UN legal chief arrives in Lebanon to help end impasse over Hariri

UN Legal Counsel Nicolas Michel has been dispatched to Beirut by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to offer legal assistance to the Lebanese as they work towards parliamentary ratification of the agreement on setting up the tribunal. Such ratification is necessary for the tribunal to enter into force.Mr. Ban said last week that he hoped Mr. Michel’s trip would help to “clarify all concerns or apprehensions” that might exist about the tribunal. Lebanon’s parliamentary forces have been deadlocked on the issue and there has been no vote so far on tribunal ratification.Speaking to reporters today on his arrival in Beirut, Mr. Michel said he was ready to engage in a substantial dialogue during his visit, in which he is expected to meet President Emile Lahoud, Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri.Mr. Michel – who is also the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs – stressed that the tribunal was requested by Lebanon’s legitimate authorities, not the UN, and its creation was unanimously supported by the first meeting of the country’s ‘national dialogue.’He added that although it will take at least one year for the tribunal to become operational after its legal basis is adopted through ratification, it is now time to adopt that legal basis.The planned tribunal will be of “an international character” to deal with the assassination of Mr. Hariri, who was killed along with 22 others in a massive car bombing in downtown Beirut in February 2005.Once it is formally established, it will be up to the tribunal to determine whether other political killings in Lebanon since October 2004 were connected to Mr. Hariri’s assassination and could therefore be dealt with by the tribunal.In April 2005 the Security Council set up the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) after an earlier UN mission found that Lebanon’s own inquiry into the Hariri assassination was seriously flawed and that Syria was primarily responsible for the political tensions that preceded the attack. Its mandate runs out next year.Serge Brammertz, the current head of the IIIC, told the Council last September that evidence obtained so far suggests that a young, male suicide bomber, probably non-Lebanese, detonated up to 1,800 kilograms of explosives inside a van to assassinate Mr. Hariri. 17 April 2007Pledging to bring an open mind to his work, the United Nations legal chief arrived in the Lebanese capital today to help the Government and the country’s other political leaders to end their political impasse and set up a special tribunal as soon as possible to try the suspected killers of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. read more

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