By Dalila Mahdawi
BEIRUT: Lebanon's judiciary will wholly comply with all decisions made by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon prosecuting suspects in the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri, Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar said on Thursday.
Five-time Premier Hariri was killed with 22 others in a massive car bomb as his convoy drove through Beirut's Ain al-Mreisse seafront on February 14, 2005. His murder, the first in a string of similar assassinations, was widely blamed on Syria, though Damascus denies involvement.
The United Nations established the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) in 2005 to assist the Lebanese in their investigation into Hariri's murder. It will wrap up on Friday to make way for The Special Tribunal in The Hague, which will begin working toward prosecuting suspects on Sunday.
"No one in Lebanon would understand that a criminal, whose liability or culpability is established, is not to be punished, wherever he might be, whoever he might be," Najjar said at the press conference.
"The Lebanese judicial authorities have agreed to hand over all documents in the Hariri murder case and detainees to the tribunal," the minister said, adding he did "not want any party" interfering with the judiciary's decisions.
Reading from an open letter addressed to the Tribunal, Najjar said Lebanon's "future depends on the battle you wage in the face of crime and the lack of consciousness that threatens regional and international peace."
"Lebanon, with all its sects and parties, receives with trust the news of the beginning of the court's work as decided by the UN secretary general and Security Council," the minister said, adding he was optimistic Hariri's killers would be brought to justice. "As of Sunday, a denial of justice, a lack of charges, a delay in the publication of indictments from your [tribunal's] side, seems impossible."
That four former generals detained since 2005 for suspected involvement in Hariri's killing remained in custody was a "judicial matter," Najjar said. He was referring to LAF Intelligence head Raymond Azar, Mustapha Hamdan of the presidential guard, Internal Security Forces Director Ali Hajj and Jamil al-Sayyed from General Security, whose arrests were ordered by former chief investigator Detlev Mehlis. The men submitted a request on Thursday asking for their immediate release after investigative magistrate Sakr Sakr rejected a similar appeal on Wednesday. None of the men have been formally charged, but remain in custody on suspicion of terrorism, murder and attempted murder.
Three other civilian suspects detained since 2005 and 2006 were released on Wednesday on bail, although it was not clear on what grounds. The release of the men - Lebanese brothers Ahmad and Mahmoud Abdel Aal and Syrian national Ibrahim Jarjura - was not politically motivated, Najjar said.
Mahmoud and Ahmad Abdel Aal, who belong to the pro-Syrian Sunni Muslim Al-Ahbash group, were detained in October 2005. Jarjura was taken into custody in January 2006. Initial IIIC findings alleged Mahmoud Abdel Aal called former President Emile Lahoud's mobile phone shortly before Hariri's assassination. But the office of Lahoud, a Syrian ally and Hariri rival, denied ever receiving the call.
To celebrate the release of the Abdel Aal's, the Al-Ahbash party on Thursday organized a rally in Beirut, attended by the men's family and party supporters. "We are free today but we were also free behind the bars," said Mahmoud in an animated speech. "We always did the right thing and we shall always do so, God willing," he told the crowd, thanking his family and the party for continual support throughout his incarceration. The Al-Ahbash party was a lawful, just and moderate group, he added.
Head of Al-Ahbash, Skeikh Hussam Qaraqirah, also took to the podium. "Despite the attacks against us over the last three years, we never lost our tempers and stuck to our moderate stance," he said of the Al-Ahbash, adding that the party's mission was to "spread moderate Islam" rather than violence.
Najjar's press briefing came as recently appointed Special Tribunal spokesperson Peter Foster gave an interview saying the trials would not operate under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which lays out the Security Council's powers to uphold peace. The four detained generals would likely be transferred to The Hague soon, Foster said in an interview with Iranian television channel al-Aalam al-Ikhabiriya, adding that heads of state could be called to appear in court.
Also on Thursday, chief UN investigator Daniel Bellemare paid a final visit to Interior Minister Ziad Barroud ahead of his departure to The Hague.
February 27, 2009 - Daily Star - Najjar tells Tribunal Lebanon's future 'depends on the battle you wage'
By Dalila Mahdawi
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