Friday, January 28, 2011

Lebanon: Ban calls on new government to cooperate with Hariri murder court.

28 January 2011 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today that the newly designated Lebanese Government should continue to cooperate with the United Nations-backed tribunal set up to try suspects in the 2005 murders of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others.
"I have been repeatedly stating the position of the Untied Nations: this is an independent international justice system, justice process," he told a news conference in Davos, Switzerland, where he is attending the World Economic Forum, adding that "nobody, no country, should interfere or obstruct the smooth proceedings of this justice process."
Lebanon's previous government, led by Mr. Hariri's son, Saad, collapsed two weeks ago after 11 Hizbollah and allied ministers resigned, reportedly over the Government's refusal to cease cooperation with the tribunal, which the media says was about to indict Hizbollah members for the murders.
Earlier this week, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman asked Najib Mikati, who has Hizbollah support according to media reports, to form the new Government.
"I have been very much concerned about this politicizing of this Special Tribunal," Mr. Ban said. "I hope that the Lebanese people and government will be able to restore the political stability and engage in their social, economic, political development while the accountability process should also progress."
After meeting with Mr. Mikati in Beirut today, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams said he is "sure that the new government, when it is formed, will maintain good relations with the United Nations and will fully abide by its international obligations."
The tribunal was set up following a probe by the International Independent Investigation Commission after an earlier UN mission found that Lebanon's own inquiry into the massive car bombing that killed Mr. Hariri and the others was seriously flawed, and that Syria was primarily responsible for the political tensions that preceded the attack. Last week the court received its first indictment, but the contents remain confidential at this stage.
Mr. Williams said Mr. Mikati underlined his strong support for Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended a month-long war between Israel and the Hizbollah militia in 2006. It also calls for respect for the Blue Line separating Israel and Lebanon, the disarming of all militias in Lebanon, and an end to arms smuggling in the area.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

STL Prosecutor appoints a Spokesperson

NNA - 25/1/2011 The Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon announced in a statement on Tuesday the appointment of Ms. Sophie Boutaud de la Combe as his Spokesperson and Senior Public Information Officer.

He pointed out "Her arrival coincides with the beginning of a new phase in my Office's work following the filing of the indictment. I am confident that Ms. Sophie Boutaud de la Combe's in-depth communication and public information experience will be a strong asset to my Office and will complement my senior team", said Prosecutor Bellemare."

Ms. Boutaud de la Combe, a French national, has extensive experience in the world of public information. Before joining the Tribunal, she held the position of Deputy Chief of Communication in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). She also served as Spokesperson for the Mission since April 2006, and previously as Advocacy and Outreach Officer for two years. In addition, Ms. Boutaud de la Combe has held various posts as a communications specialist in the public and private sectors.

Ms. Boutaud de la Combe holds a Masters degree in public law and a post graduate degree in environmental and urban law.

Ms. Boutaud de la Combe is the co-author of two books, "Lettres de loin en loin", published in 2008, and "Haiti parmi les vivants", published in 2010. In addition, she is a former member of JCI Martinique (Junior Chamber International), and the co-founder of JCI Haiti, a worldwide non-political and non-sectarian youth service organization, which aims to provide development opportunities that empower young people to create positive change in the world.

STL Registrar to Naharnet: Street Activity, Leaks Do Not Affect Tribunal Work … Lebanon Bound to Cooperate

By Naharnet
Jan 19, 2011 - 11:59:01 AM

In an exclusive interview with Naharnet, Special Tribunal for Lebanon Registrar Herman von Hebel on Wednesday confirmed that the indictment was submitted to pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen "in less than an hour" and said Lebanon was bound to cooperate with the tribunal. Hebel also stressed that street activity and leaks of documents do not affect the work of the court.

The following is the full text of the interview:

Q- The STL said the indictment was filed with the Tribunal Registrar, who WILL submit it to Fransen. Where is the indictment now? Did Fransen take delivery of the indictment or not?

A- When we received the indictment from the prosecutor on Monday we were able to deliver within less than an hour to the pre-trial judge it is really for the judge to study the indictment and all the supporting material.

Q- On what grounds did you ascertain that Fransen's review of evidence submitted with the indictment would take between 6 to 10 weeks (given that the law leaves the door open)?

A- Our rules do not give a specific timeframe within which he has to do it. The timeframe of at least 6 to ten weeks is based on experience and comparison of experience in other tribunals and it also takes into account the specifics of our tribunal and also there is a little bit of flexibility in the timeframe because we don't know whether the pre-trial judge (Fransen) may take use of the opportunity of asking a number of legal questions with the appeals chamber before he is going to confirm or not confirm the indictment.

Fransen will take a decision on whether he will have a legal question in, let's say, within a week from now, and then of course the Appeals Chamber will have to prepare a decision on that. In the meantime, he will continue to look into the factual basis of the case because the appeals chamber will purely look into the legal questions. But all in all we are confident that roughly within at least six to 10 weeks we will be able to prepare a decision. Again there is flexibility depending on whether Fransen has other questions. That's where the timeframe comes from.

Q- You have said that the evidence is contained in "thousands of pages" of documents and DVDs submitted with the indictment. The indictment in itself - without the documents and DVDs - is it concise or detailed?

A- The indictment has to provide a concise statement of the facts and of the role of the accused person or persons mentioned in the indictment. Whether that is the case of course it is for the judge to determine and in order for him to do a determination he needs to have access to the supporting material. On the basis of the supporting material, he can then determine whether the indictment has sufficient basis in order to really start trial against those person or persons mentioned in the indictment.

Q- On what grounds did you ascertain that the trial will begin in September?

A- In the best case scenario, let's say that the pre-trial judge would be able within six to 10 weeks to make a decision, then after that, there would be time necessary in order to see whether the accused person or persons will be arrested or whether there is a need to take a decision to go on with the trial in the absence of one or more accused person And when that is the case, there would always be a defense council serving the interest of an accused person and that council, of course, will also need time to prepare for that case, to read through all the material and, hence, on the basis of all those steps that need to be taken and if everything runs well and runs very smooth, then we may see a trial getting started in September or October. But that, of course, is an optimistic scenario.

Q- Is it true that Fransen reviewed those documents several months ago?

A- What had been happening in the past, is that the prosecutor was able through one of our procedure rules to discuss the case with the pre-trial judge that is purely on the basis of informal discussions between the prosecutor and the judge but the formal decision that the judge now has to take has to be done only on the basis of what has been given to him this Monday. What have been the kind of discussion between the prosecutor and the judge before, I don't know.

Q- In light of the street gatherings which may signal preparations to mobilize in relation to the submittal of the indictment, would this affect the work of the tribunal?

A- This is a very difficult question to answer. For us what is important is that we are able to work. It is, of course, necessary for the judge to study the material and as you know he is based here in The Hague. He has the material on his desk and he is studying that material and that will not be influenced by the situation in Lebanon. In general terms, the tribunal is an independent, an impartial organ and will have to function independently from the situation on the ground in Lebanon.

Q- If the Lebanese government should decide to stop cooperation with the STL, how would the tribunal react?

A- Of course it is always dangerous to answer in too much detail. Lebanon entered into an agreement with the U.N. It asked the assistance of the U.N. to establish this tribunal. In the end, also there was, of course, a binding resolution for Lebanon by the Security Council of the U.N. and hence, there is an obligation for Lebanon to continue to cooperate and provide financial resources to the tribunal. That obligation is independent of any government that may be in power at a particular time. There is a legal obligation that continues to apply. We are confident that that will continue to be the case and on basis of that obligation we will continue also our activities and preparations for the trial later this year.

Q- If Lebanon annulled the agreement with the STL, how would the tribunal deal with this?

A- I'm not sure whether there is a possibility to do so because by the end of the day that is a Security Council resolution that is binding on Lebanon and Lebanon is not in a position like anyone or any state under binding Security Council resolutions to unilaterally withdraw from those obligations. This is simply part of all the states that are partner and members of the U.N. and the same applies to Lebanon and having worked in other tribunals I have seen similar discussions, for example the Yugoslav tribunal. We always see that the obligation to cooperate in the end is a very strong one and it continues to guide the work and the activities of states and the activities of the tribunal. So we are very confident that we can continue our work based on that Security Council resolution.

Q- Another major problem is: The unauthorized broadcasts on some Lebanese TV channels. Does the STL acknowledge it has a problem in maintaining confidentiality of documents?

A- You've seen a statement from the Prosecutor yesterday about it. We are able to continue our operations that are dependent of the broadcast of the serials. What is important to the pre-trial judge is to work on the basis of the material that has been submitted to him on Monday and that is not being affected by whether such material is being broadcast. I wouldn't even know whether the material that had been broadcast is even part of the material that the pre-trial judge has and whether or not that is the case. He will simply look into all the material that he has in order to make his own legal determination whether there is a case that can be the base of a trial. I would like to refer to the statements by the prosecutor himself yesterday in which he indicated that he is going to investigate, and based on his investigation, I will consult with the prosecutor on how to deal with that. But for the entire function of the tribunal, we are not affected by these video showings. Our work will simply go on irrespective of that.

Indictments Expected Soon in Hariri Murder

Court Official Says Names to Be Made Public in Weeks
The United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon is moving closer to indicting Hezbollah leaders in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. A court official says names will be made public in a matter of weeks and that a trial could follow as soon as September. The United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) would like to do everything in its power to exercise the arrest warrants of the suspected killers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was killed in a February 2005 bombing attack in Beirut.
STL registrar Herman von Hebel told SPIEGEL the arrest warrants would be activated "in cooperation with the government of Beirut, which is obligated to extradite -- if necessary with the help of other states." As "registrar," the Dutchman holds a key position in the court, which was created at the request of Lebanon and is meant to have an "international character," as it states on its own website. It is the first of its kind to attempt to clear up a terrorist attack.
In light of the tense political situation in Lebanon at the moment, particular importance is being attached to von Hebel's words. It is likely that the tribunal will move to charge leading members of the radical Islamist Hezbollah in connection with the assassination. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, 50, has already announced that he will not allow any of his people to be extradited, stating that the tribunal is an "American-Israeli tool." The week before last, Nasrallah initiated the resignations of his party's ministers as well as a few allies in the cabinet, causing the collapse of the national unity government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, 40.
Hariri Determined to Work with Tribubal
But Hariri, Rafik's son, is determined to continue working together with the STL. He will remain in office as interim prime minister and wants to fight to keep his post. For his part, Nasrallah appears to favor former Prime Minister Omar Karami, 76, a friend to Syria. At this time, however, no clear possibility is forming for a new government coalition and the deadlock could last for months to come.
It's possible the tribunal will act sooner. Last Tuesday, one day after the chief prosecutor in the Hague sealed the arrest warrants and turned them over to the coordinating judge, Hezbollah provoked Prime Minister Hariri with an odd display of force: The group dispatched its militias to protest at strategic locations around Beirut. Hariri supporters within his party called it a test run for a possible national strike.
STL registrar von Hebel says it is likely the names contained on the arrest warrants will be made public in "six to 10 weeks" and that a trial could start as soon as the beginning of September. "If necessary, a trial without the presence of the defendants would be conceivable, the statutes allow us to judge in absentia," he said.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Eliot-Marie: Paris objects to rendering the Special Tribunal for Lebanon a hostage to politics

NNA - 22/1/2011 - French Foreign Minister, Michele Elliot-Marie, expressed today her hope that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon would be allowed to boost consensus between all the Lebanese and guarantee their national unity. Her words came following her meeting with her Egyptian Counterpart, Ahmad Abou El-Gheit, in Cairo, today.

On the other hand, Minister Eliot-Marie expressed in an interview to the "Arab Today" Jordanian Newspaper, France's objection to rendering the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as a hostage to the political ambience. She stressed, herein, that the Tribunal is an international, independent judiciary, the work of which cannot be hindered by anyone. She also indicated that it is impossible to favor between justice and stability.

The French Minister went on to state that France's message is constant, in that it supports the Lebanese authorities that are exerting all efforts today for the sake of preserving stability in the Country and forming a new government. She also referred to France's belief in the possibility of finding a way to avoiding the crisis.