a matter of sovereignty and not subject to the pressure of foreign powers.
"We will not send an ambassador to Lebanon because Britain, France and the United States want us to. This is a sovereign issue. We are not doing it for Europe or for anyone else," he told The Guardian.
Kouchner also warned of the danger of a potential Hizbullah-Israel conflict before Lebanon's parliamentary elections scheduled for June.
Israel waged a month-long war on Lebanon in the summer of 2006.
In the face of this threat, particularly after the Gaza crisis, Kouchner said he stays in close touch with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and that presidents Sarkozy and Sleiman do the same. Sleiman, he added, would pay a visit to Paris next month.
In addition, the foreign minister noted France's willingness to partake in a broader European Union election monitoring mission to Lebanon, a move a contingent on the approval of the Lebanese cabinet.
Regarding the several challenges facing Lebanon in the coming months, including the tribunal and the polls, Kouchner sounded a hopeful tone.
"There are constant dangers surrounding the Lebanese but they have always succeeded in overcoming those threats," he said. "And we hope that they will succeed once more."
Kouchner rules out compromise on Hariri tribunal
Background - خلفية
On 13 December 2005 the Government of the Lebanese Republic requested the UN to establish a tribunal of an international character to try all those who are alleged responsible for the attack of 14 february 2005 that killed the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others. The United Nations and the Lebanese Republic consequently negotiated an agreement on the establishment of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
Chronology - Chronologie
Détenus - Detainees - المعتقلون
International Criminal Justice
Videos - فيديو
- Now Lebanon : Crowds Gather to Show Support for International Tribunal, August 4, 2010
- IRIS Institute:La creation du TSL est-elle justifiee? - June 18, 2009
- Al Manar : Interview with Ali Hajj right after his release - April 30, 2009
- Al Manar: Summary of Jamil Al Sayyed's press conference, April 30, 2009
- AFP, Freed Lebanese prisoner speaks out - April 30, 2009
- OTV : exclusive interview with Jamil Sayyed - April 30, 2009
- Al Jazeeera English : Crowds celebrate Hariri suspects'release - April 29, 2009
- OTV : report about Ali el Hajj - March 18, 2009
Liens - Links - مواقع ذات صلة
Frederic Megret, McGill University, 2008. A special tribunal for Lebanon: the UN Security Council and the emancipation of International Criminal Justice
International Center for Transitional Justice Handbook on the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, April 10, 2008
Conférence de presse de Nicolas Michel, 19 Sept 2007
Conférence de presse de Nicolas Michel, 27 Mars 2008
Département d'Etat américain
* 2009 Human Rights report
* 2008 Human Rights report
* 2007 Human Rights report
* 2006 Human Rights report
* 2005 Human Rights report
ICG - International Crisis Group
The Hariri Tribunal: Separate the Political and the Judicial, 19 July, 2007. [Fr]
HCSS - Hague Centre for strategic studies
Hariri, Homicide and the Hague
Human Rights Watch
* Hariri Tribunal can restore faith in law, 11 may 2006
* Letter to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, april 27, 2006
* STL insufficient without wider action to combat impunity
* Liban : le Tribunal de tous les dangers, mai 2007
* Jeu de mecano
Courrier de l'ACAT - Wadih Al Asmar
Le Tribunal spécial pour le Liban : entre espoir et inquiétude
La justice penale internationale pour le Liban : bienfait ou malediction?
Nadim Shedadi and Elizabeth Wilmshurt, Chatham House
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon : the UN on Trial?, July 2007
Issam Michael Saliba, Law Library of Congress
International Tribunals, National Crimes and the Hariri Assassination : a novel development in International Criminal Law, June 2007
Mona Yacoubian, Council on Foreign Relations
Linkages between Special UN Tribunal, Lebanon, and Syria, June 1, 2007