(photo credit: AP)
BEIRUT— The leader of Hizbullah called Thursday on all Lebanese to boycott the UN tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of a former prime minister, saying all information gathered by the team was being sent to Israel.
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Sheik Hassan Nasrallah spoke Thursday, a day after a crowd of women attacked two UN investigators and a Lebanese interpreter as they gathered evidence at a private gynecology clinic in Beirut. The women scuffled with investigators and stole several items from them.
The attack underscored the charged emotions behind the tribunal, which Hizbullah says is biased.
Nasrallah did not address the violence at the clinic or whether Hizbullah had asked the crowd to gather, but he confirmed that the wives and relatives of Hizbullah commanders and officials were among the clinic's patients.
In a reaction late Thursday, the tribunal criticized Nasrallah's boycott appeal and vowed to continue its investigation.
"Any call to boycott the tribunal is a deliberate attempt to obstruct
justice," the court said in a statement. "The Special Tribunal for
Lebanon will continue to rely on full cooperation by the Lebanese
government and the support of the international community in fulfilling
its mandate, in accordance with its statute."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack, saying that "such
acts of interference and intimidation are unacceptable," UN spokesman
Martin Nesirky said.
The UN chief stressed that the tribunal is an independent court,
established at the Lebanese government's request with a mandate from the
UN Security Council, which is "an important tool to uncover the truth
and end impunity," Nesirky said.
He called on all parties to refrain from interfering in the court's
work, saying it is imperative that it be allowed to operate "safely and
securely." He also commended the Lebanese authorities for their swift
action in opening an inquiry into the incident, Nesirky said.
The tribunal has not yet indicted any suspects in the assassination of
former prime minister Rafik Hariri, but speculation that the court could
name members of Hizbullah has raised fears of violence between the
heavily armed Shi'ite guerrilla force and Hariri's mainly Sunni allies.
The tribunal's president and the State Department on Wednesday said the
investigation will not be deterred by the attack, which happened in
Beirut's southern suburb of Ouzai, a Hizbullah stronghold.
"Those who carried out this attack must know that violence will not
deter the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, a court of law, from fulfilling
its mandate," Judge Antonio Cassese said in a statement Wednesday.
The Hague-based court said the visit to the clinic had been arranged in advance "in accordance with legal safeguards."
Nasrallah called it scandalous.
"I think we have reached a very sensitive and dangerous point that has
to do with our dignity, pride and honor and which requires of us to take
a different stance," he said.
"Why is it necessary for the international investigation to have the medical records of our women?"
"Why is it of concern to them? why is it necessary for the investigation
to have the gynecology records of our women, wives, daughters and
sisters?" he asked through the group's Al-Manar TV.
He said all sorts of violations and infringements against Lebanese
sovereignty were taking place under the cover of the international
"Can we allow this violation of everything in our country to continue?"
"I call on every official and every citizen in Lebanon to boycott those
investigators and not to cooperate with them ... because all that is
being offered to them reaches the Israelis," he said.
"Continuing cooperation with those encourages more violations of the
country and helps with the aggression against the resistance."