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UN sets date for Hariri murder probe

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-11-27

A special UN tribunal created to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri is on track to start operations on March 1, announced UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a report published Wednesday.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in a report published Wednesday that the international tribunal that will try the suspected assassins of Lebanese former prime minister Rafiq Hariri could begin work on March 1.
   
"On the basis of the progress so far reported ... it is envisaged that the Special Tribunal will commence functioning on 1 March 2009," Ban wrote in a report to the UN Security Council.
   
The February 2005 assassination of Hariri, a wealthy businessman opposed to Syria's interference in Lebanese affairs, was the work of a "criminal network," according to a UN report earlier in the year.
   
The attack was one of the worst acts of political violence to rock Lebanon since the 1975-1990 civil war, and led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops after a 29-year presence.
   
"I will be taking a decision regarding the commencement of the Special Tribunal on 1 March 2009, after a transition period starting on 1 January 2009," Ban wrote.
   
"It is my belief that the impending start of the Special Tribunal will send a strong signal that the government of Lebanon and the United Nations remain committed to ending impunity in Lebanon.
   
The Special Tribunal "sets out to deliver the highest standards of international justice and, in this regard, I trust that all member states will cooperate to achieve its mandate," Ban added.
   
The massive explosion on the Beirut seafront on February 14, 2005 that destroyed Hariri's armored car also killed 22 other people.
   
The international tribunal, in charge of trying the Hariri murder suspects, was authorized by Security Council Resolution 1757 dated June 2 2007.
   
But the tribunal has not begun to meet, mainly because the probe into the case continues.
   
The tribunal will have 11 judges, including four from Lebanon, and will be based in The Hague.
   
Canadian Daniel Bellemare, who heads the UN panel probing the Hariri assassination, will become the special tribunal's prosecutor once the UN probe of the Hariri and related cases is completed. He will have a Lebanese deputy.
   
The investigation commission's mandate expires in December, and will probably be renewed before the tribunal's work begins.
   
Bellemare succeeded Belgian Serge Brammertz at the head of the probe to uncover who was behind Hariri's death.
   
Brammertz' German predecessor Detlev Mehlis had implicated senior officials from Syria, which for three decades was the power broker in its smaller neighbor. But Damascus has strongly denied any connection with Hariri's death.
  

Date created : 2008-11-27

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