|No going back on setting up Hariri tribunal - UN legal chief
|The United Nations' point man for the Special Tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri says the process of establishing the court is "irrevocable."
"The more we observe the situation in Lebanon, the more we are convinced that the commissioning we received from the UN Security Council to establish the court is an appropriate one," Undersecretary General for Legal Affairs Nicholas Michel told Al-Hayat newspaper in remarks published Wednesday.
He said justice had to be a major component of a permanent peace in Lebanon.
"Those seeking to get rid of the tribunal through political compromises are wrong," Michel said. "It is incorrect to think that governmental changes will end the Special Tribunal."
He also said that major advancements have been achieved in the establishment of the tribunal, adding that the tense situation in Lebanon did not have "any influence on the process."
"We call on those who have lost faith in the tribunal or those who wish that impunity will prevail to read between the lines and realize that its establishment is very imminent," Michel said.
"Any state refusing to hand over suspects must know that they will be tried [and, if convicted, sentenced] in absentia. So far, Syria is the only state that has said it will refuse to hand over its nationals to the tribunal," he added.
Damascus has said that if sufficient evidence is produced against its nationals, it will try them at home.
Michel also said that the new head of the international investigation committee, Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare, is preparing to take the next step.
"Bellemare is concerned about laying the groundwork for moving soon from the probe into taking legal action," Michel said. "The UN General Secretariat has chosen all the judges, is about to ensure the funding and is preparing a report to be submitted to the Security Council in this regard."
Michel also stressed the need for international commitment to end impunity. "The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is part of this culture," he said.
Addressing those responsible for assassinations in Lebanon, Michel warned: "It's time they understand that this will only bring them before justice ... This court is going to try all those who committed these operations."
He also urged Lebanese politicians not to lose hope.
"The court will soon be a reality," he said, urging them to "have faith in the progress we have achieved over the past few months."
The Daily Star