Bellemare leaves for Hague
By Dalila Mahdawi
BEIRUT: As the United Nations Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) probing the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri wrapped up Friday, chief investigator Daniel Bellemare said the body remained committed to uncovering the truth behind Hariri's death.
"I want to reassure everybody that my team and I will do everything that is humanly and legally possible to ensure that the truth emerges and that those responsible for the crimes that fall within our jurisdiction are eventually brought to justice," the Canadian jurist said in an open letter addressed to the Lebanese people.
Bellemare left for The Hague Friday, where he will assume the role of Prosecutor for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), tasked with trying suspects of Hariri's killing. The billionaire and five-time premier was killed with 22 others in a massive car bomb as his convoy passed through Beirut's Ain al-Mreisseh seafront on February 14, 2005. His slaying was the first in a string of political assassinations targeting Lebanese anti-Syrian figures, which Damascus has consistently denied involvement in.
Although the investigation was moving to the Netherlands, a field office would be opened in Beirut and would "serve as a base" for the investigators, Bellemare said.
"The STL is not after revenge: it is after justice. Everybody, be they witnesses, detainees or accused, will be treated with dignity," he said.
Four former generals still detained in connection to Hariri's killing were on Thursday refused bail by investigative magistrate Sakr Sakr. LAF Intelligence head Raymond Azar, Mustafa Hamdan of the Presidential Guard, Internal Security Forces director Ali Hajj and Jamil al-Sayyed from General Security, were taken into custody in 2005 under the orders of former chief investigator Detlev Mehlis. Sakr rejected a similar appeal made by the men on Wednesday.
None of the former officials have been formally charged, but were brought into custody on suspicion of terrorism, murder and attempted murder - accusations that the men's lawyers say are based on the false testimony of a witness that was later retracted by investigators. The Lebanese authorities have agreed to transfer the men to The Hague within two months of the STL's launch, where Bellemare can push for their release or continued incarceration.
Sayyed's lawyer Akram Azuri on Friday told AFP that he was "extremely optimistic"
the four generals would be released shortly. "They have a clear conscience, they have no problem with the tribunal. They are impatient for it to get under way," he said. "If they are not freed [in Lebanon], their release [by the tribunal] will be imminent after March 1, I'm convinced of it," the lawyer said.
Earlier this week, UN chief Ban Ki-moon issued his fourth report on the investigation's progress, in which he said he was "pleased to report that all necessary steps and measures have been taken" toward the tribunal's commencement and that he would "continue to ensure that the Special Tribunal is able to achieve its mandate in the most effective manner."
Meanwhile on Thursday, a Cabinet decision to sign a memorandum of understanding with the tribunal was postponed to grant ministers of the Hizbullah-led March 8 coalition more time to study the proposal. The memorandum calls for organized relations between Bellemare and the Lebanese judiciary and will be discussed by the Cabinet next week, An-Nahar said on Friday.
Cabinet ministers did however approve the installation of cameras outside the homes of officials involved in the tribunal, as well as at the Justice Palaces of Baabda, Jdeideh and Sidon, An-Nahar said.
The newspaper also quoted an unidentified European source as saying Western countries had advised Damascus to form a team of lawyers to defend Syrian officials who could be accused of involvement in Hariri's killing. "The Syrians should defend themselves, because no country is ready to be charged" with that role, the source told An-Nahar.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, meanwhile, said Thursday that France and Saudi Arabia's support for the STL would not waver despite efforts to improve relations with Syria. "Paris and Riyadh are in agreement over supporting the STL regardless of any attempts of rapprochement between France and Syria and between Saudi Arabia and Syria," he said at a joint press conference in Paris with Saudi counterpart Prince Saud al-Faisal.
The two countries had both contributed to financing the tribunal "since the beginning," he said, adding he hoped Hariri's killers would be found.
Speaking on behalf of the March 14 coalition, Nayla Tueni on Friday said the alliance would launch a "popular movement" upon the launching of the STL. Nayla, who is the daughter of assassinated An-Nahar publisher Gebran Tueni, promised loyalty to "all those who sacrificed for Lebanon" and noted March 1 would stand as "the day when truth triumphs over crime."
Her comments were echoed by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who told the German Press Agency that the tribunal marked "a turning point toward ending political assassinations in Lebanon" and ensuring that those responsible "would be punished."
In the first statement of its kind on Friday, Hizbullah urged the Lebanese judiciary "not to submit to outside pressure and immediately release the [four former] security chiefs."
"The security chiefs' detainment is arbitrary," the Hizbullah statement said. - With AFP
Amnesty warns against selective application of justice in Lebanon
BEIRUT: The Lebanese authorities must go beyond the narrow mandate of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to ensure that perpetrators of other human rights violations in the country were also prosecuted, rights group Amnesty International said on Friday.
"The Special Tribunal alone cannot provide sufficient response to the long pattern of impunity that has persisted in Lebanon," said Malcolm Smart, Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program.
"The establishment of the Tribunal is a positive step that could help ensure justice for the serious crimes it is to investigate. But if it is to gain credibility and public confidence, it must be accompanied by complementary measures that address the grave human rights abuses of the past, as well as those that continue in the present," said Smart.
The mandate of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon was "by far" the narrowest of any international tribunal, the London-based group said. "This means that it will do nothing to address the enormous number of other grave human rights abuses committed in Lebanon in recent decades, raising concern that the justice being promoted is politically selective."
Amnesty called upon the Lebanese authorities to launch impartial investigations into all allegations of human rights violations that were not included in the tribunal's mandate, including the killings of Palestinian civilians at the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp during fighting in 2007, violations committed during the 1975-90 Civil War and reports of torture and abusive detention. "The authorities should also address the situation of four men who are being detained apparently in connection with the investigation into the killing of Rafik Hariri and whose detentions have been ruled arbitrary by a UN expert group," the organization said, referring to former security officials Raymond Azar, Mustapha Hamdan, Ali Hajj and Jamil al-Sayyed.
"The resolve to ensure justice in the case of Rafik Hariri contrasts markedly with the repeated failures of the Lebanese system to deliver justice for other political killings and human rights abuses," said Smart. "This creates a perception that some are considered more deserving of justice than others and presents a clear challenge to the credibility of the Special Tribunal."
The director added: "The international community needs now to press the Lebanese authorities to focus their attention on delivering truth and justice for the full range of victims of human rights abuses in Lebanon, regardless of the profile of the victims or the presumed identity of the perpetrators." - The Daily Star
Bellemare leaves for Hague
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