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French Version

UN Security Council 'will OK' international court


The UN Security Council "will OK" the establishment of an international tribunal to try those accused for the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, according to Justice Minister Charles Rizk in an exclusive interview with The Daily Star.

"We are in a hurry to begin, as international tribunals have a bad reputation for taking far too long to establish, and so I want to surprise the world and have Lebanon set up its tribunal in record time," Rizk told The Daily Star.

Once the UN Security Council votes Tuesday on a French draft tribunal, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will be in direct contact with Rizk and the Lebanese authorities on the formation of the tribunal, expected to resemble the Sierra Leone Special Court, which has been widely held up as a model, but with a Lebanese base.

"The draft that will be adopted by the UN has been drafted right here in the ministry in Lebanon," said Rizk, "We have done our homework."

Rizk said the tribunal will be founded on the Lebanese legal framework, "but with the death penalty removed."

The minister highlighted a critical point in the draft, and read out that the exact wording submitted said that "Lebanon will secure the financing of the tribunal."

"The Lebanese government wastes a lot of money, so the least it can do is save some of that money toward financing the tribunal as a sort of redemption for the great crime committed on its grounds," said Rizk.

If the Hariri tribunal follows a similar model to that of the Sierra Leone tribunal, then the annual budget may range between $20 million and $30 million.

"I personally pushed for the tribunal to be financed by us, and will fight for this if others in government disagree with me," he vowed.

Once Lebanon gets the green light, the tribunal will be staffed with both local and international judges and prosecutors.

"It is too early to say if the UN chief investigator Serge Brammertz will accept the position of general prosecutor of the tribunal, as we still have wait for the UN investigation into Hariri's assassinations to be completed," said Rizk. Brammertz has four months left to his term, unless his commission is further extended by the UN.

Rizk also clarified that the reasons for asking for an international tribunal, was not due to "a lack of legal expertise in Lebanon."

"The crime committed is of a terrorist scale, and hence falls within the competence of an international judiciary. Secondly, the suspects may belong to more than one nationality, and

hence to avoid plurality of the tribune, we opted for an international one," he said.

"Then there are security reasons, where the safety of the judges and witnesses are at risk, especially when the judging is occurring in the same country as the crime," said Rizk, dismissing any possibility of the tribunal being set up in Lebanon.

As for the "fate" of the four Lebanese generals arrested by the UN investigation, "they are assumed innocent unless proven guilty by the tribunal," said Rizk, refusing to elaborate further on their case.

When asked about his views on the presidency, the most highly debated issue at the national dialogue and among the Lebanese people, Rizk, whose name has been circulated by the media as a potential candidate for the post, said: "To my knowledge, the presidency is not vacant, and the problem is far more serious and challenging than to be fixed by replacing Mr. Y with Mr. X."

As for the ongoing national dialogue and whether the constant delay could be interpreted as a sign of disagreement, Rizk merely said: "It is not a signal that they are agreeing."

"The impact of agreements made at the dialogue is mainly psychological," he added.

"The remaining issues, such as the disarmament of Hizbullah and the presidency, I believe will be tougher to agree upon, and so I am not sure what will happen there," he said.

Beirut 03-04-2006
Rym Ghazal
The Daily Star

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