Dutch government set to approve location of Hariri tribunal

Syria prime suspect in assassination of former Lebanese PM continues to deny responsibility.

hariri 224.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
hariri 224.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
The Dutch Cabinet was expected Friday to offer the headquarters of the country's top spy agency to a UN tribunal to investigate and prosecute suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The government of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende had previously said it was "favorably disposed" to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's request to host the Hariri court. At its regular weekly meeting Friday, the Cabinet was expected to choose the headquarters of the Intelligence and Security Service as the UN tribunal's seat, media reported. The agency, known by its Dutch acronym AIVD, is moving shortly from its offices in Leidschendam, a village near The Hague, to new quarters. It is not clear when the site will be ready for the UN investigative commission, which is currently working in Lebanon. The tribunal is the latest international justice institution in or near The Hague, which also is home to the International Court of Justice, the UN's Yugoslav war crimes tribunal and the International Criminal Court. The city also is hosting the trial, which is due to resume early next month, of former Liberian President Charles Taylor on charges of supporting murderous rebels in Sierra Leone's civil war. The suicide truck bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others in Beirut in February 2005 sparked huge protests against Syria, which the Lebanese government accused of culpability. Syria denied involvement, but was forced to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, ending a 29-year presence. UN investigators probing Hariri's assassination are also assisting the Lebanese government with investigations of 18 other assassinations and bombings that targeted mainly anti-Syrian figures. In his final appearance before the UN Security Council earlier this month, outgoing chief of the Hariri probe, Serge Brammertz, said he is more confident than ever that those allegedly involved in the Hariri assassination will face justice. He said that progress made in the last few months has enabled UN investigators to identify "a number of persons of interest" who may have been involved in some aspect of the crime - or knew about the preparations. Brammertz also said in his final report that investigators had confirmed their hypothesis that "operational links may exist" between the perpetrators of the 18 other targeted assassinations and bombings in Lebanon.