The UN Security Council yesterday agreed to set up a tribunal to try suspects in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The decision follows requests from the Lebanese authorities after Hariri, an outspoken citric of Syria, and 22 other people were killed by a truck bomb in February 2005. It is still not clear who was behind the bombing in 2005 but a UN investigation last year indicated that Syria played a strong role in the political unrest leading up to the assassination as well as labeling the investigation into the bombing by the Lebanese security forces as seriously flawed. The bombing sparked mass demonstrations in Beirut which subsequently led to withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.
The Security Council voted for the tribunal in a 10 to zero decision with five abstentions (Russia, China, South Africa, Indonesia and Qatar). The tribunal will be set up under chapter VII of the UN charter, which deals with threats to international peace. The decision was criticised by Russia, and not surprisingly by Syria, for being a violation of Lebanese sovereignty. In addition, the Syrian government said that any Syrian suspects would be tried in Syria and that Syria would not hand over any Syrian suspects to the tribunal. Other critics argued that the decision will only lead to further unrest and now is not the time for the Security Council to get involved with the current situation in Lebanon being rather fragile. The proponents of the decision argued that the Security Council merely responds to requests for help from the Lebanese authorities as well as pointing to the seriousness of the crime.
The tribunal will be “of international character” and comes into force on June 10th. However, the formal setup of the tribunal, including its location, is yet to be agreed to. Provided the tribunal get off ground, it could take some time before all technicalities are dealt with, it is a welcomed opportunity to secure prosecution of suspects in a crime that deserves all the denunciation it can get. Hopefully it could lead to a more secure and stable Lebanon.