UN prosecutor: Hariri indictment important for Lebanon

Daniel Bellemare says he'll keep promise to Lebanese to do "everything that is humanly and legally possible" to bring assassins to justice.

January 18, 2011 13:54
2 minute read.
The site of Rafiq Hariri's assassination [file]

Hariri assassination 311 AP. (photo credit: Associated Press)


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LEIDSCHENDAM, Netherlands  — The prosecutor who filed his first indictment in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri hailed the move Tuesday as a landmark in efforts to end impunity for political slayings in the strife-torn country.

Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare said in a video statement that the confidential indictment at the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon was an important moment for the people of Lebanon, the international community and "for those who believe in international justice."

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Bellemare made the statement the day after he announced he had handed the indictment to the court's pretrial judge Daniel Fransen for confirmation. The statement appeared aimed at cooling tensions in Lebanon, where many people fear the charges could lead to fresh violence.

Bellemare said he had made good on a promise to the people of Lebanon to do "everything that is humanly and legally possible" to bring the assassins to justice.

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Many people expect members of the Shi'ite militant group Hizbullah to be identified in Bellemare's indictment. Hizbullah has denied any involvement in the Feb. 14, 2005, truck bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others on Beirut's Mediterranean sea front.

The Iran- and Syria-sponsored Hizbullah calls the tribunal a conspiracy by Israel and the United States.

The contents of the draft indictment filed Monday were not revealed and may not become public for weeks as Belgian judge Fransen decides whether there is enough evidence for a trial.

Bellemare urged Lebanese people not to speculate about the contents of the indictment as Fransen may still reject it or demand more evidence before confirming the indictment and publishing its contents.

A public guessing game about who Bellemare would indict and a dispute over whether the government in Beirut should support the tribunal has stoked political turmoil in Lebanon that boiled over last week when Hizbullah toppled the Western-backed administration of Hariri's son, Sa'ad.

Bellemare also paid tribute in his statements to victims of Lebanon's violence.

"Many attacks have been made against the tribunal but you were not shaken," he said. "You kept your hope alive; you continued to believe in the tribunal, its independence and professionalism. Thank you."

The Netherlands-based court has faced a barrage of criticism from opponents in Lebanon and some of its staff were assaulted last year while conducting investigations.

Bellemare also defended the speed of the investigation, which has taken nearly six years, saying "justice cannot be rushed. The evidence must be credible and compelling."

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