UN signs contested Hariri tribunal agreement

UN signs contested Hariri tribunal agreement

[JURIST] The UN signed an agreement Tuesday to create an international tribunal [JURIST news archive] to try suspects accused of assassinating former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [official website] in February 2005. The agreement must now be ratified by the Lebanese parliament [Wikipedia backgrounder]. Nabih Berri [official profile], the pro-Syrian speaker of parliament, opposes the Hariri tribunal and has refused to convene parliament, thus avoiding a vote on the agreement.

Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Saniora [BBC profile] forwarded a signed copy of the agreement to the UN last week, but pro-Syrian Lebanese President Emile Lahoud [official profile] has said Saniora's actions violate the Lebanese constitution [AP report]. In a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Lahoud said that the proposal had been signed by the director-general of the Ministry of Justice and that a letter from Saniora forwarding the signed proposal back to the UN "sidestepped reality and the rules of the constitution, conventions and national unity." In a statement [text] Tuesday, Ban's spokesperson said:

It is up to the competent Lebanese authorities to take the steps necessary under the Lebanese Constitution for the approval and ratification of the Agreement, to allow it to enter into force. The Tribunal could then be made operational with the full support of the United Nations.

Last November, the Lebanese cabinet approved a draft plan [JURIST report] for the tribunal, but pro-Syrian factions said the draft plan lacked legitimacy because all six pro-Syrian cabinet members resigned prior to the vote. The UN News Service has more. Reuters has additional coverage.