US could seek to force UN Hariri tribunal under Chapter VII: Rice

US could seek to force UN Hariri tribunal under Chapter VII: Rice

[JURIST] The US may attempt to force the establishment of a UN tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive], US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told [AA report, in Arabic] Al Arabiya television Monday. Under Chapter VII of the UN Charter [text], the UN Security Council has the power to "determine the existence of any threat to the peace…[and] make recommendations" on the proper action to be taken. Rice said that the US may back a resolution to establish the tribunal under Chapter VII "because it is extremely important that the court is set up so that Lebanon goes back to normal." According to the State Department transcript of the interview:

SECRETARY RICE: … when it comes to Lebanon, I would say very directly to everyone that Lebanese democracy, Lebanese sovereignty is critical to the United States. We consider it one of the most important interests that we hold. The tribunal needs to take place. It needs to take place despite the deadlock that is taking place in Lebanon because the perpetrators of the assassination of Rafik Hariri need to be brought to justice. And the Siniora government, the democratically elected government of Lebanon needs to be supportive — supported and Lebanon and Lebanese can count on the United States to do that.

QUESTION: So there shouldn't be any concerns in Lebanon, that there is going to be some sort of a —


QUESTION: — an agreement with Syria or that — a lessening of the American support for the Tribunal even under Chapter 7?

SECRETARY RICE: Absolutely. If we have to do that, then that's what we will do because it's extremely important that this tribunal take place so that Lebanon can turn to normal life.

Last week, UN Undersecretary-General for Legal Affairs Nicolas Michel [official profile] reported that he has been unable to break a deadlock [JURIST report] within the Lebanese government preventing approval of the international tribunal. Michel traveled to Lebanon [JURIST report] last month in an effort to revitalize the ratification process of an agreement [JURIST report] to establish the tribunal.

The agreement has been approved by the Lebanese cabinet, but Lebanon's pro-Syrian parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri has refused to convene parliament, preventing the ratification of the agreement. Michel said that he saw "no progress," despite the fact that both the government and opposition have expressed support, in principle, for the tribunal. Thus far, Michel has not confirmed any plans for the UN to establish a tribunal under Chapter VII. Reuters has more.