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US urges Hezbollah not to impede Lebanon tribunal

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] has urged Hezbollah [CFR backgrounder; JURIST news archive] not to resort to violence [text] in an attempt to impede the investigation of the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) [official website] into the 2005 murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive]. In an interview published Friday by the Lebanese Newspaper An-Nahar [official website], Clinton reiterated US support for Lebanon and noted that the work of the STL is "legitimate and necessary." She also stressed the independence of the tribunal and that "no one knows what the Special Tribunal is going to do, who it might indict, or when it might choose to move forward." Clinton's interview followed remarks made Thursday by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah [BBC profile], who said he would "cut off the hands" [AP report] of any person attempting to arrest a Hezbollah member in connection with the murder. Last month, Nasrallah called for all Lebanese to boycott the STL [JURIST report] after information surfaced suggesting that the tribunal is set to implicate members of Hezbollah as participants in the assassination of Hariri.

Earlier this month, STL rejected two motions [JURIST report] requesting the disqualification of judges on the grounds of bias. Judge Antonio Cassese denied the motions filed by Lebanese General Jamil El-Sayed, determining that El-Sayed failed to provide convincing evidence that judges Afif Chamseddine [motion, PDF; judgment, PDF] and Ralph Riachy [motion, PDF; judgment, PDF] are biased. El-Sayed had argued that, because the judges were nominated by the government of Lebanon, which was subsequently "condemned" by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, they were biased or at least appeared biased. In August, Hezbollah officials submitted evidence to the STL linking Israel to Hariri's death in response to a request by the tribunal [JURIST reports] to turn over all information relating to the assassination.
The STL is expected to issue indictments [UPI report], possibly in December. The STL was created at the request of Lebanon's government to investigate Hariri's murder and began its work in 2007.

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