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UN Hariri tribunal begins work at The Hague
UN Hariri tribunal begins work at The Hague

[JURIST] The UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) [official website], tasked with investigating the February 14, 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive], officially began operating Sunday. The STL will be located in The Hague and the prosecution of its cases will be lead by Daniel Bellemare [Ya Libnan profile]. In an open letter to the Lebanese people, marking the end of the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) [authorizing resolution; UN materials] into the assassination and the beginning of the STL's operations, Bellemare wrote that his goal as prosecutor was to maintain the tribunal's independence, while ensuring that those responsible for the killing were brought to justice:

My commitment to you is to serve the cause of justice on the basis of a principled approach based solely on facts and evidence. Like the Commission, the Office of the Prosecutor will not be influenced by any political consideration. Justice can not and should not be used as a political tool. Like the Commission's work, the findings of the OTP investigations and the steps I would take as the Prosecutor, as well as the outcome of the STL should not be prejudged or speculated upon.

The STL is not after revenge: it is after justice. Everybody, be they witnesses, detainees or accused, will be treated with dignity. Justice requires no less. Dignity is the hallmark of a credible and humane Justice process.

Lastly, I want to reassure everybody that my team and I will do everything that is humanly and legally possible to ensure that the truth emerges and that those responsible for the crimes that fall within our jurisdiction are eventually brought to justice.

This objective should not only be that of the Office of the Prosecutor, but it should also be the common and resolute goal of the People of Lebanon.

Both the office of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the US State Department [press releases] applauded the opening of the tribunal, but some Lebanese are skeptical of the court [Daily Star report].

In March 2008, Bellemare said he believed a criminal network was behind the assassination [JURIST report], and the tribunal's registrar, Robin Vincent [official profile, PDF], said last month that it plans to ask the Lebanese government to transfer four generals [Daily Star report; JURIST report] being held on suspicion of involvement in Hariri's assassination to the court's custody. The STL will consist of 11 international and Lebanese judges and have a budget of $51 million for its first year [JURIST reports]. The investigation into the assassination, which had been extended past its original anticipated end date and expanded to cover other assassinations in the country, has increased existing tensions between Lebanon and Syria as several IIIC reports have implicated Syrian officials in Hariri's death [JURIST reports].