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U.N. Security Council Establishes Lebanon Court

30 May 2007

Tribunal a deterrent to political assassinations, U.S. says

United Nations -- The U.N. Security Council voted May 30 to establish a special tribunal to hear cases arising from the international investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. 

The resolution, sponsored by Belgium, France, Italy, Slovakia, United Kingdom and the United States, puts into effect a November 2006 agreement between the United Nations and the Lebanese government to establish a Special Tribunal for Lebanon to try all those responsible for the “terrorist crime" of Hariri’s murder.

Welcoming the Security Council vote establishing an international tribunal for Lebanon, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad said "the council has demonstrated its commitment to the principal that there shall be no impunity for political assassinations in Lebanon or elsewhere.”

Hariri and others were killed in a bombing in February 2005 in Beirut. That same month, the United States recalled its ambassador to Syria over suspected Syrian involvement in the assassination. (See related article.)

"The tribunal will also serve to deter future political assassinations.  Those who might be tempted to commit similar crimes will know there will be consequences for perpetuating political violence and intimidation in Lebanon," Khalilzad said in a May 30 speech to the council after the vote. 

Adopted under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which makes the action binding on all states, the resolution provides that the tribunal will be established on June 10, unless the Lebanese government already has created it.

The vote was 10 to 0 with China, Indonesia, Qatar, Russia and South Africa abstaining.

The council was responding to an urgent request from Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora earlier in May in which he asked the issue of the tribunal be put before the Security Council. Siniora and the majority of the Lebanese Parliament had been blocked in establishing the tribunal by a pro-Syrian minority.  Efforts by U.N. officials and other international mediators to find common ground among the Lebanese factions failed in April.  (See related article.)

Khalilzad said that the United States would have preferred the Lebanese Parliament to ratify the tribunal agreement and statute.  "No one can say that the Lebanese government, the secretary-general, or the Security Council failed to pursue every possible option short of council action on the tribunal.  But those opposed to the tribunal made sure there were no such options available," he said.

Referring to persistent warnings that the council's action would serve to increase the violence in Lebanon, the ambassador urged all parties "to act responsibility and abide by their obligations to support Lebanon sovereignty and political independence.

"For our part, we concluded that failure to act in support of Lebanon was unacceptable.  There can be no peace and stability without justice," Khalilzad said.

The tribunal will have between 11 and 14 Lebanese and international jurists, appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Those jurists will serve as pre-trial, trial and appeals judges.  Ban also will appoint the tribunal's prosecutor and deputy prosecutor.

Voluntary contributions from U.N. member nations will finance 51 percent of the tribunal with the other 49 percent of the expenses paid by Lebanon.  The tribunal will meet outside Lebanon at a location yet to be determined.

Lebanon is holding eight people in connection with the Hariri assassination, but the ongoing U.N. investigation has not yet recommended who should be indicted. (See related article.)

A transcript of Khalilzad’s remarks is available on the Web site of the U.N. Mission to the United Nations.

For additional information on U.S. policy, see Lebanon Assistance.  

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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